A Wedding or a White Flag?
On April 6th, 1865 over 6,000 Confederate soldiers were captured. The end was imminent. On the morning of April 9th General Lee and his hungry men found themselves surrounded by five times the number of Union soldiers. Lee had no choice but to surrender.
It would be impossible to describe the anguish of the troops when word went out that surrender was inevitable. When General Lee appeared after the surrender, a shout of welcome instinctively ran through the troops. But, instantly, their shouts gave way to silence. Every hat was raised, and their worn faces were bathed with tears.
As he rode slowly along the lines, hundreds of his devoted veterans pressed around General Lee. With tears flowing freely down his manly cheeks, the general said goodbye to his army.
A Call to Surrender
Surrender. It’s an ominous and intimidating word. It can conjure up images of raising white flags and laying down arms. It can make us think of “giving in” and “giving up”. Defeat and humiliation often go hand in hand with surrender.
So, when we talk about surrender being vital to the Christian life, it can sound hard and harsh, unless we are surrendering to something better. The Apostle Paul talks about surrender (total commitment) in Romans 12:1 (NIV) when he says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Offering my body as a living sacrifice can seem daunting.
A Willing Offering
In ancient times, when animals were offered on the altar, the sacrifice was total and final. That is the imagery in Romans 12:1. Paul is calling on us to willingly crawl up onto the altar and offer ourselves in total and final surrender. There is no such thing as partial surrender.
This call to offer our bodies as living sacrifices is bookended by two interesting phrases. First, he says that we offer ourselves in “view of God’s mercy”. Surrender is in response to God’s mercy. When you really grasp what you were saved from, when you deep down feel the undeserved and free grace that liberated you, surrender is motivated by gratitude. Surrender is saying to God, “Because of all you’ve done for me and in me, everything I am and everything I have, I gladly surrender to you.” Secondly, Paul says that our surrender is a “spiritual act of worship”. The word “spiritual” literally means logical or reasonable or acceptable. If God really is the king, ruler, and CEO of the universe and if He really did send His son to die for me, then it is “logical” for me to surrender to Him as an act of worship. God wants the same place in my life that He already has in the universe. And that is reasonable.
A Positive Pipeline
Our problem is that we tend to focus in on what we are “giving up” rather than what we are getting in exchange. We tend to see surrender through a negative lens rather than a positive lens. What we fail to understand is that “total commitment (surrender) is the channel through which God’s best and biggest blessings flow.” The Bible says that God wants you to experience abundant life…right here and right now. And the conduit through which God takes His blessings and pours them into your life is a pipe called SURRENDER.
So, what keeps us from surrender? Deep down, at the root of our fears, is usually a misunderstanding of God and His character. If we are honest, many of us would have to say that we don’t really believe that God is good and that He has our best interest at heart. We think God is holding out on us. And we question whether God really has the equation for “the good life”. After all, the formula the world gives us for experiencing the “good life” seems to be the exact opposite of God’s counsel.
Psalm 84:11 (NASB) says, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Push rewind. Listen carefully to those words. God is a sun (provider) and shield (protector). He is all about grace and relationship. He is not about rules and performance. And, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly”. God’s desire for you is more and better than you could ever imagine. When we walk surrendered to Him, His promise to us is that He will pour out the abundant life.
That’s just who He is. It is His nature and character to pour good gifts on undeserving people. Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not His own son but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also along with Him, freely give us all things.“
Because He is a good father and we “trust” His heart, we can “entrust” our hearts to Him with confidence.
A Wedding Invitation
It’s like the difference between a white flag and a wedding. Both are symbols of surrender. The white flag surrender is one of defeat and giving up. It represents what you lose. A wedding is a different kind of surrender. In a wedding you surrender your heart out of love and relationship. It is not at all about what you lose, but rather, what you gain. God wants you to know that His challenge to surrender is about a wedding, not a white flag.
Copyright © 2013 Lance Witt. All rights reserved.
Lance Witt is the Founder and President of Replenish, a ministry that helps pastors live and lead from a healthy soul. Lance has been called a pastor’s pastor. He loves those who serve on the front lines of ministry and is committed to helping them stay strong and “finish well”. Learn more at: http://www.replenish.net.