Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Surrender

Tell them, ‘The Lord God of Israel who rules over all says to give your masters this message. 27:5 “I made the earth and the people and animals on it by my mighty power and great strength, and I give it to whomever I see fit. 27:6 I have at this time placed all these nations of yours under the power of my servant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. I have even made all the wild animals subject to him. 27:7 All nations must serve him and his son and grandson until the time comes for his own nation to fall. Then many nations and great kings will in turn subjugate Babylon. 27:8 But suppose a nation or a kingdom will not be subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Suppose it will not submit to the yoke of servitude to him. I, the Lord, affirm that I will punish that nation. I will use the king of Babylon to punish it with war, starvation, and disease until I have destroyed it. 27:9 So do not listen to your prophets or to those who claim to predict the future by divination, by dreams, by consulting the dead, or by practicing magic. They keep telling you, ‘You do not need to be subject to the king of Babylon.’ 27:10 Do not listen to them, because their prophecies are lies. Listening to them will only cause you to be taken far away from your native land. I will drive you out of your country and you will die in exile. 27:11 Things will go better for the nation that submits to the yoke of servitude to the king of Babylon and is subject to him. I will leave that nation in its native land. Its people can continue to farm it and live in it. I, the Lord, affirm it!”’” (Jeremiah 27:4b-11)
Forgive me for not sounding very spiritual, but I think I would have had a problem with this word if I lived in Zedekiah's day. I'm not sure whether it's my American independent spirit, my opinionated personality, or human instinct - or a combination of all three - but I would have seriously questioned the source of any prophecy that required me to surrender.

And I think that's the point.

As I reflected on that tendency this morning in my quiet time - sincerely asking God about my reaction - I realized that while the circumstances of this story are about Israel's judgment for sins by the captivity of Babylon, the transferable principle to my own life is that surrender is always going to be against my natural instincts. It's never going to feel warm and fuzzy. And it will more than likely involve a struggle.

Nature reflects the truth that growth and transformation often require struggle. The caterpillar that struggles out of the cocoon, the infant that struggles through the birth canal, even the "growing pains" children experience, and the sore muscles that come with exercise, all testify that it isn't easy to go to the next level. At some point in the process, it's necessary to surrender to the struggle in order to see the benefits on the other side. If I constantly fight against the struggles I face in my daily workouts, I'll never advance beyond 10 minutes at level one. If I yield to the struggle, press in and endure, then I reap the benefits and find myself chugging along for a half hour.

The same is true in the things of the Spirit. When we commit to allowing God to develop and sanctify us, we encounter struggles. Those struggles may be internal, or they may involve external sources. It's especially hard to surrender to a growth opportunity that involves emotional hurt, challenges to our comfort level, or disrupted dreams. But if the struggle is truly God's instrument in our lives, we don't grow by going over, around, or under it, nor by fighting against it. We only grow by going through it. We only grow through surrender.

Sometimes the challenge of surrender involves God allowing us to be part of someone else's growth. When we're committed to being on mission with God, we are going to be in relationship with other believers. That means that misunderstandings, conflicts, and disappointments can easily arise. When they do, we have to surrender to allowing God to develop and sanctify us as well as the other person (or people) involved. None of us are asked to fully "arrive" before God uses us. That means there are a lot of imperfect people on the field, in our pulpits, on prayer teams and support teams and kitchen committees. And God is up to something in every single life. When we walk in humility and love, we will have many opportunities to surrender to His work. That might mean forgiving an oversight that the offender never realizes enough to ask forgiveness about. It might mean choosing to forge a different path and lead by example rather than lash out when someone acts immaturely. Sometimes it might require a forthright conversation that is challenging to those who dislike confrontation. Other times it might require biting our tongue - an even more challenging proposition for some of us. Through it all, we have to remember that we're all growing together - our growth and that of others is at stake.

That's doesn't make surrender any easier. I fear my first reaction to a Jeremiah 27-type experience will always be to fight back. Sometimes that's necessary - spiritual warfare is a very real part of being on mission with God. That's why walking in the Spirit, staying in God's Word, and having a strong network of prayer partners who can give us wisdom and help us discern the spirits is so important. I want to always be willing to fight the battles God asks me to fight ... and to drop my weapons and surrender when He makes it clear that the struggle is His instrument for growth in my life.

The lyrics of this song by Lincoln Brewster express well the process and pain of surrender. I hope they bless you as much as they bless me. The bottom line of what God has been showing me today is that He made me the way I am, and He uses my very willingness to fight for His purposes. What I have to learn is that sometimes the battle He calls me to is surrender.

I'm giving you my heart, and all that is within
I lay it all down for the sake of you my King
I'm giving you my dreams, I'm laying down my rights
I'm giving up my pride for the promise of new life

And I surrender all to you, all to you
And I surrender all to you, all to you

I'm singing You this song, I'm waiting at the cross
And all the world holds dear, I count it all as loss
For the sake of knowing You for the glory of Your name
To know the lasting joy, even sharing in Your pain
© 2005 Integrity Music

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