Surrender First

In 1940, Winston Churchill addressed the British House of Commons on the defense of Dunkirk and the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. Toward the end of this dramatic speech he stated that England would defend itself no matter the cost, fighting on the beaches, on landing grounds, in fields, streets and on the hills. “We shall never surrender,” he promised. 

Surrender is usually the last thing on the mind of any commander. Rather, the troops are told to keep fighting, no matter what. Even if captured, a soldier maintains his loyalty and determination not to give up to the enemy. Most of us are the same. We’re taught from an early age that giving up is not a desirable trait. We should keep going, no matter the odds or difficulties we face. Anything less is seen as weakness. 

When Jesus walked the earth, he did and said many things that seemed to oppose the traditional ways of doing and thinking. Some have even said he turned the world upside down. He said to be great, one must first become a servant; the first shall be last and the last shall be first; to live we must die. He turned surrender upside down too. As Christians, surrender is not a last resort, but a beginning strategy. Surrendering our lives to God begins with admitting our weakness and believing we can do nothing without him. We are then able, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to begin giving up everything that makes up the self – self-will, self-determination, vanity, pride and arrogance. 

Instead of fighting to the bitter end, like soldiers who only consider surrender when they’re outnumbered, surrounded or out of ammunition, let’s employ the strategy of Jesus. His battle plan for his followers calls for absolute surrender of the self, to the Father, in the power of the Spirit, and always as a first resort.

In Need of Rescue

I’ve never needed to be rescued from a burning building or been in danger of drowning, but I did experience a rescue of sorts when I broke my arm several years ago. I started walking to an urgent care center about half a mile away, in pain, in my socks and pushing my bike. A nice woman driving an SUV stopped and asked if I needed help. I gratefully accepted a ride. She put my bike in the back, took me to the doctor and even dropped off the bike at my home. I could have made it on my own, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness and the relief I felt at getting some help. 

We know God is our rescuer. David called him Deliverer many times. The name of Jesus means savior or the one who saves or rescues (Matthew 1:21). He has saved us from the misery of sin and death, to be welcomed into his eternal kingdom, which is the most amazing rescue ever. But he also helps us in small ways, letting his mercies rain down on us even in the minutiae of life. Everything about us is important to God because he loves us and he knows everything we experience is an opportunity for trust, love or praise – or all three. 

A greeting card sentiment I’ve used in my handmade cards says: “God is not too great to be concerned with our smallest wishes.” I like this reminder that my life matters to him and he is always ready, willing and able to rescue me in matters large and small. And just as I had to walk for a little way in pain, we all sometimes have to endure a bit of pain before he comes to our aid. That just makes the rescue all the sweeter and the gratitude more heartfelt. What a Savior!

The Miracle of Seeds

After living in big city-adjacent suburbs for most of my life, I’ve been enjoying rural life for the past two and a half years. Driving by fields of wheat, grasses and veggies somehow creates endorphins and makes me feel good. We’re also surrounded by grazing sheep, horses, cows and even pigs. I never cease to be amazed at how a field of dirt can be planted with seeds and in just a short time, it’s full of seedlings which grow into plants, which produce food to be harvested and distributed. God’s mind is incredible and I love how he set up all of that.

Jesus talked about seeds in Matthew and Mark, comparing the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. When talking about his death, he said if a seed doesn’t die, it won’t produce anything (John 12). He also puts seeds in us. When I was about ten, I remember a tiny seed of awareness of God sprouting in my consciousness. It took some time before it grew and began developing into a greater understanding of him and his love. 

As we interact with family and friends, meet new people and move around in society, let’s remember that God has already planted seeds in everyone. God doesn’t “sit on his hands.” His Spirit is working, actively planting, cultivating and giving growth where and when he sees fit. Everyone is in different stages, and that’s not our concern, but we shouldn’t forget the seeds are there. Let’s carry around a watering can of love, a bag of the fertilizer of encouragement and a basket of the sunshine of kindness so we can participate in God’s work of propagating his kingdom.

Eyes on Jesus

The word focus, like a lot of words in the English language, has several applications. We focus our eyes, a laser beam, a light, a camera lens. Our minds can be focused too but it often takes a lot more effort to zone in on something and stay there, especially (here comes the broken record) with the many distractions we face. From newspapers/news sites to Twitter, articles and messages keep getting shorter to accommodate our shrinking attention spans. Text messages are often only emojis – reading even a few words takes too long.

Allowing ourselves to be easily distracted can have negative consequences in many areas of our lives, including the spiritual. Most of the disciplines take time and simply cannot produce any fruit or add to our growth if we approach them as we would a Twitter post. Learning obedience wasn’t instant for Jesus, so why would we expect it to be so for us? Eugene Peterson has described discipleship as a long obedience in the same direction, asserting there is no instant discipleship.

Selwyn Hughes, in his book Everyday Light said, “Life works better when we know how to glance at things but gaze at God. Seeing Him clearly will enable us to see all other things clearly.” Focusing on Jesus and learning to block out all distractions will help us become more single-minded in our devotion, loyalty and faithfulness to the one who is totally devoted, loyal and faithful to us.