I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of surrendering. I like to be in control, I like to call the shots, I like to plan and chart my future. I would rather hide God in the unseen corner of my heart and call Him out only when I need Him to bail me out of trouble. Surrender to Him? Whatever for?
It’s almost as if God wired us to find surrender incredibly difficult to swallow – because it is – except that He didn’t. What if I told you we were made to joyfully relinquish control and allow God to lead us in holy partnership? Does that thought make you uncomfortable?
THE MOST PAINFUL REQUEST
The Greek word for surrender, paradidomi, means to give into the hands of another, and to give in to another’s power or use.
When God tested Abraham in Genesis 22, it wasn’t just a test of obedience, but one of sovereignty. Who really sat on the throne of Abraham’s heart? Would Abraham surrender to the will of God, even to the ultimate request of his beloved son’s life?
“Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’” (Genesis 22:1-2)
From God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, to the numerous rehashing of God’s covenantal promise to make him the Father of all nations (Genesis 13:14-17, 15, 17) – surely it must have been so difficult to say yes to God, especially to this seemingly absurd request that followed it all.
I don’t know about you, but I can imagine how difficult it must have been for Abraham to relinquish control when God said, “Give me Isaac.”
“Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough indeed to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From that moment when he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms he was an eager love slave of his son. God went out of His way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand.
“The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous.
“It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)
I believe God was teaching Abraham what it meant to find true satisfaction in Him – a satisfaction that comes from a posture of joyful, confident surrender. Whatever the cost, He wanted him to learn this lesson. And not just him, but many other faith heroes, and yes, even us today as well.
When the fig tree didn’t bud, when there weren’t any grapes on the vines, when the olive crop failed and the fields were barren, when there wasn’t any sheep in the pen and cattle in the stalls, Habakkuk declared, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
One of my favourite articles puts it this way: “When Job was still able to say, after losing everything, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21), he declared the surpassing worth of God. God himself, not the things He could offer, is Job’s true treasure.”
When Abraham trudged towards Moriah with the firewood, ropes and knife needed for the sacrificial offering, the weight wasn’t on his back, but on his heart. I don’t know how long that journey to Moriah took, but I believe that God was changing Abraham’s heart with his every step.
Gradually we see that control was relinquished, because when Abraham reached the place of sacrifice, he laid down his baggage and told his beloved son, “The LORD will provide.” Abraham joyfully surrendered.
“God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, ‘It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there.
‘I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that you fear God, seeing that thou has not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’
We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save.
Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)
Abraham and many other Bible heroes rejoiced not in their circumstances, but in God. They knew that their faith is not circumstantial, hence they could joyfully surrender to the One sovereign over circumstances.
They learnt the Kingdom equation: God + nothing = everything, and this must be the formula we follow. They could surrender because they have first found true satisfaction in God, and nothing could shake that conviction, not even the removal of their most precious possessions.
COME TO THE ALTAR
I have many “Isaacs”, things precious to me. I like to look good and dress well. I’ve put certain relationships before God. I’ve even put ministry success above God. I find security in a life driven by sound decisions and worldly possessions.
But the tighter I hold on to these lesser loves I hear God even clearer, over and over: “Give me your Isaac.”
He calls me to come to the altar with my Isaac, to learn how to joyfully surrender my great loves one by one because He knows that whatever I hold on to by my strength is never secure. It’s not always intuitive, but there’s no safer place for my most precious things than in His hands.
Anything outside of God sovereign care and watch is in danger – in danger of being exalted above Him and becoming an avenue for tearing my heart apart because nothing lasts forever.
It’s not always intuitive, but there’s no safer place for my most precious things than in God’s hands.
He calls me to come to the altar because He knows that my heart is deceitful beyond all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and that only in His care will it be sealed and safe from unnecessary hurts and disappointments. And so the King of my heart calls me to surrender.
But this surrender isn’t and shouldn’t be a forceful one. Again, in Kingdom math, surrender is liberating, not enslaving. Exchanging kingship brings joy, not despair. So every day I come to the altar, to learn what it means to find true satisfaction in Jesus, and nothing else.
Every day I learn to joyfully surrender my desires, hopes and wishes to Him: Those relationships, grades, finances, ministry fruitfulness, everything … And in doing so, I too declare, “The LORD will provide.”
My surrendered heart can find joy, satisfaction and rest in this beautiful truth, because this declaration has already found fulfilment in the person of Jesus Christ.
SALVATION LIES IN SURRENDER
When God created man, He intended our relationship to be one where we joyfully submitted and surrendered to His sovereign and loving lead. We were created to follow and reflect our Maker from a posture of humble surrender, obedience and trust.
But when Adam and Eve shared a bite of the alluring forbidden fruit, what tasted exceedingly sweet quickly turned into bitter antagonism between God and man. That day, God’s idea of joyful surrender was contested by man’s selfish, wilful desires.
That day, Man essentially told God: “I want to be king, and You must surrender to my will”. You might ask, “Isn’t God strong enough to break the seal over our hardened hearts?” Of course He is, except He didn’t, because He always intended surrendering to be a joyful, free choice.
In Kingdom math, surrender is liberating, not enslaving.
He wants us to be like Abraham and Isaiah, who gladly, not grudgingly responded to Him: “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:1, Isaiah 6:8)
We can only thank God that our story didn’t end there. For that same day, God promised a conquering King who would one day surrender the privileges of heaven just to be with us. He did that to break the serpent’s curse and help men find their way back to their Maker.
The journey to regain the rightful throne of men’s hearts began that day, and true satisfaction and joy is promised to those who gladly surrender to the One who created all things.