God has put the idea of surrender on my mind a lot lately. In The Difficulty of Surrender, I basically defined surrender as an awareness and acceptance of God’s sovereignty. The hard part about this definition is that it’s more about a state of being than it is about doing; and as people, we like to know what to do. During one of my discussions about the idea of surrender, Morgan asked me a great question. He said, “The real question is “how do you surrender?”. We are people in perpetual motion, always moving, maneuvering, planning, positioning. It’s tiresome.”
His question made me consider the practical difficulties of my definition of surrender, so I thought I’d take a minute to look at how it can be applied practically in our lives and expand it a little. Since God is concerned with our motives, I think it would be foolish if we never took time to reflect on them ourselves. Thus, I think when we examine whether or not we are living surrendered lives, there are (at least) two really good questions to ask ourselves.
First, is my surrender conditional or unconditional? I know a handful of single people who very, very much want to get married; I was the same way when I was single, too. I actually joined the Air Force because I knew that it was the quickest way for me to be able to provide for a family. When I became a Christian, my prayers sounded something like this, “Dear Lord, I’m ready for the wife you have selected for me.” I thought, for some reason, that God would deem that as an acceptable surrender.
Truthfully, I hadn’t really surrendered that aspect of my life to God. I might as well have prayed, “God, I’m ready when you are…we’re waiting on you here.” I had this silly idea that I could somehow manipulate God by half-heartedly surrendering my love life to Him. In reality, I had simply laid out a check-list of what I felt my love-life should look like and how I expected God to fulfill that request. I surrendered my love-life to Him conditionally. It’s like I was saying, “Yeah, you can have it, but this is what I want You to do with it.” But that’s not really surrender is it?
It wasn’t until I unconditionally set my love-life before Him that I authentically surrendered. I had an aha moment and my prayer changed into, “God, I will love you and follow you no matter what; even if it’s your will that I should be single for the rest of my life, I commit myself fully to you unconditionally.” At this point I believe I finally understood what it meant to release control and let God do as He willed. (Interestingly enough, the exact same week I prayed that prayer, Connie arrived in Alaska. We didn’t meet for about a month after that, but I always thought it was amazing how God worked that out.)
So once you’re committed to unconditionally surrendering your life to God, what does that look like? Well that brings us to our second question concerning authentic surrender.
Ask yourself, do my plans or actions seek to build my kingdom or God’s Kingdom? A while back, Connie asked me how she could discern whether or not a desire was from God. The best I could come up with was to answer her question with a question: whose kingdom was she seeking to build? While our actions are important, I think our motives are of equal importance. Thus, even when we’re doing things that are good, we must examine our motives.
Some actions are not inherently good or bad, such as making money, getting married, or even volunteering at a homeless shelter. It’s actually the motives behind these actions that God is concerned with; getting married so you can be served, making money so you can spend it all on yourself, or volunteering at the homeless shelter so others will think well of you. Suddenly, when good things are done for the wrong reason, they are no longer good. When those activities are done so they build up my kingdom, then my motives are sinful. Thus, it is not a pleasing sacrifice to God.
However, when we surrender all to God, for His purposes and for His glory, everything can become an offering to God. Suddenly, the way I treat my wife, the effort I put into a workout, how I invest my money… It is all an offering to God, for His Kingdom.
This requires an awareness of the fact that your life is not about you. The greatest thing you can do with your life is bring glory to God.
So perhaps an expanded definition of surrender-one that is more practical-should be this: Surrender is an awareness and acceptance of God’s sovereignty and an unconditional commitment to see His Kingdom built and His name glorified, no matter the cost to us.