If you missed part 1 you can find it here.
Give Up Control
When we left Peter he was telling Jesus that His plan was all wrong. The plan didn’t fit Peter’s idea of what God should be doing so Peter pulls Jesus aside and rebukes Him.
Jesus’ reply pointed out what Peter could not see, that he was stuck on his own desires and not what God was doing. When we are focused on our will we aren’t available to follow God’s. We all have our own plans for our lives. We know how we want things to go and what we want to accomplish. When you and I meet our crossroads and find that God’s will does not match ours we need to be willing to let go of our will and our desire for control. That is the first step of surrender.
Jesus is clear about what His expectation is. If we want to really be His we have to be ready to deny ourselves. The picture that Jesus used to portray this self denial was taking up a cross. The method of execution that would later be used on Him is now used by Him to illustrate death to self. It’s a little crazy when you think about it. Jesus looked out at His growing crowed and instead of a miracle or motivational speech He tells them that they are expected to give everything up for Him.
Why would He do that? Because He knows that people will run to miracles and gather around good sermons and inspirational leaders, but what we need is a Lord and Savior. The Bible compares our relationship with God to a shepherd and his sheep, a father and his children, and a vine and its branches to name a few. The idea is that we need Him. We need His leadership, we need His provision, and we (whether we want to admit it or not) want His love.
Now, before you start thinking that this is all very arrogant and self-centered of God consider this. Whatever you and I place first and give top priority becomes our master. Jesus said it this way:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
If you don’t want to take His word for it consider these observations.
Those who put money and things first become greedy.
Those who put work or career first become workaholics.
Put another person first and become a slave to their desires.
Put yourself first and become self-centered.
Put religion first and become a fanatic.
Make feeling good your top priority and risk becoming an addict.
Whatever you and I put first becomes our master, and the things of this world make cruel masters. Only God can take first place in our lives without destroying us. And only in the case of God does everything fall into its proper place when we put Him first. Sometimes giving up control is the best thing that you and I can do.
Every year people lose their lives in rip currents. Sometimes these are called rip tides or undertows, but it is really just a current that flows away from the shore. What kills people is that they struggle against it, fighting to get back to shore until exhaustion takes over and they drown. The only way to survive is to stop fighting it. Give up control and stop swimming toward shore. If caught in a rip current your hope is to swim parallel to the shoreline until you get out of the current, or in cases when the current is too large to escape that way just give yourself over to its control until the current slows enough for you to swim out. Giving up control can be the best thing for us, and it’s an absolute requirement when it comes to surrendering to God’s will.
The second part of surrender is to follow Christ. Once we recognize that our will differs from His, and we have given up our desire for control what is left is to actually follow God’s will. It’s easy to say that we will follow Him and go wherever He leads, but God wants us to actually do it. He wants us to acknowledge Him and then go and do what He says. In short He desires and deserves our obedience.
We can’t follow Jesus without obeying Him. He is already leading. Mankind can choose to acknowledge that or not, but whichever we choose does not change the fact that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is going to accomplish His will. The question is, will we choose to be a part of it?
Jesus said to those who stood in front of Him that day, and I believe He also says to us that if we really want to be His and be a part of what He is doing we need to deny ourselves (or give up our will and sense of control) and take up our cross and follow Him in what He is doing.
Adoniram Judson was a man who answered God’s call in spite of the cost. I’m sure that it didn’t turn out the way that he planned, but he followed the plan of His Savior anyway. Judson was a missionary in the 1800’s, one of the first to be sent out from America. In his time there he spent years with no visible results, suffered the deaths of his wife and at least one child, and was a prisoner of war.
Looking at those things his ministry might seem like a failure. However, through his hardships he managed to translate the Bible into Burmese, start mission agencies in Burma and the U.S. and see many, many of the Burmese people turn to Christ. In the end it was His faithfulness to God’s call in spite of his circumstances that won him the hearts of the people and turned them to Christ.
God’s way is always better even when it doesn’t seem that way to us. Peter and the other disciples could not understand why Jesus had to die, but God’s way was better. Changing the course of the world with a handful of fisherman, a tax collector, and a few other misfits seems impossible, but God’s way is better. Leaving the comfort of home, suffering in jail, and watching loved ones die hurts immeasurably, but God’s way is better.
Adoniram Judson got it, and Peter would get it eventually. For this moment, though, Jesus’ words to him were probably pretty hard to swallow. Jesus continued on to tell Peter and the crowed that this self-denial that He requires, this death to self and the world, this following after the will of God would end not in death and misery, but in life and freedom.
Giving everything to God results in our freedom, dying to ourselves and following Him leads to life. It seems to go against logic, but the truth is that the tighter we hold on to things the quicker we lose them. The more we try to protect our life, the more likely we are to lose it forever. But when we let go of things we become free and when we let go of our life and give it over to Him we get to live, it’s true in the here and now and it’s true in eternity.
When we give ourselves to Him He sets us free from the grip of sin and its consequences of death. We also are free to accomplish what He designed us for when we surrender ourselves to His will for our lives. From the little decisions we make each day to the big things that guide the direction of our lives when we chose His way we receive His blessing and the joy and peace that comes with complete surrender.