There are two tasks for every believer which influence our entire life in God: surrendering and submission. Mastering these two things leads us into a deeper relationship with God; ignoring them can have eternal consequences.
We come face to face with surrender first at conversion. Having perhaps heard John 3:16, we realize that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…,” and recognize the need to respond to that love by surrendering our lives to Him. Jesus tells us that even our initial surrender at conversion is a narrow gate:
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide
and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and
there are many who enter through it. For the gate is
small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and
there are few who find it.”
~Matthew 7:13, NASB
Like the words in Matt Crocker’s popular worship song, “I Surrender,” we long to “know God more,” and so we give Him our lives, first at salvation and then over and over again as we realize there is a cycle of surrendering followed by knowing more intimately, then desiring to surrender again.
Once we become believers, however, we can get derailed when our focus remains on fulfilling our purposes or what we feel called to do, even within our strengths and spiritual gifting. True surrender includes yielding all to the purposes of God. I may be a gifted speaker, but if God’s purpose for this particular period of time is for me to serve in children’s ministry, then I will grow best as I submit to His will and serve there. He will reveal more of Himself to me as I walk with Him than He will if I try to do things in my own strength.
Oswald Chambers, the early 20th century Scottish evangelist, wrote:
“As long as you maintain your own personal
interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely
aligned or identified with God’s interests.”
My Utmost for His Highest devotional
The mature believer must learn to respond to his renewed spirit before his soul.
The apostle Paul laments in Philippians,
“For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 2:21, NASB
Surrender is defined at Dictionary.com as “Yielding something to the possession or power of another; to give ones self up.” Submission is defined almost identically: “To give over or yield to the power or authority of another.”
We have struggled with these terms throughout church history, and still do today. I believe the reason surrender and submission are so hard to embrace is because we lack the balancing factor to both: the power of love.
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if
I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love,
it profits me nothing.
~1 Corinthians 13:3, NASB
The love of God is the motivating factor behind all true spiritual surrender. It is what enables us to shift, as someone once said, from trying to trusting, from ambition to submission. Complete trust in God’s love is what enabled Jesus to surrender Himself on the cross to purchase our freedom. (See Philippians 2:1-10).
Surrendering and submitting mean that we are trusting the one to whom we are yielding ourselves. We are believing that someone will protect our interests as we commit ourselves to theirs. It is an act of faith. This is why the controversial command to wives in Colossians is immediately followed by a second command to husbands:
Colossians 3:18 - “Wives, be submissive to your husbands,
as is fitting in the Lord. “
Colossians 3:19 – “Husbands, love your wives and don’t be
bitter towards them.”
~(Both references, HCSB)
A husband’s love enables a wife to freely yield to him in letting him lead her, and it produces an intimacy and freedom that is impossible otherwise. Yet even if a husband does not respond to his wife’s submission in love, she is still empowered through the love and protection God gives her, to submit to her husband. This particular situation is addressed in 1 Peter:
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands,
so that even if any of them are disobedient to the Word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.
~1 Peter 3:1, NASB
Maturing Christians realize that there is spiritual power in surrendering to God’s will. A wife who chooses to follow this pattern of submission and alignment with God’s purposes is activating God’s power in the Spirit realm to draw men into relationship with Christ. She is agreeing with the very heart and mission of God, which is to draw all men to Him.
Not only that, but the Bible encourages us all in James 4:7 to submit to God, so that the devil will flee from us. Satan has to flee from believers who are truly in Christ because he cannot withstand God! When we come into agreement with God, we gain the protection of Christ, who is seated far above all rule and power, and has put everything in subjection under His feet. (See Ephesians 1:18-23). When we humble ourselves, He exalts us over our enemies.
Submission is a powerful weapon in our arsenal. Peace and power come when we stop struggling and yield our souls to the Spirit of God. We see how lovingly He cares for us. We deepen our relationship with Him and – amazingly – want to surrender even more! It is a dynamic cycle of cause-and-effect that spirals us in closer and closer to His heart. In the end, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Free Link to the Subscriber Resource Library when you join His Inscriptions!
A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.