Our small groups at church are using a series which depicts Jesus’ life. One of the episodes focuses on the moment Simon Peter chose to follow the Lord. There are many stories like this in the Bible. Let me remind you of just a couple; one in the Old Testament and one in the New.
There is the story of Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings. When Elisha felt compelled to follow the call of ministry and assist Elijah, he communicated personal devotion and surrender by giving up his livelihood and saying goodbye to his family (1 Kings 19:19-21).
In the same New Testament passage that tells us about Simon Peter and Andrew abandoning their nets to follow Jesus, we also see James and John. They were with their father, Zebedee, in the boat tending to the family business, when Jesus called them. They also left their nets behind without reservation. In fact, Matthew 4:22 says, “Immediately, they left their boat and their father and followed [H]im.”
Real People with Real Decisions
Real people, just like you and me, making a life altering decision. Jesus was in their midst and they were convicted. We have their testimonies as recorded in the Bible, in addition to the presence of the Holy Spirit; and yet, sadly, many today hear and heed the voice of reservation over the call of the Savior.
When we look at heroes of the faith, we often admire their ability to trust God completely; their ability to be fully submitted to His sovereignty. Then, in our mind, there is a weird twist that happens as we ponder our own decision to submit. It often sounds like, “I could never do that!”
Unfortunately, many Christians find themselves growing stale in their faith because they’ve agreed to lies just like that one. The temptation comes in the form of a perceived life of ease and desires met for the remainder of one’s lifetime. This can lead one to begin to live a lifestyle of conditional submission without even realizing it. Conditional submission or surrender is revealed by our thoughts or actions which establish, “I’ll do what God asks if….”
- If it’s easy.
- If it’s what I want.
- If it meets all my expectations.
- If (fill in the blank with your personal condition).
I hope you bristle somewhat at each of those statements. See, the thing is, “conditional” and “surrender” simply cannot co-exist in a Christ-centered life. Either you limit God, and therefore, say, “No.” in some manner, or you fully submit and surrender.
Step into His Way
The latter goes completely against Western culture that expects you to be in charge of your own life and destiny. God’s not bound to culture. In fact, Mark and I often talk about God turning us right-side up in an upside down world and tease each other about Him shaking up our snow globe when major plans change. This has become our norm. We don’t know how to live differently anymore. It makes small talk at gatherings a little more difficult, though, because we struggle to find commonality for chit chat conversations.
This dynamic was highlighted several years ago when we were invited to visit a small community group and share about Blue Fire Legacy. The men and women split into smaller groups for eating and visiting with each other. The women were talking about pop culture and current television programming. I was completely lost. It was uncomfortable to have nothing to offer or even be able to join in as an included fringe participant. When I checked in with Mark later in the evening about the men’s conversation for this portion of the evening, he said that he was similarly uncomfortable even though the subject matter discussed by the men was different than the ladies.
It’s not that we’re dull. It’s just that we tend to have a lot of God stories, and not everyone wants to hear those. Well, that, and people have a hard time understanding exactly what we do so even those basic conversations can quickly become a little awkward.
Burn the Ships & Cut the Ties
For the past decade, complete surrender for us has looked like becoming completely dependent on the Lord’s financial provision; closing a private counseling practice, transitioning a thriving accounting practice to a buyer that closed it within a year and a half of purchase, selling the house we raised our 3 children in, paying off all our debt, being homeless for just over a year, re-entering ministry by founding Blue Fire Legacy making that our full-time emphasis, establishing community in a small town in Colorado where we serve in a local church when we are “home”, and being willing to serve family, in addition to clients, while living nomadically in the ministry’s RV. It’s a lifestyle choice, not a convenience choice.
It’s being all in or all out; hot or cold, not lukewarm. It isn’t easy, nor what we would choose for enjoyment’s sake. And it definitely doesn’t fall in the boundaries of our original preconceived expectations, but it is where He’s called us. We simply have the ability in His strength to continue to say, “Yes, I’ll go wherever You lead; no ifs.”
What about you? Are there places that you recognize you’ve limited, conditionally surrendering to God? If so, are you willing to shift to a place that embodies, “I’ll surrender, no matter what, Lord” in both word and deed? He’ll walk with you each step. He’s just waiting for you to step into unconditional trust and submission to His will and waive, that is, give up your right to conditional surrender.
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