Surrendering all

We want Jesus as Savior, but do we want him as Lord?

Nancy Canwell is a special assistant editor of Ministry.

Surrender. As pastors, we preach it to our members. We lead them in singing, "All to Jesus, I surrender." We invite people to come to the altar and surrender their lives to God.

Surrender. It's one of my favorite topics to preach on, and yet at times, one of the hardest things for me to do. How about you? Perhaps you often pray, "Lord, take my life." But what do you mean when you pray those words? Do you really mean your whole life? Every aspect—your health? family? possessions? Or are you easily tempted to give Him only certain areas of your life while you hold on to the rest?

We want Jesus as Saviour, but that's not the same as wanting Him as Lord. A Saviour gives, but a Lord sometimes takes away. Do we really want Him as our Lord? Lord of our lives, to work out His will and not ours? Are we willing to surrender all, to be totally God's at any cost? This involves more than having daily devotions and spending a few moments in prayer each morning. It means more than doing the acts of ministry that we pastors perform day after day. It requires giving up our own plans— even our hopes and dreams—to follow His will for our lives.

Does that much of a commitment make you feel a bit uncomfortable? Perhaps it's because when we think of the word "surrender," we think of failure. If in war one side surrenders, that side has failed—failed to win, failed to be strong enough. But surrendering to God is some thing quite different. Surrender to Him brings freedom!

Perhaps one reason it's hard to surrender all is fear that we might lose something we think we need—or want. But when all is said and done, what really matters most? That our lives go the way we've planned, or that God's will is accomplished in us?

In surrendering to God, we're giving ourselves into the hands of Someone who cares for us more than we care for ourselves. He is our Father, not some uninterested person. Both His provision of Calvary and His promise of the new earth demonstrate His unfailing love for us. So we need not fear when we surrender to Him. Notice Jeremiah 29:11, '"For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'" (Jer. 29:11).*

In thinking of someone who surrendered all, Mary, the mother of Jesus, comes to mind. She had her life with Joseph planned. Then one day an angel appeared and announced that her plans were not God's plans. Mary might have said, "But Lord, I've planned my life another way!" "But Lord, what will Joseph say?" "But Lord, what will my parents think?" "But Lord . .." But no, instead she replied: "Behold, I am a handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:37, RS V). For Mary to call herself a handmaid was quite an act of surrender. For in her time, a handmaid was the lowest of all servants. A handmaid gave up her will to do the will of another.

Jesus also knew what true surrender was all about. He yielded to the Father's plan to the point of death when He said, "Yet not as I will but as you will" (Matt. 26:39).

Often teenagers tell their parents: "It's my life! Let me run my own life!" Without saying these exact words, do we ever send God the same message? Even we pastors need to remember that choosing God in our ministry means denying self. An unsurrendered pastor is an unhappy and resentful pastor.

Today, why not take a look at your life, and through the eyes of the Holy Spirit see if there might be something you are holding on to—some thing God is calling you to surrender? Perhaps it's something you're anxious about, maybe it's another person, or finances, health, or a bad habit unforsaken. Whatever the case, let today be the day to place it at the feet of Jesus, under His care. Let our prayer be: "Father, today's the day. Empty me of all of me. I surrender all."

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Nancy Canwell is a special assistant editor of Ministry.

September 1993

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