Two words which in today’s world often have negative associations – obedience and surrender! They often are used to reflect what is oppressive.
If my dog was obedient, my life would be easier, but she is not! Getting someone or something to be obedient often requires a raised or stern voice in my world at the moment. Obedience seems also to imply that we are under the control of someone or something else and that we are doing what they want, not what we want to do!
The negative associations surrounding surrender may even be worse. In a world where war seems unfortunately to be part and parcel of everyday life (either in reality or on the TV) to surrender to the opposition would be unthinkable. It would mean giving up what you hold dear, being on the losing side, giving in to a greater force, being subject so someone or something to whom we don’t want to be subject to; surrender is not worth it.
And this is our dilemma! For the Christian, obedience and surrender are not oppressive. Rather, it is through obedient surrender that we are set free from sin and its entanglement. We are released from oppression, rather than enter into it. However, because of our associations with obedience and surrender they often seem negative to us; whereas, in fact, they only bring about good and positive things in our life if we allow them in our lives in relation to the work of God.
A common song sung in many churches is the seemingly-famous, “I Surrender All”. I myself find it a soul-stirring song as well. It seems to touch my desire to allow God to lead me in all areas of my life; however, in reality, I know that this is not often the case. There are sometimes parts of my life which I don’t allow God into. But full obedient surrender is about allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us in all aspects of our life.
In Romans 7 Paul talks about the battle that the Christian finds himself in: his sinful nature pulling him in one direction and his spiritual nature pulling him in the other – obedience and surrender versus disobedience and selfishness. However, in Romans 8 Paul goes on to say that for the person who is found “in Christ” there is no condemnation. Despite the struggle within us, we can be confident that God is on our side and has redeemed us by the blood of Jesus Christ.
On our journey with Jesus and to experience obedient surrender we must not concentrate on what is “wrong” but on that which is good (Phil 4:8). We should not focus on the sins but on the Saviour (Heb 12:2) who is the author and perfecter of our faith.
I would boldly suggest to you that true obedient surrender comes about not by removing oneself from the world like the monks did, or even by concentrating on getting rid of the negative things in our lives; but only by concentrating and focussing on things of God...and as a by-product of making the Lord our true focus, we will experience, more and more unknowingly, true obedient surrender.
Questions for consideration...
How have you viewed obedient surrender?
Do you spent more time concentrating on ridding your life of the negative things, or more time concentrating on the Saviour?
Are there changes in your life that need to take place so that obedient surrender comes a by-product of God being the focus of your life rather than as a result of your own struggle to surrender effectively?
Adam Keough is the pastor of the Belfast Congregation. He is also the Youth Sponsor for the Irish Mission