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These four words embody a bold challenge for all believers to accept. As a follower of Jesus Christ, my entire life and everything in it, should be surrendered to His sovereignty. Does this mean that I have done so in every area of my life successfully? No, I still think there is work to be done. I think there are many areas where by God’s own grace, He has helped me to surrender to Him. Yet I still know in my heart that there are areas where I still desire to wield too much control. For example, I still like to think too much about certain things and easily traverse from critical thinking or introspection to the dangerous territory of analysis paralysis or even worry. God is clear that we’re not to worry, we’re instructed to let each day worry about itself. Each day we are told carries enough worry of its own. (V*1).
I believe there is value in planning ahead. As a man of God I think that I am called to be a leader, and as a leader I think I would be in trouble if I didn’t have some vision of the future. Having some vision of the future doesn’t mean that I need to have the entire blueprint, or that I have to figure out life. Life isn’t meant for us to solve in advance, and to remove the shroud of mystery that God intentionally leaves over many areas in our lives looking forward. In fact I would prefer not to know all the things that God chooses not to disclose to me at this time. I know that because He knows me better than I know myself, and Him having my best interests at heart, that there are specific reasons why I must not know those things.
I don’t know for certain if I will marry. I am fairly certain given my propensity to feel attracted to women, susceptibility to burn with passion, and desire for companionship that God may provide me with a virtuous wife. (V*2). This is a matter of speculation however, as if I was meant to sacrifice marriage for God in this life, I hope I would be willing to surrender that for Him. If I wasn’t able to embrace this mindset, that would be indicative of me idolizing marriage. I believe that one day, if it be in God’s will, that He will reveal her to me and help us begin to build that connection through dating/courting. I have no doubt in my mind that He may still be preparing her, and that I am also being prepared for that event, before it is to come to pass. Otherwise if we’re both ready for the challenge of building towards marriage, we’d already be engaged in that endeavor. Unless of course there are other factors outside my vision that are being considered, perhaps circumstantial factors I haven’t even considered, that could be holding it back. I suspect that my desires to build a career in writing, to pursue God’s will in evangelism, and to seek a rock solid foundation for my professional life could be a part of that. I know that I wouldn’t like to get married without being able to fulfill the role of a provider for my wife, myself, and potential children in the future. There are also undoubtedly aspects of selfishness that I need to surrender to God. I think that some of these are made clear when I date, but others may only be made clear once I commit to a lifelong covenant with my significant other.
I know right now I am not the captain of my own ship, I am an adventurer on a ship that I gave the control over to God. There are times where I volunteer to take the controls too hastily, but God reminds me that I need to sit back and learn patience. There are other times where God empowers me to make bold moves, take the controls, and learn a lesson experentially. Life isn’t supposed to be perfect, and we’re imperfect beings despite serving a perfect Savior. We cannot always save ourselves trouble and heartache. As much as it’s of significant importance to be able to learn by the experience of others, there is no way not to allow one’s own experience to teach some meaningful lessons along the way as well. Of course I am not an advocate of making deliberate mistakes, but I do encourage people to step out of their comfort zones. Undoubtedly as a byproduct of this, once in a while I will steer into uncomfortable territory. I just make sure that when I need to re-align myself with God’s blueprint, I prayerfully seek His guidance. Even if I am given the privilege of steering the ship, I know that He will always be my guide. The Holy Spirit dwells inside my body, as my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and I have no doubts that He gives me the coordinates. (V*3).
I can’t tell you that I always follow them or execute them perfectly. I am not Jesus Christ, but being that I am a believer in the process of sanctification, I know that by God’s grace I grow closer to Christ-likedness over time. Ideally this occurs every day, and to what extent God only knows. I am confident that I am not supposed to burden myself with a perfectionist mentality, being paralyzed by fear of making mistakes. I know that God knows my faults, flaws, imperfections, and insecurities. He knows what areas He’s improving in me, and because of that I take comfort in calculated risks under His guidance. I am not afraid of failing because I know that God is there to catch me when I do. This doesn’t encourage reckless abandon, but it does embolden me to take action. Our faith is not a passive one, it’s active and seeking to surrender everything for the sake of God’s will. (V*4). Whatever it takes to accomplish the mission that God puts in our hearts, we need to be willing and ready to obey His calling.
I believe that writing is a significant aspect of God’s calling for me, but there’s still a lot I don’t know. I am not sure if God will call me to be a Pastor one day. I am not sure if I should pursue the challenge of public speaking engagements. I am not certain that I should go to seminary after I finish my B.A., in fact I am not sure whether God wants me to return to school soon or defer it further to pursue my writing endeavors in a more focused matter. There are some things I believe God has given me a more comprehensive viewpoint for already, and other things where I believe I only see the tip of a huge iceburg. The beauty of it is that God knows the full blueprint, and He knows the duration of my time here on earth. If I was asked whether I would like to know how long I had left to live, I wouldn’t desire to know. I am content in knowing that God knows me fully, and that if I was supposed to know something critical, He wouldn’t let me miss it.
Sometimes I miss out on an opportunity, and I briefly wonder why God didn’t allow it to come together. Every time this has happened, God has made perfect sense of it in retrospect. I believe I have discovered at least a part of the reason why God allowed me to be hospitalized in my second semester as a Freshman. I had to defer my classes, and my selfish ambition was surrendered to God. I am so thankful that God gave me this opportunity to re-prioritize Him, and seek Him first again. I am thankful that I didn’t spurn His correction, but embraced it as best as I could given the circumstances. It’s something that I try to keep in mind, that if God would allow me to receive a gentle correction, that I request to learn and abide in God’s will in that way if possible rather than learn things the hard way. However, if it takes a significant event to catch my attention, that I would be willing to adapt. Also that I would be blessed with the strength, wisdom, prudence, and desire to persevere in the face of any obstacle, trial, or difficulty God saw fit to allow to occur in my life. In this way He allowed Job to be tested, in likely the most extreme test of scripture we can observe, outside of His own Son Jesus Christ of course. (V*5). He was blameless and upright, yet God still allowed Him to encounter a fierce trial. Yet even in this trial, God was still with Job, and by God’s grace Job persevered through much more than I would dare to wish upon my worst enemy.
I am not comparing my hospitalizations, or difficulties pertaining to anything that has occurred in my life, to Job by any means. What I mean is that we all have challenges that God has intentionally allowed to happen in His providence. We shouldn’t doubt in the midst of these life storms that God has forgotten us, or that He has abandoned us. (V*6). He will never leave us or forsake us, we can be confident in that. We need to surrender everything to Him. I want to be willing to give up my dearest hobbies, ideas, endeavors, friendships, or even family if necessary in order to appease God. I don’t mean that I necessarily feel compelled to move 3,000 miles away from my family tomorrow, but if somehow that was part of God’s plan, I want to be willing to adapt to that. If I could assess that without a shadow of a doubt God wanted something done, I would want to be willing to execute it immediately.
Right now one of my perceived mission fields is in the area of Poker. It’s a game that I hold as a dear hobby, I can make some extra money from, and I have been given the opportunity to evangelize to strangers in as well. To me it’s a win on multiple fronts, but if I needed to give it up for God, I would want to surrender it. I suspect one day He may lead me to give it up, for me to remember that it’s a vehicle to creatively serve Him and enjoy leisure activity, but it’s not to become an idol. Perhaps He may want me to defer playing for a time, or maybe He wants me to let it go forever. In the case of opening the door to other ministry endeavors it may be more of a liability than a blessing, and in that case I may have to relinquish it. I wouldn’t want to set the wrong example, and cause my brothers and sisters to stumble, if I know that it is something that becomes a vice to many. (V*7).
There are certain Christian liberties, that as we are called to teach the Word of God, we may want to reconsider whether we want to exercise them. Not necessarily because they are intrinsically sinful, but because they may present to others an example that is more of a burden than an asset. One example that I am not particularly fond of is drinking. I believe you can drink in moderation, and stop far short of sin, if you’re not entering into drunkenness. In fact I do think that many of us can enjoy it responsibly without negative repercussions entering our lives, however as believers who are role models for others, perhaps it’s best for us to avoid entertaining alcohol on any level? Granted it’s easy for me to avoid something I don’t have much if any of a desire to indulge, but I think this can be the similar argument against Poker. Does there come a time where it becomes more of a disservice than a blessing? If the answer is yes, it’s time to surrender it to God again and give it up. This is not to say that it isn’t surrendered to God while I still partake in it, because I believe I have given it to Him. I mean if God requests for me to yield it to Him in the sense of quitting, or taking an extended leave of absence from the game, I need to answer that call with a fearless “yes”.
One area where many of us could use a nudge of assistance on from time to time is the realm of finances. Trusting God with our first fruits, and cheerfully giving to His purposes, should be something we perceive to be a God-given privilege. He doesn’t need us, much less does He need our money, but He still allows for us to contribute to the growth of His Kingdom. Is that something that we realize is a blessing beyond our comprehension? How beautiful is it that we can take a finite resource here on earth, and faithfully surrender it to the purposes of God? Whether we make close to nothing, a little, a lot, or we happen to be given the responsibility of stewarding much remains in the hands of God. What He entrusts into our hands in terms of time, resources, energy, and effort is all up to us to surrender to God. He helps guide us, convict us, and lead us by His Holy Spirit as we allow Him to be a present part of our lives every day. The key is to obey His commands, and to prayerfully seek His guidance, as to how we ought to spend all of it. In the words of Joe Martin, a professor I fondly recall reading a book from, he said:
“Life is meant to be spent, not saved.”
How are you spending your life? Do you find it a high priority to keep an eternal mindset, and look into what God would have us do, that has maximum eternal impact? Do you find yourself living too easily wrapped up into the whims of cultural norms and selfish desires? The truth is we all have some work to do in this area, and by God’s grace He is helping us to mature into the people He would have us become. The key is to abide in Him, and take steps in the right direction. Let’s not take two steps forward and three backward, let’s trust God and surrender what we can to Him and never look back. I know that I have made the mistake of touching doors God had already clearly closed for me. I hope that going forward I will deliberately focus on praying that God would continue to clearly open and close the doors He desires for my life. That He would help us to have a willing and submissive heart for His will, and avoid reopening the doors He already sealed shut from us. Isn’t that what it takes to love Him with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength? To love others as we would love ourselves? (V*8). I think it’s definitely part of the equation, and it’s not complicated. It’s a very simple formula, and it’s easy to understand but often challenging for us to execute.
It may be hard to stand in the face of the influences that our fallen natures have, but the solution is to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. The solution to our dilemma is to give it up to God, and surrender to His sovereignty. Once we truly surrender, we will realize that surrendering the temporal for the eternal is one of the best decisions we’ll ever make. One man, who said it quite well, was Jim Elliot who put it in this manner:
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
This is a key component of the Christian life, and Jesus Christ put it this way in Matthew 16:24-28 (V*9):
“24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 16:24-28 (NKJV).
We need to deny ourselves and surrender everything to God. Let’s not fall victim to loving this world or the things of this world, when our treasures are far more valuable and eternal. Avoid the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. (V*10). These worldly enticements are temptations of the devil, and as children of God we need to learn to avoid them at all costs. I know I have a lot of work to do, but with God’s help we will look forward to the things above that truly matter forever, and not settle for the fool’s gold this world has to offer.
V*1-34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34 (NKJV).
V*2- “22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22 (NKJV).
V*3- “19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NKJV).
V*4- “15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your[a] works, and I will show you my faith by my[b] works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?[c] 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”[d] And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” James 2:15-24 (NKJV).
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
V*5- “But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 (NKJV).
V*6- 8 And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NKJV).
V*7- “9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 (NKJV).
V*8- “30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’[a] This is the first commandment.[b] 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no other commandment greater than these.”
V*9- “24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 16:24-28 (NKJV).
V*10- “15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV).