Alan Redpath once shared a story from his personal life that made you both smile and think. He was a much sought after speaker for conferences and revivals, and his custom was to always return home with a present for each of his two daughters. Knowing this, the girls would run with excitement when they heard his car pull into the driveway. After one particular conference, Alan returned home late at night rather than wait until the next morning. The girls were awakened by the closing of the front door and he could hear their footsteps running from their rooms upstairs. It seems the girls were in a race to see who could get to daddy first, and as expected, the oldest girl got to him first. She threw her arms around Alan’s legs and looked at her younger sister who was crying in disappointment and said, “I have all of daddy!” Seeing her hurt, Alan reached down and took the younger daughter up in his arms. With a broad smile on her face, she looked down at her older sister and shouted, “You may have all of daddy, but daddy has all of me!”
Just how much of you does the Lord have? Modern Christianity has added a word to its vocabulary that is non-threatening, diplomatic in its appearance, and sounds easy on the surface. It is the word commitment. We are asked to “make a commitment to the Lord,” “make a commitment to serve,” or “make a commitment to change.” However, when you study the lives of those most used of the Lord in generations that preceded ours, you will find their vocabulary knew nothing of commitment. They only knew surrender. When Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him..”, and Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ…,” does that sound like voices that were committed or totally surrendered? Perhaps too many of our lives are like the old Saxon warrior who refused to put his hand under the water while being baptized because he did not want to give it to Christ that he might keep it free to battle his enemies. George Mueller once said, “God judges what we give by what we keep.” A life that cannot surrender it all will never be trusted with positioning on the front line. How do you get beyond verbalized commitments to a life of full surrender?
A surrendered life is a life emptied of authority. In Acts 9:6, when Paul encountered the risen Savior on the road to Damascus, he says trembling, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” This man of great power and position had finally been conquered. Therein lies the great difference between commitment and surrender, and it is who is in control. When lifeguards are being trained they are taught to allow a drowning swimmer to give up before taking hold of them or else they risk being drowned themselves by a frightened swimmer still dependent on himself. Until we are able to relinquish control of our aims, dreams, and power, we will never know the freedom and fullness of the Spirit in our lives. Perhaps you have heard it said that Jesus did not have to die on the cross because He could have called ten thousand angels. The truth is He couldn’t! Hours before the cross in Gethsemane, Jesus cried, “…nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” He was already fully surrendered “…to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.” True faith does not commit in the face of confirmation, but rather it surrenders in spite of the consequence.
A surrendered life is a life that expresses no argument. From the beginning, the prophet Daniel surrendered the whole of his life to the Lord with a purpose not to defile himself. As promotions and honor would come his way, the temptations and trials grew more intense. However, Daniel 6:3 tells us of Daniel that “…an excellent spirit was in him.” The word “excellent” has a root meaning of “redundant.” No matter what the circumstances were in life, Daniel always responded the same way: unquestioning obedience. Commitments can be debated and discussed in search of alternatives, but surrender is not negotiable. If a child is crossing the road and its parent screams to stop, obedience is not open for debate. God’s Word is absolute to the surrendered servant and never conditional. When Abraham was asked to offer his son Isaac, he “…rose up early in the morning.” When Noah was asked to build an ark, “Thus did Noah.” A man has never truly surrendered who cannot fully obey.
A surrendered life is a life exercised in abandonment. In First Kings 19, as Elisha was plowing the field, he received his calling to follow the Lord. To demonstrate his full surrender, Elisha returns and kills the entire team of oxen leaving him nothing to go back to. Commitments are always open to more viable options, but surrender can only press forward because it has burned every bridge. Vance Havner once said, “This is the victory that overcomes the world when we are shipwrecked on God and stranded on omnipotence!” In the economy of God there is no such thing as partial surrender, and retreat is utterly impossible. The French Foreign Legion once held the motto: “If I falter, push me on. If I stumble, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.” That is surrender! Had Jochebed not fully surrendered her little baby, do you wonder if Israel would have died in Egyptian bondage? Had Moses not fully surrendered the rod in his hand, do you wonder which end of the snake might he have been holding? If only Samson had fully surrendered his strength, and Solomon his wisdom, and Ananias and Sapphira their offering. Until a man can surrender all that he has, all that he could have will never be his.
I remember reading the story of a crippled young girl who wanted to give her dying mother a birthday present, but she was unable to walk up the stairs to where her mother was. She suggested that her father take the gift for her, but he had a better idea. The father said, “Why don’t you carry her gift and I’ll carry you.” Far too many of us come to church and sing “I Surrender All,” but then tremble at the thought of having to part with something. However, surrender does not mean that we are not permitted to carry things. It is simply our Father’s way of asking, “Will you let me carry all of you?”
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2008 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.