So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. – Romans 12:1-2 (TM paraphrase)
Verb: 1. (No object) To stop resisting to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority: “over 140 rebels surrendered to the authorities”. 2. (With object) To lose, in sport (a point, game, or advantage) to an opponent: “she surrendered only twenty games in her five qualifying matches”. 3. (To surrender to) To give in to (a powerful emotion or influence): “the president has surrendered to panic and is making things worse”; “he surrendered himself to the mood of the hills”. 4. (With object) To give up or hand over (a person, right, or possession), typically on compulsion or demand: “in 1815 Denmark surrendered Norway to Sweden”; “the UK is opposed to surrendering its monetary sovereignty”. Mass noun: The action of surrendering to an opponent or powerful influence: “the final surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945”. Count noun: “the colonel was anxious to negotiate a surrender”.
– Oxford English Dictionary
If “surrender” means to lose, to give something (or oneself) up, to allow another person or an emotion to have their way over one’s own – it all sounds very weak, very negative. Is surrender to God a negative thing? Does it make a person weak? Perhaps surrendering one’s life to God indicates a healthy recognition of human weakness. Or perhaps it displays real strength and commitment, since life can seem so much easier when we can control it ourselves and make our own decisions. Surrender can be tough, and can require a deep level of trust and boldness – because as humans we are so certain that we know best, and would manage our lives much better than anyone else could.
A cup can only be filled if it is first empty. If we want to live for God we must begin to recognise our own inadequacy and incapability, and then we will be more able to decisively give over our lives in surrender as a love-offering to Him. This choice, to put everything we are in His hands, is a transformative one: through making that psychological step of looking to Him and trusting Him in this way we become so much more open to His work within us, while at the same time actively allowing Him and inviting Him to come and work within us, building His Kingdom and His values in our lives in place of our own. He can mold us, refresh us, renew us, changing us into His likeness and filling our lives with the good things that He wants for us.
But why SURRENDER to Him? He offered Himself for us out of love, and we can respond by offering ourselves back to Him in return, out of love and gratitude. If this is not enough, let us think logically for a moment. If we accept that as humans we are flawed, and that as God He is not, and if we know that He has ultimate wisdom and abundant creativity and will never let us down, we can trust that if we give our lives into His hands He will care for us and do something awesome with our lives.
Having said that, surrender to God must not be taken lightly. God is not predictable, cannot be tamed, and does not submit to our own plans and desires. If we want to live our lives our own way and simply have Him as a part of our lives, even a salvific part, then surrender to God would not leave space for such a life. Surrender to God means learning to live wholly for Him, and allowing Him to work in our lives in whichever way He may choose. It’s a big deal!
God has His own agenda with what to do with our lives when we surrender to Him. He’s like an expert potter, and we are the clay. The potter knows what he wants to do with the clay, and how he is going to do it. He has to rid the clay of any roots, stones and other imperfections in the clay to prevent it from exploding in the kiln. He has to put pressure on the clay and change its shape in order to make it into the beautiful creation that he has planned for it. But the clay needs to be fully surrendered to Him, flexible in His hands – if it is hard or stubborn and refuses to be shaped then He cannot work with it according to His design.
This life of surrender is not easy. Neither can we expect to suddenly become rich, healthy, famous and have all our wishes come true. Just look at the Early Church in the New Testament: people lost everything, were heavily persecuted and many even died for the sake of Christ. But, being surrendered to God, the values of this life and the things that the world sees as important were no longer worthy of attention (Luke 12:31). Like the parable of the precious pearl (Matthew 13:44-46), in knowing Christ we give up our desire for worldly things in order to gain something much more precious than all of that: intimacy with God.
In surrendering anything to God, big or small, this can deepen our relationship with God as we learn to put Him first, prioritising His will above our own desires. To begin this surrender process we first need to understand that God accepts and values our surrender. The offering of ourselves, just as we are – warts and all – is the only imperfect sacrifice that truly pleases Him. Not only does He accept our surrender but also He is glad of it, and uses it: giving our lives purpose and wasting nothing (John 6:12). Jim Elliot once said, He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Why surrender to God? What’s in it for you? Ask yourself.
One thing that can at times hold us back from surrender to God is fear. We can be so nervous that if we do give something over to Him, He may ask us to do something or change something that perhaps we don’t particularly want to do. And, of course, this concern is justified: it may happen. But in recognition that God always wants the best for us and for His Kingdom, we have a choice as to what to prioritise – our own comfort zone or His great plan? It may (no, it will) be costly. We must make a decision as to whether we choose God’s way at cost to our own will, or prioritise ourselves and our own plans.
A friend once told me that he found it difficult to surrender to God because it was difficult to trust God having never seen His power personally, having only seen Him do or say things in the lives of others: he felt somewhat left out. Faith involves choosing to overcome these mindsets and put our trust in God anyway, and that is not easy – but it is something God asks of each of us. He gently invites us to trust Him with all that we are and all that we have. As much as we try and try to live for God and seek Him with everything, we come to a point of realisation somewhere along the line that actually, in our own strength we can’t do it. We can’t achieve anything. We can’t stay away from sin. We can’t please God. It’s frustrating. But then we see that HE CAN – and we can rejoice, in surrender to Him.
Do we trust that in Christ all things are possible, and that our God is good? Then, in recognition of our own weaknesses, we give ourselves completely into His hands, trusting Him to use us, shape us and teach us. This is the kind of worship He loves. To give ourselves to Him in the knowledge that alone we are lost, but with Him we are more than conquerors.
Back in 2008 God showed me something, the details of which I still remember very vividly: I saw a person in a round room with a door and no windows. The person was sitting in a chair in the centre of the room, surrounded by little objects all over the floor. The person was playing and fiddling with the objects, enjoying it but never really satisfied. All the while someone was knocking at the door, wanting to come in: it was Jesus. The person in the room ignored Him for a while at first, then shouted “let yourself in!” – but the knocking just continued.
Finally the person got up and opened the door to let Jesus in, before returning to the chair in the centre of the room. Jesus sat on the floor among the objects, playing and fiddling with one or two as given permission from the person on the chair, but never really satisfied. Eventually the person realised what Jesus wanted, and offered Him the chair. He looked pretty happy. As He sat down on the chair, the objects around the room began to melt away, followed by the walls and ceiling and at last the chair itself. Both the person and Jesus somehow changed into huge birds and began to rise up and soar above everything.
When we let Jesus take the throne of our lives and let everything else melt away as we choose to focus on Him instead of the things of this world, He can take our hand and leads us, teaching us to live completely for Him. This does not mean that life’s troubles disappear (John 16:33), but it does mean that we have Someone who cares about us and wants to guide us through them, Someone we can focus on who helps us put everything else into perspective. He helps us notice how small we are in comparison to our purpose, and how great He is.
To surrender to God means to leave pride in His hands. Self-control is vital and is a fruit of the Spirit, a beautiful thing that each of us needs to learn to use – but to exercise self-control means to make conscious decisions in everyday situations to live God’s way rather than our own. As He changes us, we choose to follow our new Christ-like nature rather than following our human nature and worldly temptations (Galatians 5:16-25). Surrender to God means humbly giving Him the steering wheel of our lives, and choosing to walk in His ways instead of working out our own paths.
The great hindrance to trust is self-effort. So long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and strength, you cannot fully trust God. But when God breaks you down, when everything begins to grow dim before your eyes, and you see that you understand nothing, then God is coming near, and if you will bow down in nothingness and wait upon God, He will become all. As long as we are something, God cannot be all, and His omnipotence cannot do its full work. That is the beginning of faith – utter despair of self, a ceasing from man and everything on earth, and finding our hope in God alone.
– Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender
So, if we know that surrender to God is the best thing to do, and will help us to grow closer to Him and live for Him, and will change our lives for His Kingdom – how do we go about it? It’s so easy sometimes to say or sing the words “I surrender all” and the like, but do those words signify full surrender from the heart? HOW do we surrender to God? I don’t believe there is any formula or any special prayer to pray and then have done with it, but this is the beginning of some short studies that might be helpful – let us prayerfully consider them and let God lead!
(Below is an introduction to each topic that we will be focusing on in this study; each will be explored in more detail in the chapters to come.)
Surrender your eyes.
- Lay down before God your perspectives: how you see people and how you want people to see you, how you see situations and the attitude you have towards them. Pray about specific examples of people and situations that you especially want to learn to see as God sees them. Surrender to Him too the views you hold about the Bible, how you see Him, and the way you see yourself. Ask Him to shape your perspective so you see things through His eyes (Matthew 6:22-23).
- Surrender to God where your focus is, and let Him teach you to keep looking to Him wherever you are, whatever you are doing. Surrender to God the things you see and the things you choose to watch or look at (Philippians 4:8), letting God choose how to direct your vision. The choices we make about such things do have an impact on the way we think and behave, and the way we relate to God and to other people.
Surrender your ears.
- Surrender to God what you choose to listen to: whose advice you follow, what kind of music you immerse yourself in, which words you let yourself accept. As we surrender our ears, God can teach us to know His voice better in different ways, and can show us what to listen to and receive, and what not to accept (John 10:3-5). Surrender to God what you hear, and what “goes in”.
Surrender your nose.
- The nose is a filter for the body and a way to discern warning signs (bad smells) or food and the like (good smells). What’s more, in whichever direction the nose is pointing, the body usually follows. Surrender to God your awareness of what is going on in situations. He can provide guidance and discernment in order to understand what is happening around you, more than you can sense with human understanding; more than you can “smell” on your own. Surrender to God the things you choose to follow; then He can be the one to guide you and He can show you the direction in which He wants your life to point (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Surrender your mouth.
- Be aware of God’s presence with you whoever you are with. Would you talk to people differently if Jesus was standing there in bodily form listening to your conversation? God IS there with you! Be willing to say what He wants you to say (Jeremiah 1:9). Being the mouthpiece of God to this world means surrendering what your human nature may want to say. Surrender to God your mouth, so that the motives behind your words do not come from trying to impress people: surrender to God your ways of speaking to people.
- Let God put His truth in your mouth: both in choosing not to deceive people with your words and in speaking His Good News of life through your words and lifestyle. Surrender to God the ways in which you talk to Him: in prayer, praise, worship, intercession, any kind of vocal communication with God. Surrender to God also what you consume – let Him shape you so that your nourishment comes from doing His will (John 4:34).
Surrender your mind.
- Ask God to keep Himself at the centre of your mind so that every thought honours him (2 Corinthians 10:5), and to keep your life dependent on Him. Surrender to God the choices that you make – both big and small, even though He may ask you to make choices that could put your job, reputation, friendships, money or whatever else at risk. Surrender to God the things you prioritise with your time. Surrender to God your understanding, your “wisdom”, and invite God to teach you His. Surrender to God your sin, letting Him renew your mind and teach you to keep it in His hands.
- Surrender to God your identity, your image – let Him give you His. Surrender to God any selfishness that may be in your mind, and let Him shape your mind around your purpose in Him (Philippians 2:3-5). Surrender to God any idolatry you may be holding: any priorities in your mind that come above Him in your life. Surrender to God your culture, your understanding of the world and of Him, your daily or weekly routines, your comfort zone, your lifestyle.
Surrender your shoulders.
- Give to God the burdens you face, the issues and the heavy things that you carry in your life. Surrender your worries to God, your hopes and expectations, your fears… Surrender to God the ways in which you endure the situations you face, the ways you work through things and the ways you carry things – allow Him to lead you and give you strength to continue through every situation. Surrender to God other people’s burdens that you find yourself involved with too. Surrender “your cross” (Luke 9:23), and let God teach you how to carry it.
Surrender your knees.
- Surrender to God the ways in which you pray: surrender to Him your intercession, worship, praise and other types of prayer. Surrender to Him the time you spend doing such things, and your attitudes towards prayer. Surrender to God your “service”, of Him and of others, and surrender to Him your pride and your humility (John 13:3-5).
Surrender your feet.
- Surrender to God the foundation on which you build your life – the thing(s) your life revolves around, the things you most trust in and most need in order to live and find fulfillment in life (Psalm 62:7). Surrender to God your obedience to Him and the ways in which you follow His commands for your life.
- Surrender to God your ability to walk in His presence wherever you are. Surrender to Him your paths in life and your participation in His mission to bring the Gospel to people He loves (Isaiah 52:7). Surrender to God the race that you’re running; the path you’re following, and your strength and ability to keep going.
Surrender your hands.
- Surrender to God your possessions and your priorities; your money; any materialism you may hold at times – and surrender to God your ability to hold lightly the things of this world (Hebrews 10:34). Surrender to God your projects and the things you choose to do for leisure, and your hobbies. Surrender to Him your talents and gifts, and their purpose in your life.
- Surrender to God the responsibilities you have, in every different area of life. Surrender to God your work at “being His hands and feet in the world” – your work for Him and your life as His representative. Surrender to God your official workplace and everything else that you consider work – give Him space to act in those situations and work through your hands (2 Thessalonians 3:12-13).
- Surrender to God the ways in which you give, helping and blessing other people. Surrender to God your hands to heal (Mark 16:17-18) – let Him teach you and use you to heal people emotionally, spiritually and physically; surrender this to Him. Surrender to God the ways in which you embrace God’s plans for your life, and the ways you accept and embrace other people too. Surrender to God the things (and the ways) you receive – from God and from others.
- Surrender to God your active and deliberate sin. Let Him shape and change you, guiding your actions and steering you far from the enemy (Galatians 5:24).
Surrender your heart.
- Surrender to God your life’s purpose. Give Him your past, present and future. Give God your worries; your hopes; your dreams. Give Him your situations and your emotions; your excitements; the things you love; the things that irritate you in life. Surrender to God your moods and let Him teach you to praise Him even when it may be painful or difficult. Give God your desires: the small things and the bigger life-consuming things. Give God your heart and let all that you do and the way you live be fuelled by His love; let God fill your heart with Himself and teach you (Psalm 86:11).
- Surrender to God any pain in your heart. Give to Him also any sin in your heart, and surrender to Him your response to His grace (Psalm 139:23-24). Give God your grudges and surrender to Him your forgiveness of and grace towards others. Surrender to God your relationships: with God; with your family; with your friends; with your leaders; with those under your influence; with other believers; with those who aren’t yet believers; with your colleagues; with strangers; with enemies; with anyone else that comes to mind.
Surrender your whole being.
- Put your life completely in God’s hands, and let Him teach you to depend on Him so that you draw closer to Him. Let go, and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit. Is there an area of your life that you’re reluctant to surrender? Ask yourself why. And ask yourself where your priorities lie (Luke 20:25).
Oh, friends, we need this absolute surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. The more I speak, the more I feel that this is one of the most difficult points to make clear, and one of the most important and needful points to explain – what this absolute surrender is. It is often an easy thing for a man or a number of men to come out and offer themselves up to God for entire consecration, and to say: “Lord, it is my desire to give up myself entirely to Thee.” That is of great value, and often brings very rich blessing. But the one question I ought to study quietly is What is meant by absolute surrender?
It means that, as literally as Christ was given up entirely to God, I am given up entirely to Christ. Is that too strong? Some think so. Some think that never can be; that just as entirely and absolutely as Christ gave up His life to do nothing but seek the Father’s pleasure, and depend on the Father absolutely and entirely, I am to do nothing but to seek the pleasure of Christ. But that is actually true. Christ Jesus came to breathe His own Spirit into us, to make us find our very highest happiness in living entirely for God, just as He did. Oh, beloved brethren, if that is the case, then I ought to say:
“Yes, as true as it is of that little branch of the vine, by God’s grace, I would have it to be of me. I would live day by day that Christ may be able to do with me what He will.”
– Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender