The Surrender Tested
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.(Matthew 16:25)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:3) Let me exhort you to take seriously this surrendering, this freedom from all sense of possessing. It is not to be understood as mere Bible teaching to be stored away in the mind along with an inert mass of other doctrines. It is a marker on the road to greener pastures, a path chiseled against the steep sides of the mount of God. We dare not try to bypass it if we would follow on in this holy pursuit. We must ascend a step at a time. If we refuse one step we bring our progress to an end.
As is frequently true, this New Testament principle of spiritual life finds its best illustration in the Old Testament. In the story of Abraham and Issac we have a dramatic picture of the surrendered life as well as an excellent commentary on the first Beatitude.
Abraham was old when Isaac was born, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous. God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.
“Take now thy son,” said God to Abraham, “ thine only son Issac, whom thou loves, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”(Genesis 22:2)
This was Abraham’s trial by fire, and he did not fail in the crucible. He would offer his son as God had directed him to do, and then trust God to raise him from the dead. It is beautiful to see that, while he erred as to God’s method, he had correctly sensed the secret of His great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament Scripture, “ Whosoever will lose….for my sake shall find!”(Matthew 16:25)
If you have ever given something away of great value, you may know the struggle of fully releasing it to whoever received it. I think it may best be seen when one gives a son or daughter in marriage. As parents, we have brought them up, cared for them, loved them and they are the prize of our hearts. If you’ve seen the movie, Father of the Bride, it captures this struggle of releasing that child into the keeping of a virtual stranger. The true giving up or giving away is complete release of the gift.
It is equally true that when we are saved, we are to fully give up our lives and the control of them and fully surrender all to God. Yet, if you’re like me, we have to confess that full surrender doesn’t happen in that moment of salvation. We still like to retain control. Jesus was very clear that those who saves their lives will lose them. What He’s saying to us is that unless we give our lives completely to God in full surrender, we cannot be part of His kingdom. It is extremely difficult for us as Americans to embrace this concept. We are taught early in life that we are free individuals who own our lives and control our destiny and are independent individuals who makes their own decisions. So when we come to God who demands full surrender, we try to negotiate the terms of surrender. We may give up some habits but we want to keep some of our old lifestyles. We may agree to belong to His church but we wish to decide what that church will be and what it will do. We may wish to give God our heart and soul but to retain the use of our time, talent and resource. In the story of Abraham, God has provided a gift and an answered prayer in the form of Issac. There’s no question that Abraham is overwhelmed with the grace and love of God that has given him his great desire. I think there’s no question that God has delighted in giving such a gift to His beloved friend. Things go well for a while until the gift becomes more important than the giver. So God brings Abraham to the mountain of testing and asks him to release the gift back to Him. We have read the rest of the story. For most of us, we may never be asked to give a child back to God in that manner. But we are asked to surrender to God other things He has blessed us with. When I did my first mission trip to Kenya, my mother gave me some money to fund it. Later I found out that she was not aware that I was going myself to Kenya. She thought I was just sending money there to help the church. I remember her saying to me, “If I’d known you were going, I wouldn’t have given the money.” For her, releasing her little boy to ministry and trusting God to care for him was a hard thing to do.
Over the years, I’ve experienced and watched others struggle to release back to God what He has given. God has given us life and we wish to keep the use of it for our benefit first and God’s benefit with whatever’s left. God has blessed us with abilities and we use them to work and provide for our families and if there’s any left over we may use them for kingdom work. God has blessed us with resources and we give to a large degree only what we feel we must. God has given us the church and far too many times it becomes used for our purposes instead of His.
This is the story of Abraham and this is the principle of Matthew 16. It is interesting to note that Jesus declares He is building His church in the verses preceding the call to lose one’s life for His sake.
Let’s start a revolution. Let us seriously approach God and ask Him to help us sacrifice our loves, our control, and our independence upon the altar of God. May He give us grace to fully surrender ourselves to Him for His purpose. May we cease to hold on to things and instead hold on to the One who gave those things. May we find faith to release to God our lives, our abilities, and our resources believing that as we do so God will provide back to us everything we need for life at its fullest. May we fully surrender all to Him so we may find His desires for us.
It has been said, “It is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Dr. John Thompson