Surrender? How? Why?


The word “surrender” just doesn’t have a good sound to it. Right? I mean, who wants to surrender, give up, give in, let others claim the victory, lose? Surrender is associated with losing, and when you lose, you think of yourself as a loser.


But what if surrender isn’t always like that? What if it’s possible to surrender to good things—like surrendering to love, or surrendering your guilt and shame? In that sense, surrender is a good thing. When I surrender something bad, I’m letting go. Even if I’m surrendering something good for the benefit of someone else, that’s a good thing. But still, surrendering is hard! Sometimes really hard.


So why should we, really? Why surrender our way, will, rights for… others?


Here’s the why: A self-centered life implodes. A life focused on others expands. The old you cares more about your happiness. The new you cares more about the happiness of others. And oddly enough, the more you deny self, the more you fulfill self. There’s joy, fulfillment, peace, contentment, all on top of the benefit of extending love and grace to others. If we live a life of surrender—which is the way of Jesus—we change the world. If we don’t, our lives implode into the centrifugal force of self-absorption.


This is exactly what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 16: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:24-27, ESV). 


The emphasis in Matthew 16:24 is on the Person you’re following not the cross you’re bearing. Denying yourself (submission) and taking up your cross are not ends unto themselves. They are means to the end. The end is following Jesus. The point is following Jesus, coming after Jesus. We are submitting to a Person not a thing, not an ideology, not a theology, not a religion, not moralism. 


And when we do that, we’re on the path to freedom. Sounds rather odd, doesn’t it? And yet this is what Jesus shows us: Submission leads to freedom. That sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. The only way out from the clutches of sin is submitting to Jesus Christ. We submit to Him, and He sets us free. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatian 5:1, ESV). When you submit to sin, you become a slave to it. When you submit to Jesus, you are set free from sin. That’s why we submit to a Someone, Jesus, and not something—you name it—work, sex, selfishness, religion, you fill in the blank. 


So how do we do it? How do we submit to Christ and live a life of submission to Him, not to anything else? 



I’ve heard people say that the hardest thing about the Christian life is waiting. We live in a culture of instant gratification, and then a preacher gets up (like me) and says, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace! Give your life to Jesus now, and in 70 years you’ll get your reward. You’re not going to gain this world (even though a lot of it sure looks great!), but you’re going to gain your soul, my friends, and that’s far better. Just wait! Jesus is coming back with his angels in the glory of his Father.”


This is true, for sure. Jesus does promise us there is no comparison in gaining the whole world and losing your soul. And there is a heavenly reward that far outweighs anything this life has to offer. The 90-year old who’s lived a long life and who’s experienced the things of the world might have the wisdom to know that what this world has to offer is ultimately empty, and he or she might be looking forward to that heavenly home. But the 20-year old is praying, “Jesus, don’t come back until after I’m married and have experienced more of this world!”


In last week’s post, ‘Surrender? Why?’, I shared that a self-centered life implodes, but a life focused on others expands. And the more you deny self, the more you are fulfilled. This is the WHY.


Here’s the HOW. Begin with the end in mind. It all boils down to this—what’s the destination of the road you’re on? What’s the end game? Where does all of “this” (whatever “this” is in your life) lead? Let me remind us of what Jesus said once again in Matthew 16:26-27: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:26-27, ESV).


The rewards of living a life submitted to Jesus are not just heavenly, they’re also in the here and now. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8, ESV). 


There’s joy, there’s hope, there’s fulfillment. It’s not, “Join Jesus’ team, and you’ll be healthy, wealthy and wise.” Here’s the message: you follow Jesus, and your life will never be the same—you will have a purpose in your life to help change the world, and the more you take the focus of your centered self and you put it on what Jesus calls you to be and do, you will find that peace that surpasses all understanding. Actually, that peace will find you. 


Lord, I know this is a dangerous prayer, but I ask that you do whatever it takes for me to live entirely surrendered to your will. I know that nothing can hinder the worship of my heart except the coldness of my heart. Help me to step out in faith moment by moment as I remain fully surrendered to you and quietly trusting. Find me faithful today, Lord I pray. Amen.