A genuine decision to follow and obey God is a decision of total surrender. We leave nothing off the table. We are “all in” as a reasonable response to God being “all in” for us. When God the Father offered up his Son for our redemption, he revealed how valuable we are to him. The gift of salvation was an act of total surrender by our Savior. Are you willing to return the gesture? Are you prepared to surrender your life for his purposes?
Hi my names Lisa Herrington. I’m the Care Pastor at Blue Oaks. We’re currently doing a series about core beliefs that are catalytic to spiritual growth. Today the topic is surrender. What does it mean to surrender? In its simplest form it means to give up.
Do you have difficulty with the idea of surrender or giving up? At some level we all struggle with this, so I want to make a confession. Let me give you an example.
Have you ever played the game spoons? There’s a 10 year age difference between our oldest and youngest daughter. It was always a challenge to find games that the whole family would enjoy and spoons was one of them!
You use a regular deck of cards, regular spoons, actually one fewer spoon than the number of people playing.
Cards are picked up and passed quickly until someone gets four of a kind and takes a spoon. Once the player with four of a kind takes a spoon, anyone can take a spoon. The player left without a spoon is the loser.
So, the idea was it was a game our 3-year-old had a chance to not lose. Notice I didn’t say had a chance to win, just a chance to not lose. And I really wanted to let the 3-year-old not lose, I did! But as soon as I started to see the spoons being grabbed, I just couldn’t do it, that would be like surrendering when I didn’t really have to. I’m not proud of this but I became known as the mom who literally dove over, even landed on top of, and crushed the 3-year-old, more than once, just so that I could get a spoon and not be the loser. I don’t like to surrender. I’m really sorry, Annie! That didn’t even sound sincere, did it!? I’m horrible!! Or maybe just a good example of a bad example! Thankfully there are a lot of good examples in the bible! And before I start, I better pray.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, my Rock and my Redeemer.
The bible is full of stories about people who’ve conceded and submitted, surrendered and yielded to God’s will. One person that comes to mind is, Mary the mother of Jesus.
Her story is so familiar I think its easy to lose sight of the significance. But, it’s not just a Christmas story, it’s a story of someone who willingly submitted to the will of God. Try to listen to this story as if you’re hearing it for the first time.
Alright so here’s the scene—God sends the angel Gabriel to pay a visit to Mary- “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Gabriel says, “Don’t not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom will never end.
I love this next part because Mary becomes relatable! She asks a question, which is probably what I would do. And a question seems fair in light of the message she received. How will this be, how’s this going to happen, how is it even possible, since I’m a virgin? She gets an answer- The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. That’s the answer she got!
Even though she didn’t understand everything that was happening, she trusted God anyway and submitted to His will. When I think about what it means to surrender, this story almost always comes to mind. It’s such a great example of courage and obedience. Mary surrendered to God and risked her and Joseph’s and their family’s reputations by agreeing to participate.
“I am the Lord’s servant, be it done unto me as you say.”
Maybe you can relate because you’ve had something happen recently that you didn’t think you could bear, something that was confusing or you didn’t understand. Maybe it’s a situation you’ve been living with for a long time, or even something that happened suddenly and caught you by surprise.
When these kinds of things happen, our minds try to control everything that’s happening around us, that’s just how it works. Something happens and we’re immediately thinking, processing, and asking questions. Our minds reject, and ignore, and try to change situations that we don’t want. And then there comes a time where we can’t keep fighting, either because it’s too painful, or because we finally know it’s pointless. We eventually figure out we need to try something else. This is where surrender can start to happen.
Surrender happens when we know we don’t know anything anymore. When we finally understand we can’t think our way out of something. I don’t think it would have been possible for Mary to think her way out of her encounter with Gabriel.
How many things do we miss? How many opportunities are lost trying to think our way out of things, because of our reluctance to surrender. Do you have any personal stories of surrender? Probably, maybe lots of them. If you’re a follower of Christ you have your salvation story, but after that surrendering our wills is an ongoing process.
As best you know your heart, are you fully surrendered to Jesus? Beyond the salvation part, I’m talking about living a surrendered life. A life that’s willing to be open and honest. God’s will for our lives always requires something of us. We need to yield to Him. This is surrender.
My mom passed away in 2013 and losing her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. I really struggled the first year after her death. Not only because of her death but there were so many changes at work, the job I once loved was causing a lot of emotional and mental distress. On the one-year anniversary of her death, I went to the cemetery, guitar in hand, to pay respect.
As I was thinking about her and reflecting on the year, I thought about how her funeral service had been hard to plan. There were so many restrictions and permissions that we needed from the church we used for her service. It just seemed way harder than it needed to be. It made me wonder what other people do and how they do it without a church community to help them.
What I’m going to share next might seem unbelievable, but this is what happened. As I was standing there at her gravesite, I heard an almost audible voice from God. The message was clear, “Quit your job and talk at funerals, I want YOU to help make it easier on other families” What is happening right now? This can’t be real. But again, the voice, “Quit your job and talk at funerals, I want YOU to help make it easier on other families”
What do you do with that? What would you do with that? I didn’t know what to do with it, but I knew without any doubt that it was God speaking to me. I literally threw my arms up in the air, looked up at the sky, and said very loudly. “This is your big plan for me?? Seriously!! THIS, this is your plan??! There was a groundskeeper sitting 20-feet away just staring at me. I’ve always wondered what he must’ve been thinking as he watched all that unfold. He didn’t hear God talking!! All he saw and heard was me!! And I was talking out loud, and not quietly!
I obeyed and did what God asked, I walked away from that job. A week and a half later a member from Blue Oaks died, someone I didn’t know, and through an unusual set of circumstances I was the one who ended up going over to the family’s house with Pastor Matt. When he and I were leaving I told him about this big revelation at the cemetery. How God spoke to me concerning my job and pursuing his will for my life. Matt wondered if my family was on board and if we needed my income. He wondered if I should quit my day job. It was too late for that! I’d already quit! Matt just wasn’t sure there would be fulltime work talking at funerals. And that made me think maybe I should’ve talked to him before I quit my job!
I ended up helping to plan the service for the Blue Oaks member. And someone who attended that service asked if I’d be willing to help someone they knew. All of that happened in short order, right after the whole cemetery experience. All of it was affirmation to me that I was doing what God was asking me to do. I mean, in what world would these coincidences happen? It also quickly became clear that Matt was right! I would never earn the income I needed to contribute to our household. So, while true, that money was a concern, I still believed I was submitting to God’s call, and following his direction. I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to doing this kind of work, mortuaries aren’t the most cheerful place to hang out. It can be pretty dead, there’s not a lot going on.
There’s a character in the book of judges by the name of Gideon. He was called by God to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites, who outnumbered them by more than 4 to 1. Gideon started with 32,000 men. Now math isn’t my strong suit but that would mean the other guys had at least 128,000 men. God told Gideon 32,000 men was too many. So, he dismissed anyone who lacked courage, told them they could go home. Twenty-two thousand soldiers left. That brought the number down to 10,000. But God told him that was still too many. More men were dismissed, until only 300 men were left to fight. Cover your ears if you want to read the story for yourself. Gideon and his 300 men won! What in the world?!! In what universe does this math work, 128k to 300? It works in God’s universe! Can you imagine what those 300 men were thinking?? Alright Gideon, I hope you know what you’re doing, I promised my wife I’d be home for dinner.
I literally told dozens of people about my experience in the cemetery and God’s call on my life, because I heard him so clearly. I just believed he was at work. As time progressed, I was often kicking myself wondering why I had opened my mouth! I guess I was thinking since I was so certain it was God, and was so excited and inspired about this new direction, I assumed other people would be just as excited for me and all that was happening. If it all worked out, it would be a great testimony, maybe a little unbelievable, impactful maybe. But I was telling people as it was happening, not after the fact, so that we could all see what God was doing as he was doing it. I learned later that quite a few people thought I’d lost my mind! Talk at funerals?? What an interesting career choice, Lisa. Why’d you quit your job??
Stay with me, it gets better, well I mean, how could it not go up from there, right? But a few months later Blue Oaks got an email asking whether we had a pastor or someone who could bring church service to their senior assisted living community. Joe Hartley called to ask if I was interested. Yes, totally interested. That email was quickly followed by another email from a different community, asking the same thing. Blue Oaks had never received requests like this before. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
The plan at first was to facilitate the church service. I would lead a few songs and show Matt’s teaching videos. There were some immediate challenges. The message was too long for this age group, and hearing issues of the participants made sound problematic. But there wasn’t any quick fix.
On the third week I showed up, sang a few songs, then started the video, but 5 minutes in the video froze and wouldn’t play. So I said, what happens when plan A fails? Everyone said, “Plan B” You’re right! I happened to have the whole series in my bag. So, I grabbed another disc to play. Guess what happened?? It froze! I’m frantically thinking, what do I do!? I figured I’d just apologize and say I’d be back the following week. I wasn’t prepared. But I was strongly nudged by the Holy Spirit as I was putting things away, to just deliver the message myself. Unlike the conversation between me and God at the cemetery, this one wasn’t out loud! It was just in my head! “I’m not ready. I don’t have a message.” The Holy Spirits response to that was, “Yes, you are. You’re ready. I’ve been preparing you” The whole thing was kind of amusing because the teaching series I had was about the Holy Spirit!
Needless to say, I was hesitant to deliver any message, but I also knew we were still making our first impression as a church. So, I said to the residents, when plan A and plan B fail, what do you do? And they all cheered, plan C! Right! It looks like I’m plan C. I talked about the passage in Exodus when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. How they were trapped between the mountains and the sea with no way to escape Pharaohs army. It’s how I felt in that moment. But in that moment, I leaned into the Lord to help me get across. The residents were so gracious. When I finished, they responded with applause and asked me to do that every week. Which is what I’ve done since that day forward.
There is so much more I could share about this whole process. But the point is the way that God has worked throughout my surrender to his will has been truly amazing. Its been faith building and stretching in such a profound way, and not just for me, but for others as well. Remember I told dozens of people along the way.
In hindsight it became clear the funeral gig was an accelerated training ground for planning church services and pastoring. It’s something I’d never done before. But I surrendered. I went all in. Literally risked everything to do what God was asking me to do. And this, this is where it’s brought me. Talking to you today, and every week in senior centers. In what world does this happen? In God’s world, this is what happens.
When we make a genuine decision to follow and obey God, we should leave it all on the table. Hold nothing back.
As Mary said–
“I am the Lord’s servant. Be it done unto me as you say”
Are you willing to say that to God? Sometimes I am and other times I’m not.
When God offered up his Son for our redemption, he revealed how valuable we are to him. The gift of salvation was an act of total surrender by our Savior. Are you prepared to surrender your life for his purposes? For a follower of Jesus desiring God’s will for our lives is victory not defeat.
What is there in your life you’re still holding on to; it may not even be a sin or something you’ve done but something you’re holding onto. I surrender except this one thing. We all have something. Are we willing to confess, walk away, give it up, and lay it down?
What would happen if we give ourselves to God with no strings attached? Do you ever do that? Do you attach strings and make deals? I’m pretty good at that, so if you need any tips, just ask! ………….No strings attached.
What’s holding you back from full surrender? What changes do you need to make? These are important questions that we should ask ourselves regularly. Surrender can seem like a bad thing because we don’t want anyone to control us. But believing we have control over anything is an illusion anyway. Surrendering to God is a process and it’s actually a beautiful thing. Surrender sets us free. But it’s counterintuitive. What we believe about God’s character matters, because it’s impossible to surrender to God if we don’t think he has good intentions for us. We need to believe in his goodness. And that He’s always working to accomplish good in us.
Sometimes the need for surrender catches us by surprise. It was true for me at the cemetery, sure didn’t see that coming. It was also true for Mary when Gabriel showed up. We need to get into the practice of habitual listening to God so that we can hear and recognize His voice.
If serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve……But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
What did Jesus really do when he went to the cross? He fully surrendered His entire being and life over to the care of the Father, in order to complete God’s will for His life on earth. He was listening to God. Jesus habitually listened to the Father.
It was God’s will that He go to the cross to die for us. Did he want too? He asked if there was any other way so that this cup might pass. But there was no other way. And he fully surrendered to God’s will.
I think one thing God wants from each one of us is that we take our lives one day at a time, and in each one of these days, that we accomplish to the best of our abilities, what He wants us to accomplish for that day. Do the best we can, and be the best we can, every day.
Surrendering to God isn’t giving up total control over every single little thing. Obviously, we still need to make choices about our daily lives. Surrendering to God is more about aligning what you want, with what God wants, and being willing to follow Him as He guides you in your life. All of us are already surrendering to something. To our schedules, money, people, alcohol, to name just a few things. The list is endless and different for each one of us.
One of the many things this past year has taught me is that I’m not in control at all. None of us are! More than a year ago some invisible virus showed up and wreaked havoc in our world, devastated the economy, turned healthcare on its head, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives. There’s more going on than we could possibly understand or know, and that we have no power or control over. None.
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’”
We only imagine that we have control! But letting go of that illusion isn’t easy. I’m constantly learning more about taking one day at a time and holding loosely to things that I think are important.
It reminds me of a quote by Corrie ten Boom. “I’ve learned to hold all things loosely, so God won’t have to pry them out of my hands.”
We have daily opportunities to surrender to God’s will. Often, we face situations that require our surrender, yet we struggle and try hard to maintain control, hold our position, no matter how loud our inner voice tries to get our attention. No matter how hard God tries to get our attention.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”
From the time we surrender our lives to Christ, we are called to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading, yet that often becomes one of our greatest struggles. Many of us, myself included, waste so much time fighting against God’s instruction in order to keep chasing after what we want, which only serves to complicate our lives.
So, what do we do? How does surrender work? Well, one thing we need to do is pray.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
We should also be open to and seek wise counsel.
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
Surrendering to God’s will and letting go is something we need to do for our entire lives. And what each of us surrender won’t be the same, (don’t be quitting your jobs!) It looks different for each of us. It usually involves giving something up. Total surrender doesn’t occur without some sacrifice, and its usually not easy either. When we think about giving up or surrendering, we often see it in a negative or bad way. Which makes me think of Jonah.
Jonah was a prophet commanded by God to warn the people of Nineveh of their coming destruction if they didn’t repent. But, instead of willingly following God’s command, Jonah tries to run away from God and hops onto a ship headed in the opposite direction. When a storm threatens to sink the ship, the sailors determine that someone on board must be at fault. They cast lots, and SURPRISE, the lot falls on Jonah. Jonah tells them he’s at fault for running away from God and they should throw him overboard, which they did.
Before we go further, I really want to know if there’s anyone here who’s running from God. If you are just make yourself known so that we can throw you off the ship and maybe be done with Covid before summer! Anyone? You can’t blame me for asking!
Alright, so Jonah told them it was his fault and they threw him overboard.
Then a large fish swallowed him. From the fish’s belly he cried out to God for mercy and repented for being so stubborn, and God heard him. The fish spit Jonah out and God spoke to Jonah a second time, giving him a second chance to go to Nineveh and preach to the people. No matter how long we avoid God’s instruction, it’s still there for us to follow when we stop running.
Jonah WANTED Ninevah to be destroyed, and he knew God was going to be gracious and compassionate to people he didn’t think deserved it. Is this ever you? Do you ever not do what God’s asking of you because you don’t think other people deserve it? Or maybe even because they might be blessed? God often asks us to do things we don’t want to do. We can always find a boat headed in the wrong or opposite direction.
For Jonah being thrown into the sea and drowning seemed better than doing what God was asking him to do. Little did he know, he had no control over whether he lived or died. We can’t run, we can’t hide, and we can’t escape from God. There’s a lesson here from Jonah. Instead of running from the will of God we can joyfully bow before the Lord and surrender. It’s an option! It is a choice!
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I encourage you to ask yourself, Where am I headed? Think about the answer. If you’re moving in any direction other than God’s will, there’s no time like the present to make a change!
I don’t want you to think I’m any kind of saint because of my surrender story, I blow it all the time. My girls are all grown but I have a 3-year-old granddaughter & when my daughter comes to visit, she hides all the spoons. She doesn’t want her daughter getting hurt.
Truth is we all have times we surrender and do it well, and other times we don’t. It’s called being human.
Here’s the thing, we need to share our surrender stories. Not excluding, but not specifically talking about our salvation stories. Can you imagine if we didn’t have examples to read in Scripture? Our stories are so important and we need to tell them to each other. I can’t stress that enough!!
Too often I think we sell ourselves short. We judge ourselves for not doing something we should have done sooner, or maybe didn’t do at all. Or we don’t think our story is important enough to share. We compare our story to someone else’s and deem it unworthy. I’m telling you straight up that’s just not true. Don’t rob somebody else from being blessed or strengthened by your story.
At Blue Oaks we encourage everyone to be in small group community for just such opportunities, to share about what God’s doing in our lives.
I would also love to hear your stories! Send me an email, or let’s grab coffee. Let’s swap stories.
I would love for us to be a church community full of people that like Mary, say…..
“I am the Lord’s servant, be it done unto me as you say.”
Blue Oaks Church