Restful Surrender

Surrender is a word that has taken on a generally negative connotation. For many, it has become synonymous with defeat or failure. Consider some of the dictionary definitions of the word:

Cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.

Give up or hand over (a person, right, or possession), typically on compulsion or demand.

Abandon oneself entirely to (a powerful emotion or influence); give in to.

Let’s focus on that last one, “abandon oneself entirely.” The dictionary definition I found gave examples of surrendering entirely to emotions such as love, anger, jealousy. But abandoning oneself entirely takes on a whole different meaning when we’re talking about Jesus.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

What Jesus is talking about here is abandoning oneself entirely to Him. Total surrender that brings rest to the soul and is easy and light. It’s not how we think of surrender. In fact, believers often don’t think of surrender at all when they think of Jesus. They tend to think mostly of salvation, or Jesus as Savior. Surrender means Jesus as Lord of your life. And as Dr. David Feddes points out, you can’t have one without the other:

“Maybe you’ve come across the idea that you can accept Jesus as your Savior without accepting him as your Lord. The idea is that you can get forgiveness and eternal life simply by believing that Jesus died to save you, and you can get these benefits without recognizing him as your Lord and without submitting to him as the one who has ownership rights over you. In this view, you can say, ‘Yes, Jesus, I believe that you died for me, and I’m counting on you to take me to heaven; but no, I don’t want you to take over my life as my Master and Guide. I accept you as my crucified Savior but not as my ascended and reigning Lord.’

It’s not hard to see why some people might like this view. You can get what you want from Jesus without submitting your will to his. You can get your debts paid and yet not yield yourself to the one who paid for you. You can count on him to help you, even if you don’t want to let him take over as your Guide and Master. You can have him as Savior but not as Lord.

But it’s nonsense to think this way. Jesus didn’t just pay the price for your sins. He died to pay for you, to buy you as his own precious possession. ‘You are not your own; you were bought at a price.’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). So how can you claim Jesus saves you, yet he doesn’t own you? If you put your faith in Jesus, you’ve been bought and paid for.” (Dr. David Feddes from a lecture for Christian Leadership Institute).

It’s also wrong to think of this surrender as undesirable. Jesus was telling His Jewish audience that they were no longer under the yoke of the Jewish law, which was humanly impossible to follow. Surrendering to Jesus isn’t about following rules. It’s even more than following Him. In Matthew 11, Jesus didn’t say “come follow me,” as He did to His disciples elsewhere. He said, “come to me.” Rest in my guidance of your life. Trust me for everything. I will take the yoke of following hundreds of rules to get into heaven, the yoke of earthly troubles in your personal life, the yoke of oppression from a broken world.

Trouble will always exist on this side of heaven. But when you come to Jesus, you will have joy and peace regardless of your circumstances. You will have rest. If you haven’t experienced the restful surrender to Jesus yet, I pray that you do soon. C.S. Lewis called it “the hardest easy thing you’ll ever do.” The hard part is getting past the stigma of surrender. The easy part is Jesus.

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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