Acting in Response to His Will

Abraham understood surrender. He knew what it was to lay down everything he ‘owned’ before the Throne. He gave his all to God because he knew that there was far more to gain than lose when he placed everything in God’s hands. Even in his old age his memory didn’t let him down, Abraham remembered God’s promise to him. He remembered that God would never break His promise, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers… I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:1-2, 7 NIV). Because Abraham passed the test with flying colours, trusting that God’s promises were as sure as He was, he was rewarded with an everlasting covenant.

Abraham had nothing to fear, because He is faithful. Thank God He’s just as faithful today as He was all those years ago. We can see from Genesis 17 that Abraham responded immediately. As soon as God said “go” Abraham moved into action. He didn’t waste any time in response to God’s word. The test that God fired at him from the classroom we call life was “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Genesis 22:2 NIV).

Abraham acted in response to God’s Will. “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about” (Genesis 22:3 NIV). Abraham didn’t delay, he can’t be accused of wasting His time. This raises the question: does God own all of you? Either He does, or He doesn’t. It’s one, or the other. God doesn’t do half-measures. He isn’t happy with His so-called servants being half-hearted when it comes to service. It looks like you’d better own up to it if you’ve been holding back and holding onto your ‘right’ to do things your way.

If God asked the same of us, to sacrifice what was most precious in our sight, would we be able to carry it out? Would we be able to see it through from start to finish? How many of us can honestly say we’d be willing to carry out that command? God asks all of us to surrender, but not all of us respond. Make sure your response is in line with His Will.

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There is Strength in Surrender

Surrender. It’s not seen as being desirable in this day and age, is it? When we look through the eyes of the world we see it as being a bad thing, something to run away from instead of strive for. If the world was to translate surrender it would be ‘weakness’, but through the eyes of faith we know that the true meaning of surrender is ‘strength‘. It takes strength to deny yourself. Surrender is, in essence, giving up a right, a privilege, a possession. But at the same time it’s more than that. Surrender is about denying your rights while at the same time choosing not to deny His Will for your life. We can’t afford to forget that surrender is an essential part of our walk with God. We have to come to the place of understanding, realising that when we choose to surrender to God we don’t stand to lose, we stand to gain.

Surrender doesn’t come naturally to any one of us. Surrender is a struggle, it’s a choice each of us has to make every day. It’s not something you do once and that’s it over and done with. Don’t fall for the lie that the day you give your life over to Christ you’ve surrendered your all. He asks that you deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him daily. Every day that God gifts us with we should make a conscious decision to surrender ourselves, fully. It may not be the choice you want to make but it comes with being a Christian.

Mark 8:34 (Amplified) records Jesus making the call for surrender “If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself [forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his own interests] and take up his cross, and joining Me as a disciple and siding with My party] follow with Me [continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me].” Did you catch that? We’re to lay down our ‘rights’ before the cross, allowing us to have our hands free to pick up our cross. This is what I believe: as Christians we don’t have any rights. When we give God complete control we’re not free to do what we want but what He wills. Every ounce of our being is to be used for Him, instead of spent on ourselves.

Unfortunately man-made theologies have crept into the Church undetected. One of them that has been with us for so long its been accepted is that when someone ‘prays the prayer’ they’ve surrendered their life to God. I don’t agree with this. Just because someone rhymed off a few words a few years ago doesn’t mean that they’re sold out for God. Time can change things. Some people become so weathered by the storms of life that they become resistant to God and refuse to surrender themselves afresh.

We should never forget that salvation is only the starting place. Meeting Jesus for the first time is only the first step in the relationship. There are many more steps that follow on from that. Just because someone made the decision to become a Christian doesn’t automatically make them a disciple of Jesus. The word disciple means ‘follower’ or ‘learner’, someone who is committed to the Cause. Discipleship speaks of a life lived out of surrender. It takes time, it takes energy, and it takes guts. Discipleship isn’t for the faint-hearted. So many Christians choose to hold their ‘right’ to live life their way, according to their rules. Here’s the truth: disciples of Jesus surrendered their rights when they surrendered themselves.

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The Ugly Truth

We hold ‘The Greats’ in such high esteem. But who were they, really? Who are they behind the perfect images that we’re man-made? Forget about their shining halos, white robes and ridicously wide smiles for just one minute. Who was Mary? And Samuel? What about Abraham from the Old Testament? And Martha from the New? Who was Jacob, Joseph, and Ruth? Try and look behind the perfect images we’ve painted.

This is what they were, undisguised… Mary was a teenage mother, a shame to her family name. Samuel was little more than a child. Abraham was over the hill. Jacob was a thief, and a liar. Joseph was hated by his own flesh and blood. Ruth was a foreigner from a strange land, while Martha was overpowering. And the rest weren’t much better. Moses got tongue-tied as soon as he started talking. Noah was a drunk, and Leah was unloved. King Solomon lacked common sense, and Zacchaeus was a scrooge. Paul, one of our personal favourites, had a fiery temper. One look at these men and women and we can see that they weren’t perfect. But one look in the Mirror and we can see that we’re no better.

Hebrews 11 is our Christian heritage, but we forget that when we take a closer look at the men and women who feature in this passage we can see that they weren’t the best examples that ever lived. This is because ‘heroes’ are human. The truth is that ‘The Greats’ are ugly when they’re undisguised. This is what I love about our God. He didn’t choose us because of who we are, but because of who He is, Forgiving.

If we had to audition, be interviewed, or enter a competition to win God’s approval and a place in His family I’d never have made it through the first round! I have no obvious talents, I’m not a performer. I can’t sing, dance, act or play a musical instrument. I’m not a high-flyer when it comes to exams. And if I was relying on my interview skills I’d fail almost as soon as I was in through the door. Thank God we don’t have to have our faith down to an art. But what we do need is admit that we can’t life by faith for ourselves. We desperately need God to help us. We can’t do, or be, without Him.

You may feel that you’ve nothing to offer God? When you’re told to wait to serve God until you’ve got a few years behind you don’t accept it without questioning it. Is this what God wants? Does God want you to act now, or then? Sometimes age can bring with it arrogance. Sometimes people confuse age with experience.

Listen to what God has to say, look to the Bible. God loves to use the youth, just listen to this… David was a youth when he battled with Goliath and won the victory. Samuel was a kid-prophet who showed more wisdom that his elders. Mary was still a child herself when she brought the Messiah into the world. Josiah was crowned king when he hadn’t even made it into double figures. Esther was made queen when she was still in her teens. And the disciples were young men at the time Jesus called them to follow Him. These boys and girls, young men and women, should be examples to all of us. Set an example yourself.

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Great Expectations

Jesus has great expectations. He expects great things of us. He goes as far as saying that we can accomplish ‘greater things’ than He ever did. This may seem unbelievable but we must remember that God brings ‘impossibilities’ to pass, every day. With God’s help we can do ‘greater things’. We should believe Jesus when He promised “the person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it” (
John 14:12 MSG).

Life isn’t a competition. Jesus wasn’t encouraging us to try to outdo others or accomplish ‘bigger and better’ miracles than Himself. Firstly, we can’t accomplish anything without His unlimited power and authority. When He assured us that we can do ‘greater works’ He was saying we can do more in number because His Church is growing in scale. In the 33 years that Jesus walked this earth He accomplished far more than anyone else in human history, but His work was confined to His steps. Jesus never left Judea. Now that His Church stretches across the world He can go further than Jerusalem and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.

As the body of Christ we can do ‘greater things’ on a global scale. We can travel the world sharing the Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus has the power to save. God’s power, in Person, is active in the body of Christ. God in human form was limited to being in one place at one time, but now Jesus lives inside us. Because of this Jesus goes with us wherever we go, the gift of the Holy Spirit empowers us to do ‘greater things’. The Holy Spirit is our driving-force, the fuel we run on.

No-one can come close to the miracles Jesus did, He was miles ahead in that respect. He fed thousands of people from little more than a packed-lunch. He brought the dead back to life, made the sick whole, and in one word commanded Mother Nature. But His work didn’t end the day He ascended, it continues to this day. Greater works include His followers feeding multitudes, caring for the sick, introducing the dying to Eternal Life, and being good stewards of God’s world.

Heroes and heroines of the faith aren’t always those who cast out demons, raise the dead, control the elements, or bring healing, they can be the forgotten heroes who help those in desperate need. We too are called to this Greater Work. We’re called to be tools in His hand, vessels for His Glory, instruments in His work. Great expectations of greater things, that’s what Jesus has for you.

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Fighting for Control

Abraham obeyed God’s every command. He didn’t make up some lame excuse, he did exactly what he was told to do. Time after time when God has clearly told me what He wants me to do I’ve tried my best to back out of it. And I’m sure you’ve done the same.

We should take the example of Abraham. He didn’t put up a fight, he went willingly. He was willing to pay any price, even if that meant paying the ultimate price in offering up his son. Abraham didn’t think of himself, all he thought of was pleasing God. And this is what we’re to do as well. No matter what God asks of us we should say ‘yes’, knowing that’s the only answer that will be found acceptable in His sight.

When Abraham reached the destination that God had mapped out for him he built an altar. This serves as a reminder, surrender is something we have to carry through for ourselves, no-one else can do it for us. God stood back to see if Abraham was serious about following through on his promise, and he was.

We know how the story takes shape, Abraham was prepared to take the life of his son. But at the last minute, just before Abraham was about to draw blood, God intervened. Abraham “bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”” (Genesis 22:9-11 NIV). It had been a test all along, there was no question Abraham got a Grade A for effort.

Sometimes I find myself fighting for control. I try to do things my way, sometimes I do it knowing full well I‘m in the wrong. I have to remember that the Bible makes the cost of discipleship clear. All He asks of us is everything.

Having said that, sacrifice is about a free-will offering. God will never force anyone to surrender themselves. He doesn’t demand anything of us, free will wins. Unfortunately it can go either way because it’s up to us if we obey. It’s time we gave up ‘self-control’ and gave ourselves over to God and His commands.

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