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Matthew Bauer
 

Matthew's Blog

You are here:  blog  >  August 2012  >  Surrender

Surrender

surrender“If you are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?” – Luke 12:26

Sometimes it seems we try so hard to make this life work for ourselves. We wear ourselves out trying to make ends meet, trying to get everything done, trying to create a way for ourselves to fulfill this calling that we’ve received. We try and we try and we try, and when that doesn’t work, we try harder. Pretty soon, at the failing of our own striving, we start to think that Perhaps it’s something I’m doing wrong. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I just can’t keep going on like this. It’s too much.

Now I’m not going to discount that there may be some truth to those thoughts, but clearly the enemy is using the truth of our own failures to drive us toward division, bitterness, offense, and turning from the direction of God in our lives.

But here’s the thing. If you continue to read this passage in Luke, you find that the birds do not labor for their daily bread. The flowers of the field do not strive for anything. They simply do what comes naturally – they do what they were created to do – and God provides.

A couple of years ago, I was in a meeting, talking about a spirit of mediocrity that had crept in among our ministry team. We talked about shifting from mediocrity to excellence; about stepping up; about going higher; about giving ourselves fully to the call of God on our lives, and not holding back in complacency. It was a good discussion, but there I sat, feeling as if I was already giving my all. I had been pushing myself as hard as I could, and yet as worn and weary as I was feeling from all my effort, I had to admit that the fruit of my work was far less than I had expected.

God spoke to me clearly and directly that afternoon, in response to all my vain efforts to build His kingdom and to make a way for myself. He said to me, “Matthew, it’s not that you’re not trying hard enough. The problem is that you’re not surrendered enough.”

You see, for most of us (at least those of us who are trying), trying harder is not going to get us to the place where our yokes are easy and our burdens are light. Trying harder is not going to bring God’s provision or His blessing or His pleasure.

In the corporate world, we work and work and work to get to the top. We try so hard, and maybe if we try hard enough, we make management some day. And then maybe, after years and years of service, of long hours, of missing our kids’ ball games and recitals and all those precious moments with our spouses, then maybe we make it to the executive level. And boy, then we’ve made it, haven’t we? We’re in control. We’ve built a kingdom for ourselves, and now all we have to do is maintain it, trying even harder to keep all that we’ve built for ourselves, lest anyone come and try to take it from us.

Yet I feel that in this Heavenly Kingdom, I’ve been doing just the opposite. This ladder to success doesn’t go up, but down. As a matter of fact, most of us start on this ladder as executives – running the show (or at least thinking that we are) and creating our own destinies. But as we progress on this ladder, we move from executives down to yes-men, those folks who will simply do what they’re told without question. And that’s not to say that we lose our opportunities to be creative – God loves the creativity He’s given us – He made us in His image after all, and He is a creative God. But the scripture tells us that whoever wants to be the greatest among us must first become a servant.

The way I’ve been taught, this idea of being promoted down the ladder feels a lot like failure. And I can’t tell you how often that feeling has plagued me in life, to think that I’ve failed; that I don’t measure up; that I’m not good enough; that somehow the reason I’m in so much pain is because I’m not in control anymore. And oh, how quickly that turns to accusation against the people around me – They push me too hard. They expect too much of me. Don’t they see what I’m going through? I’ll show them – I’ll just leave, and then where will they be? They need me! And suddenly I feel like I’m back in control. Of course it’s not my fault – it’s my boss, my spouse, my coworkers, my children, my pastor, my neighbor – they’re the problem, not me!

It can be hard to face the cost of climbing this ladder – of losing ourselves to become like servants in God’s kingdom. It can take far more than we ever imagined, and it’s this great cost that can so easily keep us from our identity and calling and the abundant life Christ promised to those who would follow Him. It’s when these opportunities for promotion come (from mediocrity to greatness) – when our so-called tent pegs are stretched – that we can so easily deny the greater responsibility in order to avoid the greater cost.

Just a short while before launching The Journey to Freedom, I was really struggling with just this issue. I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but I had been denying greater responsibility to avoid a greater cost. I’d been so afraid of losing those parts of me that I’d been hanging on to – what I thought were the last bits of me I had left for myself. Maybe it scared me most because I’d felt that way so many times before – that I had nothing more to give – and I knew how far I’d come since those times, and how much God had given me to provide for my lack. But just how far does this rabbit hole really go? Will this really take all of me? Will I really have to give up everything?

You see, in this kingdom, it’s about total surrender: surrender of our own control; surrender of our pride; surrender of our time; surrender of our dreams and ambitions and how we think they should be fulfilled.

Of course this isn’t easy by any means. One of the hardest things for me to surrender is my time. So many times, it’s become an idol in my life, and so I have to take a careful look at how I value and protect my time. Day after day, we put in a full day’s work to come home exhausted, feeling like we’ve just been giving and giving and giving, but we’re so far behind. And dinner has to be made, and the trash has to be taken out, and… and… and…

But aren’t I entitled to have some time for myself? Aren’t I entitled to do what I want to do? Can’t I just veg out and pig out and shut out and just be selfish for a little while? Aren’t I entitled to that? After all, I’ve given so much of myself recently – and I’ve given up so much to be here. Don’t I deserve to have some time to myself?

But don’t we know that our time is not our own. Yes, Jesus did look for times when he could get by himself to pray, but did he also not say that he only did what he saw his father doing? And even when he would try to get alone, he would have compassion on the crowds that followed him, and he would serve them that much more. But are we not to do the same? When we feel so entitled to our time, what is it that we’re really holding back from God?

I’m not saying, of course, that we shouldn’t have time alone, and I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t rest or have fun or take a Sabbath, or that we need to work harder. That’s not it at all, but it’s the point of being totally surrendered to God, and if we feel entitled to our time, then we’re not totally surrendered.

Matthew 11 tells us that Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden is light. Picture that for a second. A yoke binds two living things together by the neck. When the two are not moving together, there is struggle, strain, and difficulty, which lead to weariness and a stiff neck, among other things. Now pair a stronger being with a weaker one, and the weak one gets dragged along kicking and screaming, with no choice but to go where the stronger one leads. Of course, if the weaker had gone willingly, they would have ended up in the same place, but they would have felt much better afterward.

So long as we are in God’s yoke, we will only strain ourselves if we keep trying to go our own way. We may still end up going the way of the Lord, but it will be with tremendous effort and fatigue. But if we completely surrender, and let God take us his way – if we just follow alongside our master – he promises that it will be easy. As a matter of fact, he’s going to do most, if not all, of the work.

There’s still one more thing to bring up while we’re talking about our abilities vs God’s abilities, our kingdoms vs God’s kingdom, our will vs His yoke. We can hardly talk about following God without talking about our inadequacy to do so. And I’m not talking about our inadequacy compared to God’s ability, like surrendering to his yoke. I’m talking about our feelings of being inadequate for what God has called us to do, like Moses telling God he had the wrong guy.

Now this is nothing new, of course. We can see all the way back to our creation where men and women who were called by God thought they were inadequate. Even Adam and Eve thought they were inadequate – that’s why they ate the fruit.

But when God says in Numbers 14 that he delights to give us the kingdom, he means it. He wants to give us the kingdom. It’s our inheritance, after all. But when he gives it to us by his call, it’s not in fear or with hesitance. When God gives us the kingdom, with all its responsibilities, its joys, its fears and its blessings, he knows we’re ready for it. He knows we’ve got what it takes (and what it takes is the faith to let Him do the work).

God told me some time ago that he was calling me to ‘give that which I never had’ and that he would be my source. As much as I needed to hear those words at that time, I also wanted very much not to hear them, because when you give what you never had – like the child of a single mother learning how to give the heart of a father to his children – you sure do feel inadequate. But God wants us to be confident in His call – not just to surrender.

He knows we’ve got what it takes, and he wants us to believe in his confidence and in his ability to do all things, even through us. When our confidence is in him, we can boldly go where no man has gone before. When our confidence is in him, we are able to fully surrender to his lead (his yoke). When our confidence is in him, we will press forward – no, we will leap forward – in excellence and in complete surrender, and then will we find our peace, our rest, and our provision. It’s then that our anxieties will cease, and that we, who are unable to do the least, will have the most in Christ Jesus, truly living out of the abundance of life that He promised to all who would take up their cross and follow him.

Posted: 8/2/2012 6:16:24 PM by Matthew Bauer | with 0 comments
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