“And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”- Luke 22:41-42 (emphasis mine)
A bride dressed in white on her wedding night. A baby asleep in its mother’s arms. A white flag on the battle field. A criminal surrounded by authorities with his weapon down and his arms up. Jesus, hanging bloody on a cross. What do all these things have in common? Surrender. The definition of surrender? To abandon oneself entirely to. The antonym? To resist.
“Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, ‘Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness. Then they seized him and led him away…”- Luke 22:52-54a
This God. This same God that breathed and with a single breath created the entire world. This God, the Maker of heaven and earth, seized and taken away at his own will. Surrendered. I know it is not a coincidence that minutes before, the Lord had been praying to the Father, hands not clinched but fully open. Again, minutes later, after uttering the words, “not my will but Yours”, He was taken away in order to open His arms wide and die an excruciating death on the cross. You have to wonder where the love in it all is. The second that Jesus vocalized God’s will above His own wants was the very moment that things began to get very, very heart-wrenching and pain-staking for Christ.
“You cannot fulfill God’s purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans.”- Rick Warren
When I first began college, my major was broadcasting journalism. I pictured myself as a sports broadcaster, eventually on ESPN, making decent money and being looked at while doing it. I proudly told the guys around me what my career choice had been, believing it to be a really attractive occupation choice. Now, there is nothing at all wrong with broadcasting, and I am certain many people do it for the right reasons. But Morgan? For me, this job was about exactly that: me. I was already a Christian at this point, and despite knowing that my gifts lay elsewhere, and feeling a heart tug in other directions, I continued to stifle the Lord’s voice in order to follow my own wants. Resistance.
I remember the moment I changed my major to Social Work. It was a career in which no cameras would be on me, I would be in the background, and truthfully, I would be disliked by my clients at many points. It felt so right in my soul. I think back on how many of God’s gifts I would have missed out on had I not listened to His call. Social Work is certainly a messy field, but the Lord continues to teach me that being an uncomfortable, dirty servant child of His is better than looking put together and attaining worldly success.
“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”- Psalm 84:10
As I have come to know the Lord more and more, I have come to know these words as truth. Friends, the more we surrender to God’s plans for our life instead of trying to pave the safest or most “successful” path, the more we will realize that His plans are best. Our most well thought-out intentions pale in comparison to God’s purposes and desires for our lives. And, I believe one of the first things this requires of us is denying self, looking away from me, and looking towards Him. David Platt says it this way,
“We desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical”. (Radical)
You see, if as a Christian, I say that Jesus is my example, then I have to remember what surrendering brought to His life. Initially, Jesus’s surrender in the garden did not change his painful circumstances. In fact, it intensified them. However, God is not looking to change our situations. He’s longing to change our hearts. And, only He has the power to do so. But first, we must cease trying to make this life about “me” and instead, making it about Him. You see, surrender is God’s ultimate reversal of all our pain. But, immediately? Immediately, surrender requires us to lay everything else down, including our comfort, petty happiness, and fleshly wants. Ultimately, Jesus’s surrender in the garden brought Him back up to heaven at the right hand of God. We have to determine what’s more important: a few easy years on earth, spent drowning the hards in whatever temporary pleasures we can most quickly reach; or eternity with the One who is making all things new?
Friends, I don’t know who this was meant for today, but if you think it was you than I would guess you are right. Open your arms wide. Fall down to your knees, stand up on your feet, raise your hands in the air, do whatever it takes to surrender whatever you are holding on so tightly to. I can assure you this: it is not safe in your own feeble hands. Your spouse, your children, your future, your career, your possessions…none of them safe unless they are given back to the One who handed them to you in the first place. My prayer for each of us today is that we would let go of the things we think are ours in order to grab onto the One whose grip on us reached all the way to hell and back in order to regain our souls. You are safe with Him, dear reader. Let’s surrender all today to the One who gave us all in His Son.
“But you will not mind the roughness, nor the steepness of the way, nor the cold, unrested morning, nor the heat of the noonday; and you will not take a turning to the left or to the right, but go straight ahead, nor tremble at the coming of the night, for the road leads home.”- Streams in the Desert, emphasis mine