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Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part 8: What am I supposed to surrender?

So if you are listening to what the Spirit says, where do you go from there?

You surrender. What you do not know when you choose to keep in step with the Spirit is that you have to relinquish into God’s hands what you cannot keep. You may have thought your way of living your life is the right one, but thinking this way has a way of trapping you into producing nothing that has eternal value.

Recently I was asked by someone I mentor, “What exactly does ‘surrender’ mean?” As commonly as the word pops up in sermons and other Christian teaching, we kind of assume that people know what is meant by encouraging someone to surrender.

Defining surrender calls for insight into the story of the Fall. When Adam and Eve decided to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil, the motivating factor for them was the lie of the Serpent, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” It was a let’s-go-for-it moment for them, the opportunity to know good and evil for themselves and practice their own version of godhood. We know how badly that has turned out for them and for us.

In making that fateful decision, their deepest loss was not their life—they would surely die—but their relationship with God. Their meal was a statement. “You are no longer our God. We are our own god. We reject your right to reign over us because we can now get along without you.”

Surrender means the reversal of this belief that you can get along without God. You are confessing your total need for God’s reign over you. You are giving up. You reserve no area of primary decision making for yourself. You are now surrendering to do God’s will instead of your own just like Jesus did when he shows up to be the sacrificial Lamb of God—“I have come to do your will, my God.” (Hebrews 10:7)

Surrender is necessary to gain insight into the meaning of wholeness. This insight comes from your deepening relationship with God and what He has said in Scripture:

  • What is the truth?
  • What does this truth mean for my life?
  • What do I do with this truth now that I know it?

These three questions are about listening with spiritual ears. What is God saying to us that we now hear? What does God say we should do when we want to leave a bitter marriage? Or say about a broken relationship? Or say about a long-ago crime we committed? Or about a lifelong habit that is as destructive as it is pleasurable? Asked in humility, such questions are used by the Spirit to bring us to the decision point. Will we trust his power to change us?

Just listing these few painful examples displays why believers resist the idea of surrender. If you surrender, you do not get to ‘protect’ yourself. What if God exposes something that you do not want to have come out or to give up?

Like for example…your reputation. Think of Jesus being called a drunkard and glutton. Think of him being thought of as out of his mind by his family!

Like prejudice. Think of Jesus giving a five-time married Samaritan woman living water.

Like comfort. Think of the Son of Man who did not have a place to lay down his head.

Surrender is about trusting God in the way Jesus did, that He is good—and not just when we are in a church service dutifully reciting back the response line, “All the time.”

I know a believer whose life has been through deep waters. His wife crashed and burned not just once, but multiple times with her addiction. His life with her was turmoil and he never knew what would be next—loss of their home, his company, their bank account. After the third go-round, he was ready to walk away from the marriage, feeling he had given enough. But the Spirit spoke into his heart that he, the husband, had made vows before the Father that he would love his wife for better or worse, in sickness and health. She was deeply sick in her soul and this was the ‘worse’. He surrendered his right to walk away, accepting that, under God’s reign, his job was to love his wife. It was the toughest thing he ever did and he still has not seen the end of this journey. But he trusts God and knows He is good—all the time.

You may never face such a challenge, but you will face your own challenges in surrendering to God’s right to reign over you. If it was easy, everyone would unhesitatingly do it. But it’s not easy. Yet it is necessary if we are going to be whole. Keeping in step with the Spirit is about surrendering every aspect of your life to the Father’s will.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV)

-Steve Smith