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The cost of surrender

Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to save their life must lose it.” (Matt. 16:25) That’s the language of surrender wrapped in paradox. Surrender is never fun – usually it’s humiliating. Think about General Lee at Appomattox or Emperor Hirohito surrendering after two atomic bombs. What did su…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to save their life must lose it.” (Matt. 16:25) That’s the language of surrender wrapped in paradox.

Surrender is never fun – usually it’s humiliating. Think about General Lee at Appomattox or Emperor Hirohito surrendering after two atomic bombs. What did surrender mean for them?
In immediate terms they had to go through the miserable process of feeling public shame. They as individuals had to recognize that not only were they losers, but also that all those they were leading were losers too.

They gave up a way of life. Customs would change, laws would change, economic systems would change. Viewed from our privileged vantage point, we can claim, “Yeah, they changed for the better.” But at the time, who knew? Surrender meant reprisals and death for some. As R.E.M. sings, it was “The end of the world as we know it.”
It’s easy to see why we resist surrendering. Who wants to give up rights? Who wants to let others make decisions for you? But we can’t escape what Jesus said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.” (Matt. 16:24)
When we pray the prayer making Jesus Lord of our lives, we would do well to consider this issue of surrender. It’s a kind of a death, but a necessary one for those who choose to follow Jesus. Too many of us sense all this pain and, having never had a good experience with surrender, fail to take into account the costs of not surrendering. Having little good experience with trust, we prefer to remain in control.
Better to approach the issue honestly and with eyes wide open. If all the baggage associated with the decision to make Jesus your Lord is real to you, then by all means wrestle with it. Don’t walk away having adopted half measures that you may later regret.
And as you do so, consider that the cost may have little to do with the baggage. Giving up control may seem like a huge risk – a cost you can’t bear – when in fact, you’ve arrived at this unsettled station in life precisely because of the tight grip you have on the control of your life. Surrendering to your maker is what you were made for. You know it, you just have to do it. He wants veto power in your life. He’s been kept outside of your decisions for too long; he wants to walk with you as a Lord would.
Choose well. Allowing him to guide you or not is a decision you need to consciously make and not just drift into.

Comments (5)

  • Ever feel like the Irishman who said “you can’t get there from here?”

    I don’t think surrender is a one off. I guess you can have a majorly significant moment that changes everything, but I think it is more incremental, little by little as the days progress.

    Not that that can be allowed to become an excuse for not being surrendered! It’s just that it IS such a big thing to hand over complete control to the Lord, I am not sure there are many who are truly capable of doing that in one go and carrying on to walk it out. One step, one small challenge at a time, and it seems more possible to wrestle this fearful independent heart of mine to its knees and let Him choose.

  • I am now developing a retrospective view of life and its seemingly endless barrage of challenges, major and minor, that have hit over the last 18 months. And they are all bringing me more in line with stepping with Jesus, molding, stripping, equipping and preparing me to really let go. Admittedly there is a malaise of anxiety that sometimes surfaces, but I can see and sense the reward of freedom, so I am one step closer.


    Remember, when we are weak he is strong; we are surrendering to a King who has already won.

  • Kelly Couch (Ramsey)

    CS LEWIS says something like this and I think it fits here and may bless a few who read it. It seems so hard for me to surrender sometimes, when my natural man is still very much alive, and then I get a glimpse of the truth, that really NOT surrendering is the impossible task!!!

    HARDER AND EASIER… we are trying to do an impossible thing. We are trying to maintain and to be what we call “ourselves” with personal happiness as our great aim in life, while trying to also be “good”… all on our own. If you are a grass field and want to produce wheat, you can’t just trim back the grass, you must be plowed up and resown!

    We take the starting point for being a Christian as our ordinary self. Then admit that “morality” has claims on this self – and the self rebels against the claims that interfere with it’s own desires. Some of the things the self wants to do turn out to be wrong and we work to give those things up. And we force ourselves to do the things we call right. HOPING all the time that after all the demands are met, the poor natural self will still have some chance at survival and to get it’s own way! Because the natural self was the starting point. Eventually we GIVE UP trying to be good, or we just become very unhappy and feel like a failure at this thing. The more you force yourself in your own strength to obey conscience the more your natural self is starved and hampered, and GETS ANGRIER AND ANGRIER!!!

    It is an impossible thing we try to do.

    CHRIST SAYS – Give me ALL! I HAVE NOT COME TO TORMENT YOUR NATURAL SELF, I HAVE COME TO KILL IT! Hand over your natural self all your desires, the ones you think innocent as well as the wicked. I will give you a new self! I will give you Myself!

    (paraphrased from CS Lewis, Mere Christianity)

  • “Remember, when we are weak he is strong; we are surrendering to a King who has already won.”

    And with a nod to Carol C, CS Lewis’ Reepicheep, and (I hope!) a God, I’ve never seen nor smelled nor touched: Further in and Further up.

    This is my only hope-this next step, than another, and another. No dramatic conversion or surrendering in my life. I long for the Gelassenheit-the state of no longer carrying it with you, surrender. God knows who he created, he knows what occured between that Genesis and this day, he knows my heart is to be all in. Sometimes it’s by Step(had to throw a little Rich Mullins in there).

    Lead Me has been my prayer this long summer singe-ing season. Forgive my unbelief. Make strong the feeble knees and hands. Reveal. Be what folks see and hear.

    Seth, this is not a plea for a “bye” on the surrendering. Just a state-of-the-state of a sincere heart and head seeking the unseen and laying it all out for him to pick up and move. And when I’ve done all I can do, I step back and wait…to watch the Lord, himself, move.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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