Friday, September 20, 2013

Surrendering All

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Philippians 4:13

God asked me to do something very difficult recently,
and it took everything I had within me to do it.
For days beforehand, I woke up in utter panic...multiple times.
I fretted.
Nearly made myself sick.
Every time I thought of it, I would cry out to God for His help.
I feel so inadequate.

Does anyone else ever feel this way?

I am undone.

Jesus told His disciples that without Him they could do nothing.

Let me tell you, I feel that sense of utter nothingness....
complete, total dependency upon Almighty God and what He can do.

One night, when the panic was exceptionally intense,
I got out of bed, and as I walked across the floor, I told God,
"I can't.
Lord, I just canNOT do this."

A voice inside whispered that I just needed to call the person involved
and let them know that I was truly sorry, but I couldn't fulfill my commitment.
I thought of how much relief I would feel if I just did that.
If I just knew I didn't have to do this difficult task,
I could relax and stop worrying, and the anxiety would cease.

As soon as that voice stopped speaking,
I heard another one....
one that is familiar...
and so soothing that it calms my most frazzled nerve....
one that rings true and faithful and reassures me like no other.

"No, My child, you cannot do this.
But, I can.
I can do this through you.
You must trust in My strength.
Do not lean to your own understanding.
Trust Me with all your heart.
Let Me do the work.
If you make that phone call and tell them no,
you will not be doing what I am asking you to do."

We all know what condemnation feels like, don't we?
That black, hovering cloud that hangs right over our head,
following us around, 
after we have said "no" to God?
Is there anything this life?
Than to feel God's disapproval?
To feel that distance that comes between us?
To experience the void of His smile?

I have learned that no matter what God is asking me to do,
regardless how hard it is or how severe the personal sacrifice,
it is still easier than to have to face the condemnation that follows disobedience.

It just isn't worth it to me anymore.
I'd rather do what He says.
I'd rather feel His approval.
It is beyond precious to me, and whatever I have to do to keep it is reasonable and low cost.

God and me...we are a team.
We have been since the moment I fully surrendered to His yoke.
I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was a Christian before that day....long before.
I had made a certain level of commitment to Him,
and to the best of my ability, I had honored that commitment.
I had gone to a certain point of consecration,
but there were parts of me that still said "no" to God.
There were within my heart....deeply-embedded places that had an "off limits" sign.
Places I called my own....
that when God reached them and wanted to come in,
He was turned away...time after time.

God is a patient, long-suffering, merciful, tender-hearted God.
He bears long with us, as His children.
He sees our potential, and His great heart yearns to see us fulfill it.
But, He is a Gentleman.
He will never force His way into a place we do not want Him to be.

He waited for my obedience longer than I care to share.
I am ashamed.
But, it is what it is.

That day, I knew there was more....
more that He required....
more of me.

He wanted full access.
To every nook, cranny, crevice, and locked door....
inside my heart.

I struggled.
I won't pretend it was an easy crossing.

I had a hunch that if I ever opened myself completely up to Him,
He was going to ask me to do some very difficult things.

Self within me cringed.
Drew back.
Became increasingly stubborn.

It was like a painful tug-of-war....where I was the rope.
Both sides were opposite directions...
and I was being torn apart.

I had reached a point in my Christian journey that I had never reached before,
and it had to be dealt with.
The fullness of time had come, and I could put it off no longer.
Whatever decision I made that night would affect my Christian walk from that day forward.
I would either plunge in, full-speed ahead, completely and entirely, and give God my whole heart,
or I would determinedly dig in my heels, tell God "no", and go no further.
I knew if I chose the second option, I would begin to regress.
To be honest, the thought terrified me.
Brought a shudder to my spirit.
It's a weighty load to be where I was that night.

In our individual walks with the Lord, we are either going forward or backward.
We are either walking in the direction of Jesus or away from Him....
coming to the Light, or turning away from the Light.

His light had shone, and it required a response....from me.

I stood there....torn in half....what should I do?

I knew the answer to what I should do.
But, could I?
Could I go forward to pray and really mean what God was asking me to say?
This was solemn business.
Vows to God are serious...not to be taken lightly.
I knew that.
The impact of that nearly smothered me.
I don't know how long I stood there...
but something compelled me to make my way to the altar that was situated 
right below the pulpit up front.

I don't remember the walk there.
I only remember what happened once I got there.

I surrendered all.

Gave it up.
Told Him I was His....forever...eternally....completely.
I meant it from the bottom of my heart.
Nothing in me was off-limits to God.
I was broken.
Willing to be obedient.

No more saying "no".
No more half-hearted, nominal Christian living.
No more mediocrity.
I was sick of lukewarmness.
I wanted heat.
Holy Ghost, all-consuming fire...that would destroy self
and infuse my soul with the power I knew I needed to launch out to the depths He was calling me to.

I have never, ever, ever regretted what I did that night.
I would do it all again....thousands of times over.

Since that night, God has asked some very hard things of me.
He has allowed me to be placed in some pretty awkward positions.
I have squirmed, I'll admit.
I have fought many face-to-face rounds with satan.
Each time you reach a new spiritual level, 
you automatically face a new devil.
He has done his utmost to convince me to turn back...
to return to a time in my life when things were so much easier....spiritually-speaking.
He didn't fight me so hard back when I wasn't in this with all my heart.
In fact, there were days he pretty much left me alone...nearly.

The moment he saw me turn that corner, he's been trailing me close-at-hand ever since.

He is relentless...tireless....determined.

I am more determined than he is.
I am not alone.
I have an Advocate.
He sits at the right hand of His Father....
continually interceding on my behalf.

He is greater than satan.
He has more power.
Therefore, I press forward.
All because I am yoked to Him.

When we take Jesus' yoke upon us, we do not know exactly what He will ask us to do.
When we take His yoke, we do not know what the future holds.
Taking on His yoke is saying "yes" to His will.
It is telling Him, 
"Lord, I will follow You.
We are attached...from this day forward....I am willing to be led...
completely and You.
You choose the direction.
I will not fight You.
I will submit to what You ask me to matter how hard it is.
Here, Lord.
I relinquish self....ambitions....goals.....plans.....aspirations....dreams.
I will no longer run aimlessly....unattached from You.
You are in control."

If two oxen are yoked together, they are of like mind.
They go in the same direction.
They cannot pull apart.
That's why they are called "a team".
The yoke is what makes it so.

The real struggle comes when we try to pull away and go our own direction.
Just like I was considering doing the other night.

I wrestled with God for a long time.
I knew what I had to do.
I remembered my commitment.
Deep inside, I knew I couldn't come close to dialing that phone and chickening out.
Because God was asking me to do something.

I began to consider it an honor....that He asked.
And I turned my eyes upon Jesus.
I looked His direction, and I thought of the cross.

Oh, the cross!
How did He do it?
How did He have the walk that lonely, blood-drenched, anguished path?

Then it came to me.
He was able to go all the way to Calvary, because He died out to self ahead of time.
In Gethsemane alone.
When His disciples should have been praying with Him,
should have been comforting Him,
should have been wiping the sweat-turned-blood drops that were oozing from His pores.

While He anguished, they slept.

So, Jesus prayed on.
Three times.
Begging for deliverance.
Pleading for an alternate solution.
Hoping for escape.

None came.

So, He said those eternity-changing words,
"Not My will, but Thine be done."

Once He said it, He had what He needed.
He transferred total responsibility to His Father,
and He turned to face the angry, cruel, devil-filled mob.

As I sat there fighting self, wishing I could get out of what God was asking of me,
I said the words.
I meant them from the heart.
I held nothing back.

"God, if you want me to do this, I will.
Not my will, Lord, but Thine be done.
You know I will not tell you no."

Victory came.
I am not going to tell you it was any sense of the word.
But, through God's grace alone, I did what He asked.
I was faithful.

After it was all over, the enemy was there...isn't he always?
Accusing, placing doubts, critiquing, and criticizing.

Deep in the recesses of my soul, I heard His familiar voice,
"Child, I am pleased with you.
I am pleased with what you did.
Don't second-guess your performance.
Leave it alone.
Let it go.
As long as I am pleased, that is all that matters."

I made a promise to God that night at the altar.
By His grace, I intend to keep it.
It will not be easy.
It never has been.
But, knowing He is with me,
knowing I am yoked to Jesus Christ,
what better comfort could I ever ask for?
He is my Teammate.

So, how goes it with you?
What is going on in your life?
What is Jesus asking you to do?
Any challenges in your path?
Has He called you into a place of ministry?
Does it seem impossible to you?
Is the flesh inside of you drawing back...wishing for an easier path?
Maybe He is asking you to take the humble route...
to make an apology...
to go the extra mile for someone who has wounded you....
to return good for evil....
to take the path He took.
Perhaps He is requiring you to forgive...even though the one who wronged you has not apologized.
Or maybe you are dealing with a difficult or abusive spouse....
doing your utmost to be that virtuous wife in the midst of humanly impossible circumstances.
Does the road in front of you look steep and all uphill?

Taking Jesus yoke upon you makes otherwise impossible tasks bearable...and doable.

"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: 
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30
Find a place alone with God.
In a church,
at an altar,
on a quiet bench,

beside your bed,
in your car....
you name the place....and time.

He will meet you there.

Yoke yourself entirely to Jesus Christ.
Give Him full and complete control.
Allow Him every part of you.
Don't hold back.
The more you relinquish self, the more space He has to fill.

No matter how difficult the path in front of you,
it will be made so much easier if you stop fighting His will.
If you just lean into what He is requiring of you.
If you just allow Him to do all of the leading, and you faithfully follow.

"But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them,
With men this is impossible; 
 but with God all things are possible."

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