Christian Living

Spiritual Life

The Art of Surrender

Does anyone else find living the Christian life to be difficult?

Love your enemies. Forgive those who wrong you. Turn the other cheek. Think of others before yourself. Serve rather than be served.

Do people actually do this stuff?

So often I feel like the apostle Paul.

In Romans 7:15 he writes, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

He continues to explain the dilemma in Romans 7:22-23: For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

Exactly how I feel, Paul! It’s like something within my “members” is working against me.

I know how I should live as a Christian, but those fruit of the spirit that we often so readily list off from memory do not seem to be growing very quickly in my life.

Patience doesn’t come very easy. My supply of kindness varies with my moods. And when someone has treated me badly, love and forgiveness are not the first responses that immediately come to mind.

In fact, depending on the offense, what springs to mind is more likely to involve a baseball bat and a car window, or at least a good tongue-lashing, anyway.

And as much as I desire to serve others and think of them before myself, I find that the monster of self-centeredness raises his ugly head in my life more often than I’d care to admit.

Of course, I have my good days, those days when I’m on the spiritual mountaintop feeling like I’m doing pretty well on the holy-living front. But, unfortunately, those days aren’t the norm.

Is there ever a point where these become our “natural instincts,” and we no longer revert to the knee-jerk reactions of our sinful nature?

Scripture says God has given us all the power we need to live godly lives (2 Peter 1:3-4). As Christians, we are new creations in Christ. We are no longer bound by our sinful natures. But living out that calling can be difficult.

Have you seen people actually living these things out consistently? I have, and it’s a powerful testimony. 

My friend Tina is a good example. She never has an unkind word to say to anyone (or even about anyone). Even in the most stressful of circumstances, she remains calm and loving.

She will admit that she sometimes feels tempted to lose her cool, but you would never know that to look at her. Her well of compassion runs deep, and her supply of love never seems to be depleted.

“I’ll have what she’s having,” I think to myself when I pass her in the hallway on a Sunday morning as if the secret to a godly life can be found in her morning cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, even a grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte with soy and extra whip will not bring about the changes that I desire in my heart.

As I’ve posed these questions to God lately, inquiring exactly how it is that we can successfully put our sinful natures to death and live the way He would have us to, I keep hearing Him respond with one word: surrender.

What does that mean exactly?

One of the ways that Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines surrender is like this: “to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.”

That makes sense. As Christians, we give up our own wills and desires in favor of Christ’s. We want Him to have His way in our lives.

Webster’s Dictionary makes it sound so easy.

But I’m finding that sometimes practicing the fine art of surrendering is easier said than done. What does this surrendering really involve? God has been showing me recently that there are a few key things.

The first is to seek Christ daily.

Scripture tells us that we must live by His Spirit if we want to see His fruit grow in our lives. I can’t live up to His standards on my own. I’ve realized that I need a refreshing from the Holy Spirit each day. The reason I’ve been running out of love (or joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.) is because I’ve been trying to come up with those things on my own. I need to go back to the Source every day to have an ample supply of those things in my life.

Our first prayer of the day, every day, should be a prayer of surrender. The Lord has given us this day to use for His glory. What does He want us to do today? I’ve realized that I need to start each day by asking Him that question.

The second ingredient of surrendering is to get a new way of thinking.

The art of surrendering begins with our minds. For us to have God’s perspective on our lives and the people around us, we have to reprogram our brains to embrace God’s way of thinking. This can only be done through prayer and meditating on His Word.

Romans 12:2 instructs us that this is how we will be able to know the things that God wants us to do. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Thirdly, surrendering our will to God’s is only possible after we admit our need for Him. We have to acknowledge and truly believe that His way is better than ours.

This involves a huge amount of trust. It’s difficult to hand over our dreams and aspirations not knowing how God will want to use them. It is only when we spend time with Him and read His Word that we become convinced of the truth that His plans for our lives far exceed anything that we could have dreamed for ourselves.

The bottom line is that surrendering takes a conscious, daily effort. For God to have His way in my life I need to stay connected to Him and let Him lead all of my actions.

Growing up in a small rural church we often sang a hymn simply titled, “Consecration.” It quickly became my favorite hymn. I’ve had it posted on my wall at work for years, but it has come to be even more meaningful to me. It is now my own prayer of daily surrender.

Since Jesus gave his life for me, should I not give him mine?
I’m consecrated, Lord, to thee; I shall be wholly thine.
My life, O Lord, I give to thee, my talents, time, and all.
I’ll serve thee, Lord, and faithful be; I’ll hear thy faintest call.

Lord, Jesus, help me follow the same advice that you gave to your disciples.

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23



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