By Pastor Glenn Pease
There was only one general that threw fear into the mighty warriors of the Roman Army, and that man was Hannibal of Carthage. Carthage was in North Africa, and was the rival of Rome. It was the only power great enough to keep Rome from ruling the world. For over 60 years they fought a desperate struggle, and Rome was winning. Then in 218 B. C. Hannibal took command of the armies of Carthage, and for 16 years he out-fought and outwitted the Romans. One of his key weapons was a herd of 80 trained war elephants that would charge the enemy lines and soften them up for defeat.
Rome could not believe the success of Hannibal. He captured a good part of Italy, and began to plan the taking of Rome itself. All of history would have been changed had a Roman general Scipio not gotten a good idea. When Hannibal's elephants charged in the battle of Zama, which could decide the fate of the world, he had loud trumpets blown that scared the elephants and sent most of them back into Hannibal's lines disrupting them and giving the Romans a chance to attack. Hannibal lost that decisive battle, and Rome went on to conquer the world. Hannibal never did surrender, but went on trying to fight Rome the rest of his life, but he never regained enough power to make a difference. He is one of the heroes of history because he never gave up.
It is legitimate to never surrender even if you cannot win, when the battle is against evil. There are some battles that are perpetual and cannot be won. The battle with sin and forces of evil is never over in this life, therefore, it is a perpetual battle. We are not to surrender and give up, but like Paul, press on fighting a good fight to the end. Many a scientist and doctor has fought against disease, and died before they found the answer, but they did not surrender, and those who came after them built on their foundation and won the victory. Thank God for those who never surrender.
On the other hand, it is folly not to surrender when you are fighting with God. The first man, Adam, ran from God when he had sinned, and tried to escape from admitting his sin, and surrendering to God. This has become the pattern ever since, and we see it so clearly in the life of the rich young ruler. He was basically a good guy, and from his youth he had been religious, and tried his hardest to please God. Jesus said only one thing he lacked. Wouldn't that be great to lack just one thing? That would be easy to solve, and you would be in. Except, the one thing he lacked was the ability to surrender. For him the problem was his wealth. He clung to it, and depended on it. It was his idol, and he just could not surrender and yield to Christ as his Lord, and give his all to him. It doesn't make any difference if you are an up-and-outer; a down-and-outer, or middle-and-outer. The real battle of life is in deciding, can I surrender to Christ or not?
This is the kind of battle where the only winners are those who surrender. Life has two kinds of battles. The kind where, when you surrender you lose, and the kind where, when you surrender you win. The first step to sobriety in AA is to acknowledge your life is unmanageable and in our own power you cannot stop drinking. In other words, the first step to victory is surrender. You have to give up on yourself, and say I can't win, for as long as you think you can, and keep fighting in your own self-sufficient strength, you will keep on losing. But when you surrender, and yield yourself to God's power, then you begin the journey to victory.
Some men can stop drinking on their own, but no man can be saved on his own. The only way to be saved in your own strength is to never have sinned, and that is not possible, for as the Bible says, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is always too late to save yourself, because you are always a sinner, and no one has the power to not be what he is. To go on fighting trying to save yourself, and make a meaningful life in your own power is to fight as foolish a battle as those Japanese soldiers who kept fighting for an island many years after the war was over. It is doomed to failure.
The only way to win in this war is to surrender. But man is by nature stubborn, and that is why man is his own worse enemy. If you kick the man in the seat of his pants who gives you the most trouble, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week. Most men just can't let go and let God. They are proud and feel they must save themselves. They are like the man shipwrecked in the ocean. A rescue boat found him and they threw him a lifeline. But he says, "I have been swimming from my youth, and have done exercises every day. I'll swim to shore and save myself." But they shout at him,"one thing you lack, the humility to recognize that you need a Savior. You need to give up depending on your own strength, and surrender to the power of our rescue boat." But he, in his stubbornness, refuses the life line, and they must go on to find others, knowing he will never make it.
Jesus was sad when this young man did not respond. It is always sad when people refuse to be saved, but even God cannot make you chose to surrender. It is sad when men will not surrender in a war that cannot be won without surrender. Jesus felt bad when this young ruler went away refusing to surrender. Jesus had the power to force him to stop being stupid, and to trust him, but He does not use His power that way, for then it would not be surrender. God does not crush us into submission. He gives us a choice, and we can choose to fight, or we can choose to surrender, but it has to be our choice.
The rich young ruler went away sorrowful. He wanted to be saved his way, and would not choose Christ's way, and the result was that he went away sad. You can count on it, he remained sad as long as he refused to reverse this decision. History is full of examples of men and nations who refused to surrender to Christ, and they always go away sad. Many are like the preacher's son who rebelled, and later wrote home to his father saying, "I'm trying to be an atheist, and I'm having a devil of a time of it." He was trying to get help at a psychiatrist at 40 dollars a crack, but he would not surrender, and so he was going his way in sorrow. When you spit against the wind you spit in your own face. History is also full of stories of surrender, however, which have led to victory.
Sometimes surrender leads to immediate change because the folly of a person is a matter of a rebel will, and as soon as the rebellion ceases the foolish behavior ceases. That is why you have real stories like the one I read of a man in a sanitarium for alcoholism. He said to the doctor concerning another patient, "He is really in a bad way isn't he?" "Yes," said the doctor, "but in a year he will be well and you never will." The shock of that caused him to go into the night and look up at the sky. He realized he was just a hard hearted rebel, and he looked up and prayed, "Make me clean." He felt the chains drop off and he was free. He never took another drink, and his body was changed from a tavern to a temple by the simple act of surrender.
E. Stanley Jones tells of a big businessman who tried to deal with his guilt by self-punishment. He made himself suffer to atone for his sin in trying to be his own Savior. Many do this, and they get drunk, and they make their life miserable, because they hate themselves for the evil they have done. They try to pay for their sin by suffering and ruining their own life. When Jones told this man he could receive forgiveness for his sin, he said, "that is too cheap". "Not at all" Jones told him, "for it cost Jesus the agony of the cross. It cost God the giving of His Son to be crucified. They were perfect and innocent yet they paid the infinite cost beyond what all men could ever pay. It was the most costly price ever paid for anything. But it is free to you if you will surrender to Christ and receive His free gift of forgiveness." He did just that and won the war. No longer did he have to punish himself and suffer. He was free to enjoy life under the Lordship of Christ.
It is happening somewhere everyday. People are hearing the good news of the Savior, and they are saying to themselves, what folly to go on fighting an unwinable war. I will surrender and be at peace with God and myself. These do not go away sorrowful, but they go away rejoicing, for by surrender they gain the victory.
Jesus recognizes that people are all different. People are like a deck of cards. You cannot have all kings and queens; you have to have a variety to have a deck, and so there are tens, nines, eights, and so on, down to deuces. Jesus knows people are all different, and so He does not ask of all what He asked of this rich young ruler. The one thing He asks of all, however, is that they surrender; that they take up the cross and follow Him. Taking up the cross is dying to self and surrendering your pride and determination to do it your way. It is letting Him be Lord of your life. There is no way to win without this kind of surrender.
A psychiatrist in Porto Rico read E. Stanley Jones's book Victory Through Surrender, and realized he needed to do just that. He gave His life to Christ, and it changed him completely. He began to give many hours of free counseling to alcoholics and drug addicts. He set up 12 rehabilitation centers in San Juan which took in 500 patients a day. He put half a million of his own money into them. They trained these people for carpentry and masonry etc. Five thousand are on the waiting list because 65 % of those who get in are cured. He was a miserable rich man, but when he surrendered to Christ, and let Christ use what he had, he became the happiest rich man in Porto Rico, and one of the most useful and helpful in the world. He did not go away sad but happy because he surrendered. It is the same, be you rich or poor, black of white, educated or uneducated. It is the same for everybody. Surrender to Christ and you win life's greatest war.
HOW DO YOU SURRENDER?
1. ADMIT you are a sinner and lost without a Savior. As long as you cling to your own self-sufficiency you will be a rebel.
2. SUBMIT. Humble yourself before Christ, and yield to His Lordship. This means you cease to direct your own life, and seek His will and guidance.
3. COMMIT. You say to Christ, "Here am I Lord use me." You surrender your life as an instrument to be used for His purpose. You switch armies, for you no longer fight for your own cause, or the cause of the world, you become a soldier of the cross and fight for Christ, which is a battle to bring others to the point of surrender.
FEARS OF SURRENDER
People fear to surrender because they are not sure they can keep surrendered. They know they are sinners, and they have tried to stop bad habits, and just cannot do it. They know the facts of life, in their own weakness, and so they are afraid to surrender, because they know they will rebel again, and get drunk or sin in other deliberate ways. They just don't want to be hypocrites so they don't surrender. It almost sounds noble to be so honest about their own weakness, but the fact is, it is still folly not to surrender.
You can't surrender now for tomorrow, or next week, or next year. All you can do is surrender the present moment. All God asks is what is in your present moment to chose. There will be plenty of other moments of choice to come, but the only one that matters now is the one you have now. Unless our rebel spirit comes to that point where it will surrender to Christ in some moment, there is never a beginning of the process of salvation. It begins with surrender, but it must continue as we fight with the old nature to bring it into submission. Surrender is an act, but it is also a process that is ongoing, and calls for daily submission.