I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Surrender. Oftentimes the picture associated with it is that of an exhausted warrior: he has fallen to his knees waving the white flag–finally giving up the fight, finally accepting the battle is over, finally admitting he has lost and the enemy has won. In surrendering he is admitting failure, weakness, and defeat.
Yet not so with Biblical surrender. Biblical surrender is a gift. It is sweet. It is beautiful. For when we surrender ourselves to the Lord as a living sacrifice, we are not giving in or giving up, we are giving to. We are offering all of us to all of God. We are coming to God willingly, lovingly, and out of respect and admiration. We are bending our knees in submission to His will and His ways. We are worshiping.
In Romans 12:1, Paul encourages the Romans to present their bodies as a living sacrifice–to surrender themselves to God as worship. What is interesting, however, is he begins with the word “therefore.” The word “therefore” in Scripture indicates the preceding verses hold the grounds for the “therefore.” Therefore (ha ha), to fully understand the meaning of Romans 12:1, we must look back to the verses in the previous chapter. So take a moment and read with me the last four verses of chapter 11:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
Wow. No matter how many times I read these words, I am left speechless. Our God is all-knowing, all-wise, and all-powerful. His thoughts, His ways, His riches–He Himself–are all beyond our human understanding. We will never fully comprehend the depths of God. Never. His judgments are unsearchable. His ways inscrutable. No one knows His mind, and no one could ever give Him a gift capable of repaying Him for all He has done. God is all and knows all. For from him and through him and to him are all things.
Therefore. Yes, this picture–this vision of God’s eternal depth and greatness–is what Paul envisioned as he penned Romans 12:1: “Therefore…present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”
In other words, because God is God, because God is and was and always will be, because no one is like our God, and because no one knows the mind of God nor His inscrutable ways, we should surrender. We should surrender all the seemingly known and unknowns to the one who knows it all. We should abandon ourselves entirely to the One who knows us more than we know ourselves. We should lay our thoughts, our dreams, our hopes, our plans, our desires, our unrealized expectations, our everything–at His feet. And leave it there.
Yet as we lay it all down, we are not surrendering in defeat. We are not waving a white flag. We are not giving up our freedom and admitting we’ve lost. Rather, when we surrender, we are claiming victory. When we choose to give all of us to all of Him, we haven’t lost, we’ve won! See, in God’s kingdom, it is the seemingly foolish things which confound the wise. In God’s kingdom, just as in order to lead, we must serve, and in order to be first, we must be last, so also Biblical surrender is the opposite of worldly surrender. When we surrender to the enemy we are enslaved; when we surrender to God we are saved. Saved!
Think about it. When we choose to surrender ourselves to God, we are choosing life. We are choosing the “Not I, but Christ” life as outlined in Galatians 2:20. We are choosing to surrender us so through us He can live.
Of course, in choosing to surrender–in choosing to be crucified with Christ–we will have to give up some things: our selfishness, our human understanding, our fear of the unknown, our attempts to control the chaos. Yet by giving up the earthly, by presenting ourselves as a sacrifice of love before His throne, we actually become free. Free!
Surrendering to God brings freedom.
For when we surrender our selfishness, we can then walk out Paul’s words in Philippians 2:4 to not only look after our own interests, but also for the interest of others. When we surrender our understanding, we can then walk out Proverbs 3:5 by trusting in the Lord with all our heart, not leaning on our own understanding. When we surrender our fear, we do not need to be anxious about tomorrow or anything, for tomorrow will take care of itself and God will take care of us (Matthew 6:24-34). When we surrender control, we will walk through the fire and through the storm with confidence that the One who guides us also provides for us (Isaiah 43:2 and Joshua 1:9).
Yet I think one of the most awesome benefits of true surrender is the depth of trust and peace that then overwhelm the surrendered heart. When we surrender every moment of every day to God, fear, worry, and doubt are replaced with an inner confidence and knowing that God is in control of all of it. Yes. All of it. Nothing comes to us that has not already passed through His sovereign hands. Nothing slips through His fingers by mistake as God utters a heavenly “oops!” Nothing happens by accident, and nothing surprises Him. Nothing.
God reminds us in His Word He always has a plan. Always. Through the words of Isaiah the prophet, God declares,
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways…
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
In Jeremiah 29: 11 God declares, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ” Through the psalm of David, God reminds us He knew all our days before we were ever born (Psalm 139:16). Through Paul He reminds us God works all things for good and for His glory (Romans 8:28). Through Isaiah God declares He will keep those in perfect peace whose eyes are fixed on Him, because they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:2).
When we surrender to God, we can trust God. And when we trust God, we can walk in peace. Sure, we can make plans, but we can also walk out each day knowing God will determine our steps (Proverbs 16:9). Every moment becomes an opportunity for God to reveal Himself to us and to the world. We can truly proclaim, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24), because when we surrender, we are allowing the One who made the day to direct the day. And with God in the lead, we need not worry or fear or wonder, because “it is God who is at work…for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
In April 2015, the circumstances of my life were thrown into the air, yet with them also went my sense of security and worth and value. Why? My heart was not surrendered to God; rather, it was enslaved to the lies of the enemy. I had actually surrendered my life to lies–lies about my worth, my value, and my purpose.
Yet now ,almost a year later, although the circumstances of my life are still not set in stone, I am. Where I am and what I am doing no longer affect who I am. Who I am is a daughter of the King. I am loved, accepted, forgiven, and fully pleasing to Him. And I trust Him. I really trust Him. It is difficult even for me to put into words the depth of trust I have in Him.
How can I trust Him so deeply? Because I’ve surrendered to Him. Every day I wake up, I get on my knees and I surrender every moment to Him–every thought, every action, every item on my to-do list. I surrender it all. Then when I rise up from my knees, I rise up in peace and confidence that God will orchestrate the day just the way it is supposed to go. There is no need to worry when God is the one guiding the way. And the times I sense worry, fear, anxiety, or doubt attempting to creep back into my life, I stop, I get on my knees, and I again surrender to the One who knows me more than I know me and whose riches and wisdom are beyond my understanding.
I must say I could go on and on sharing all the divine appointments that have occurred through my surrendered life. He’s timed meetings perfectly; He’s timed texts perfectly; He’s even timed the birth of calves perfectly! Over and over again He has shown His presence is with me in every moment, even the unpleasant ones. Yes, even the unpleasant experiences can work for His good. When my son threw up in the middle of the night a couple of days ago, that wasn’t pleasant. But by being home with him instead of out and about the next day, I was able to notice our newest baby calf had gotten out of the fence. Through the unpleasant experience of a sick child, I was in turn available to notice and help out a stranded calf. Last week, was I a bit disappointed at first when the two people I had asked to pray with were unavailable? Sure, but then God met me in the most meaningful and special way–and He spoke to my heart His love. He spoke it to me alone and in the exact way I needed it. I truly believe He orchestrated every moment of that day for His good pleasure.
When we surrender all to God, we allow God to use it all. And we are free–free of fear, free of anxiety, free of shame, and free of worry.
So I encourage you today to cease striving–cease trying to make things work out the way you think they should. Cease trying to figure out the why of what has been going on. And surrender. Get on your knees and give yourself to God. Present your body as that living sacrifice. You’ll soon experience that God’s yoke is indeed easy, and His burden is indeed light (Matthew 11:25-30). His ways are far greater than any you could ever dream up. And it is His way you want, even if for a little while (or maybe a long while), His way doesn’t make sense.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).