3_The Prayer of Surrender
THE PRAYER OF SURRENDER
The Lord’s Prayer: Path to Inner Peace
Part 3 of 8
July 6-7, 2002
It’s Easy to Lose Your Inner Peace…
… when circumstances are uncontrollable
… when people are unchangeable
… when problems are unexplainable
“May your kingdom come, may your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.” Matt. 6:10 (GN)
God’s Kingdom is wherever ________________________________________
THE PRAYER OF SURRENDER MEANS…
1. I ACCEPT ____________________________________________________________
“I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens…. I can do all things through Christ, because He gives me strength.” Phil. 4:11-13 (NCV)
THE SERENITY RAYER
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the thing I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace
Taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it;
Trusting that You will make all things right
If I surrender to Your will
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
2. I SURRENDER ____________________________________________________________
“Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Ps. 37:7a (GW)
“If a person’s thinking is controlled by his sinful self, then there is death. But if his thinking is controlled by the Spirit, then there is life and peace.” Rom. 8:6 (ICB)
“Stop quarreling with God! If you agree with Him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you.” Job 22:21 (NLT)
3. I TRUST ____________________________________________________________
“You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on You because they trust You.” Isa. 26:3 (NCV)
“God will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matt. 6:33 (NLT)
“Give yourselves to God… surrender your whole being to Him to be used for righteous purposes.” Rom. 6:13 (TEV)
THE PRAYER OF SURRENDER
The Lord’s Prayer: Path to Inner Peace
Part 3 of 8
July 6-7, 2002
Today is a very historic day in the life of Saddleback church as we open the first of three children’s buildings. The nursery building opens today. Next to that building in the plaza building many of you don’t know we are building, actually they’re opening today too, two video venues, so that when it’s too hot to set outside or it’s raining and it’s a little crowded we actually have two overflow venues that are actually seeing this service live right now on very large screens. One downstairs inside on a pretty carpeted area. The other upstairs in an open café. That third floor is the best view in Orange County. I’ve decided that next week I’m going to preach from here and this will be the overflow. It’s really cool. You can feel the breeze up there. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I hope you will visit it after the service.
Today we’re going to continue in our series as we go through The Lord’s Prayer. I’m calling this “The Path to Inner Peace”. Two weeks ago we looked at the fact that God says the key to peace is prayer. In Philippians 4 He says, “Don’t worry about anything. Instead pray about everything and the peace of God will rule your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” So God says the more you pray the more peace you have. The less you pray the less peace you’ll have. You can either worry or pray as you go through life.
Then the question becomes, what do we pray? Of course, God gave us a model. We call it the Lord’s Prayer. For eight weeks this summer we’re going through this payer phrase by phrase as the eight steps to finding personal inner peace. Actually it’s eight different prayers and we’re going to look at the third phrase today.
The truth is it’s really quite easy to lose your internal peace. One minute everything’s cool. You’re kicked back, laid back and it feels good and you’re in serenity. And the next minute you get a phone call and you’re stressed out. It’s very easy to lose your peace.
Three ways people most often get anxious or stressed…
When your circumstances are uncontrollable. You feel helpless.
When people around them are unchanageable. They won’t cooperate. Have you ever tried to change somebody who didn’t want to be changed? That’s stressing. Have you ever done a little personal improvement plan on your husband or wife or your kids and they won’t get with the action? The fastest way to get stressed out is try to change somebody. You can’t even change your own self most of the time.
When problems are unexplainable. You can’t figure out why something doesn’t work. That is stressing. That causes anxiety.
Today we’re going to look at what to pray in all three of those situations: when your circumstances are uncontrollable, when people around you won’t change (they’re unchangeable), and when problems are unexplainable. You need to pray the third prayer which I call the Prayer of Surrender.
Matthew 6:10 “May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This may be the most misunderstood phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. What does it mean “You kingdom come”? What in the world does that mean, “May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done”? What is God’s kingdom?
God’s kingdom is His plan for history. It is the rule and reign of God in the world. It’s all that He wants to do. All His purposes are accomplished in the kingdom of God.
Where is the kingdom of God? It is wherever Jesus is allowed to be king. Since Jesus is king in heaven right now the kingdom of God is in heaven. One day when Christ comes back on earth, the kingdom of God will be on earth. And Jesus says When I’m king in your heart, the kingdom of God is within you. So the kingdom of God is wherever Jesus is allowed to be king.
Actually the second phrase, “Thy will be done” explains the first phrase, “Thy kingdom come.” God’s kingdom is wherever God’s will is done. So if God’s will is being done in your life, that’s where the kingdom of God is. It’s inside you.
Today we’re going to look at how this phrase, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” how that can bring personal peace in your life. It may be a life changing message for you when you understand this truth. But before we can look at it you have to settle one thing. God is God and you’re not. I know that’s a little simple but we forget it very easily. God is God and you’re not. You cannot pray this prayer and you cannot be at peace until you accept that fact.
If you’re ever going to have peace in your heart in spite of circumstances, in spite of problems, in spite of conflict you’ve got to learn that God is God and you’re not. When you learn that then you’re ready to pray what I call the Prayer of Surrender.
What does it mean to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”? It means three things.
1. I accept God’s plan.
Instead of my own plan for my life I accept His purpose, His will for my life. Part of this – and a big part of it is something that is very difficult. That is accepting the things that you can’t change. There are a lot of things in your life, in fact most of the major things. You didn’t choose your birth or your death. You don’t choose what other people do to you. You have to accept the things that can’t be changed.
Of course, you change the things you can but what about all those things you can’t change? How do you have peace when you’re frustrated by something that’s unchangeable? Worrying doesn’t work. That certainly doesn’t give you peace. Resenting what you can’t change won’t give you peace. Feeling guilty about what you can’t change in the past or whatever won’t give you peace. Having a pity party about what you can’t change won’t give you peace. All of those things you don’t like in your life – I don’t like the parents I got, I don’t like the way I look, I don’t like the talents I’ve been given – all those things, you can’t change them.
There’s only one thing that will work when you can’t change something. That is this – acceptance. I must accept God’s will in my life. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Not everything that happens in you life is God’s will. I’m not saying that. But you say, God, I want Your will in my life when there’s things out of my control and I can’t change them.
Paul understood this. In Philippians 4 he says this “I’ve learned to be satisfied with the things that I have and with everything that happens. [How many of you can say, I’ve learned to be satisfied with everything that happens? I couldn’t raise my hand on that one. Paul is saying, I have learned to be content, to be satisfied with the things I have and everything that happens.] I know how to live when I’m poor and I know how to live when I have plenty. I’ve learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens. I can do all things through Christ because He gives me strength.”
Notice first the amazing thing about this verse, Paul wrote it when he was in prison. He’s in Rome, chained to a guard in a dungeon and he’s saying, I’ve learned how to be happy no matter what’s going on in my life. He couldn’t change his circumstance but he said I’ve learned to be content. Notice three things:
First, this accepting of God’s plan is a learned experience. You are not by nature a contented person. Neither am I. By nature we are discontented. God says contentment is something you learn. You learn to accept the things you can’t change. Second, it’s a choice. Paul says I choose to be happy in spite of my circumstances. Third, he says it’s possible only through Christ’s strength.
You need to learn this first step of the Prayer of Surrender, that I accept God’s plan even when I don’t understand it. Why? Because the truth is most of the things that happen in your life God doesn’t explain why they happen. Most of the things in your life God’s not going to give you an explanation. He’s going to remain silent when you’re going through that problem, through that trial, through that difficulty, through that circumstance that you don’t like.
Think back to when you were in grade school. In grade school the teacher would pass out the test, you would sit down and start taking the test and he or she would sit at the front in silence while you took the test. The teacher is always silent when the test is being given.
That’s true in life. That’s true with God. Anytime you’re going through a tough time and God is silent and you’re praying, “God! Why is this happening? What’s going on in my life? Help!” and God is silent, this is a test. Any time God is silent in your life this is test. God is saying, “Are you going to trust Me even when you don’t feel Me? Are you going to trust Me even when you can’t see Me, hear Me and you feel like I’m a million miles away? Will you accept My plan, My wisdom, My love, My goodness even when there’s nothing emotional. You don’t feel any goosebumps, you don’t feel anything special in your life. Will you trust Me when I am silent?”
God tests you like that all the time. He wants you to pray when you’re in those situations that’s when you need to pray the Prayer of Surrender. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. “God, I don’t know what’s going on in my life. I don’t know where You’re taking me. I don’t know where I’m going to end up. But I’m going to say this even in advance. Thy will be done.”
That is the Prayer of Surrender. It’s the first key to peace where you say I’m going to accept Your plan even when I don’t understand it.
Why does this bring peace of mind? Because the greatest barrier to your peace of mind is your demand for an explanation. Anytime you ask God, Why? you are setting yourself up to be disappointed. Because God’s not going to explain why everything happens in your life. Whenever you start saying, “Why? Why is this happening to me? Why didn’t this happen? Why did He allow this? Why?” Questions like that you’re setting yourself up to be not at peace but to be anxious, to be in turmoil. It always robs your peace.
The truth is you’re probably not going to get an explanation from God. Three reasons:
1. God doesn’t owe you an explanation. Remember, God is God and I’m not. So God doesn’t have to explain to me why He does everything. He doesn’t have to report to me, “By the way, would this be ok with you if I do this? Is it ok if I make this little change here?” He doesn’t report to you. You report to Him. God is God and you’re not. So God doesn’t owe you an explanation for why everything happens in your life. He’s good and He’s loving and He knows what’s best.
2. You probably wouldn’t understand the explanation even if He gave it to you. The reason why is God thinks through eternity. He sees everything that’s happened in the past and He sees everything that’s going to happen in the future and He knows what’s going on in your life right now. God thinks in terms of generations. We tend to think what’s happened in my life. And not even my whole life but what’s happening at this very moment. I can’t see what happened a year ago or what’s going to happen a year in the future. I’m only thinking bout my pain right now. God is taking it all in the perspective of the progress of eternity.
If God tried to explain to you why things happen to you you’re just a cog in the wheel of the huge panorama of history. So God would not be able to explain to you why this happens before this before this and how that thing that happened a hundred years ago is influencing this today and what you’re doing right now is going to influence a hundred years from today. And on and on. You probably wouldn’t understand it.
3. Explanations never comfort us. Some of you have had pain in your past and through reading or therapy or counsel or talking with friends, you’ve figured out why certain things happened in your life. Did that comfort you? No. It gave an explanation. It gave you wisdom. But it didn’t relieve the pain. Explanations rarely comfort us. That’s why when God lets you go through a situation, He doesn’t always explain it. Instead of offering an explanation, He offers Himself. His presence. Because what you need when you’re in pain is God’s presence not an explanation. And God has said I will be with you always. I’m always with you. I care about you. You will never go through anything on your own.
This is the first step to the Prayer of Surrender. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. God, I want Your plan in my life.
Many people pray the serenity prayer. Millions of people pray the serenity prayer on a daily basics. But did you know that the serenity prayer has been edited. It has been shortened. Most people only know the first three lines. The actual prayer has eight more lines and that’s where the power is.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the thing I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it; Trusting that You will make all things right If I surrender to Your will So that I may be reasonably happy in this life And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.”
The rest of the passage explains a whole lot about the first. You’re not going to have the serenity of the serenity prayer unless you pray the rest of it. Circle the words “accepting”, “trusting”, and “surrender”. Then draw a line to “the pathway to peace”. Those are the three things that bring peace. Accepting, trusting and surrender.
I want you to listen to Deidre’s story, how she learned peace through acceptance.
Deidre: From the time I was very young I have always been active in sports. During the many
years of playing sports and being on different teams I often injured my ankle but I thought nothing of it. Little did I know that each time I injured it it was taking me closer to a life of living in chronic pain. In 1988 I injured my ankle stepping off curb. As usual I waited for it to get better. But this time it did not. My future husband and I sought out doctors and after we got married we learned I had severely torn ligaments and many bone fragments floating in my foot.
That began a painful ten year journey. One simple surgery turned into eleven different surgeries. Also at the same time the surgeries triggered a very rare disease in my central nervous system. During those ten years, I was only able to get around by the use of wheel chairs, crutches, and sometimes these cute little moon boots you’ve seen Pastor Holladay wearing this past year. I call that ten year phase a journey because it was through that process that God moved me from one place to another of resentment and anger to the place of acceptance, serenity and peace and surrender. What began as a simple foot injury turned into decade long painful nightmare. In addition to the eleven surgeries, I had to have repeated shots to my spine to hopefully control the crippling effects of the disease in my nervous system was having throughout my body.
Living in chronic pain year after year was taking its toil on me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I could barely handle life in general. It was all I could do to set at home day after day after my surgeries healing with my foot in the air or soaking my foot five times a day in freezing water to help with the swelling or preparing for the next shot to my spine. I was very frustrated and confused at the situation. I became a Christian four years earlier in college and I knew enough that becoming Christian did not make me immune from problems and pain. But that wasn’t any comfort when I was hurting so badly. I would cry out to God and take pillows and pound them on the couch out of frustration and anger. It wasn’t fair. I had not been irresponsible. Don’t You see what is happening to me, God? Don’t You care? Don’t You want me to be out there doing Your work? Do you really expect me to live in chronic pain the rest of my life and live it in a wheelchair? There’s no way I could live like that. I will not accept that.
So I struggled and struggled to control every facet of my healing refusing to accept my situation. Every surgery and every shot to my spine seemed to worsen my condition and my pain level got greater too. Every time I would have high hopes that the next surgery would work, or the next shot would help my disease but my hopes would be dashed and I would be in worse pain and greater pain.
Then one day, which I remember as though it were yesterday, I was sitting in my living room utterly exhausted and sobbing. I knew I couldn’t live like this any more. I realized that my problem ran deeper than just my physical pain. My heart needed to be healed as well. I needed to come to the point of acceptance and trust. This meant that I had to be willing to accept the possibility of never being healed. I needed to let go and completely trust God no matter what happened. I needed to be willing to live with whatever happened.
So with many tears in my eyes, I looked up to God and said, “It’s ok. It’s ok that I live in chronic pain the rest of my life. It’s ok if I live in chronic pain and live in a wheelchair and spend the rest of my life that way. It’s ok if my life is different than what I’d hope or dreamed or even planned. I can accept this in my life as long as I know You are there.”
That was my prayer of surrender and it was the turning point of my life. I was going to trust God and accept His plan no matter what happened because I knew He loved me. I never dreamed when I said that prayer that my situation would ever change. In fact, I had no hope that I would really get better. I just knew that I needed to trust God in the midst of my pain.
Within the next few months I noticed my foot actually started improving. With every new surgery I started healing faster and with fewer complications. In addition, the shots to my spine started working putting my disease into remission. It wasn’t overnight but little by little I started improving. However this time I was not apprehensive about the outcome. I was finally at peace whether I got healed or not. Believe me, that peace was worth more than healing my foot a thousand times over.
Today, looking at me you’d never guess what I went through. No, I will never jog again or be active in sports. But I’m so thankful to just be able to walk. I still feel pain whenever I walk but God gives me the grace to live with it. Looking back over this experience it is not a pathway I would have chosen for myself. However, I’ve learned that God had a much better plan in mind. At first I felt that I had lost ten years of my life. But now I can see the spiritual depth that I gained in those years. I’ll always be thankful for that. Also, I gained an inner peace and joy in spite of my circumstances. I grew in perseverance, discipline and learned to trust God more. This last May I graduated from seminary with my masters of divinity but as Pastor Rick says I got a master’s in maturity from those last ten years. I now want to serve God with what I’ve learned and help others turn to Him in their time of need. If you are struggling with an unpleasant or painful circumstance and can’t figure out why it is happening I urge you to do whatever you can to change it. But accept that God has a plan no matter what happens. Learn to say, it’s ok. That’s where the peace and surrender happens.
When you face an uncontrollable circumstance you tend to do one of two things. These are the extremes and most of us do one or the other.
Some of you when you face things that are out of your control you just redouble your efforts. You try harder. You say, “I’m going to make this thing work!” And the more your life tends to spin out of control the more controlling and compulsive you become. When you feel like you’re threatened by I can’t control the situation you start and react by trying to control everybody and everything in your life. You become compulsive about it. You want to control this and you want to control that. You’re a hyper controller. And you’re certainly not at peace because you’re trying to run the whole world out of the fear of what’s uncontrollable in your life
The others of you, you do the exact opposite. You throw in the towel. You give up. You throw your hands up and say, “Forget it! I’m a victim. I’m going to roll over and play dead. I’m a victim of despair.” And you play Mary Martyr. You swallow and wallow. You swallow your anger and you wallow in self pity.
Both of those choices trying to control everything and everybody around you and giving in and saying, “I’m just a victim!” those are stupid foolish choices. What you need to do is the alternative.
What you need to do is pray the prayer of surrender. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in my life. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Why do we pray that, Thy will be done as it is in heaven? Because in heaven God’s will is done perfectly. Is God’s will done perfectly on earth? Absolutely not. In fact most of the things that happen on earth are not God’s will. God’s will is not always done. That’s why we have sin. That’s why people get hurt. But when you pray, Thy will be done, you’re saying first, I accept Your plan and
2. I surrender to God’s control.
I don’t just accept His plan I accept why You want to do with me. You’re in control. We don’t like this word “surrender”. Surrender mans raising the white flag. Surrender means giving up, forfeiting the game, saying, “I’ve lost. You’ve won.” Surrender sounds too much like that other word we hate “submission”. We don’t like either of those words. But it’s the only pathway to peace. “I surrender to Your control, God.”
Every morning you get up you make a decision, whose going to run your life? You or God? Whose agenda are you going to follow today? Yours or God’s? Whose going to be calling the shots? You or God? Sometimes you and I think we know better. And sometimes you say, “I know there’s some verses in the Bible but I want to ignore those because they don’t fit my agenda. I know what God says here but I’m just going to pretend that verse just isn’t in the Bible. I’m going to ignore it and do what I want to do. I’m going to make up my own rules.” When we do this we always use the same phrase “But God wants me to be happy.”
Anytime you here somebody say that – “But God wants me to be happy” – it means that they’re probably justifying something this book says don’t do. Almost inevitably they’re going to be justifying, rationalizing in their mind what God says not to do. And you know what rationalize is... rational lies. Rationalize means I tell with my head what my heart says is wrong, what I know in my heart is wrong.
“But God wants me to be happy!” You’re not going to be happy unless you do what God wants you to do. The truth is this is the real reason you’re under stress. This is the real reason you’re in turmoil. You’re at war with God. Anytime you try to play God then you’re in opposition to the real God. The Bible is very clear about the effect of that.
The Bible says in Psalm 37:7 “Surrender yourself to the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” That’s the key to peace.
What happens if we don’t do it? Romans 8:6 “If a person’s thinking is controlled by his sinful self, there is death. But if his thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace.” How do you get life and peace? By being controlled by the Spirit, by surrendering yourself to the Lord and waiting for Him.
Obviously in a war with God, you’re going to lose. Your arms are too short to box with God. You’re going to lose if you get in a war with God. So whenever you fight God and say, “I’m going to do what I want to do instead of what You want me to do,” you’re going to have anxiety, you’re going to have stress, you’re going to have depression, you’re going to have worry, you’re going to have everything except peace. Because you’re at war with God.
If you want personal peace the book of Job, chapter 22, tells us how to get it. “Stop quarreling with God. If you agree with Him you will have peace at last and things will go well with you.” God says, “I want to bring you peace but you’ve got to accept My plan and you’ve got to surrender to My control because I am God and you’re not.”
The greatest barrier to this, what keeps you from surrendering your life totally to God is resentment. Resentment against God. You may not want to admit this but there’s some things in your life that you’re mad at God about. You still blame Him for those disappointments. You’re upset with Him because life hasn’t turned out the way you wanted it to. And that underlying resentment keeps you from totally surrendering to God. You’re mad at God. You’re blaming Him for your unhappiness.
Let’s get real practical. What is it in your life that you’re still angry at God about? Can a Christian be angry at God? Without a doubt! Some of you are angry at the way God made you look. You don’t like your appearance. “Why didn’t God make me more beautiful? Why didn’t God make me like Pastor Rick? Then my life would be great. He’s a hunk of burning love!” You don’t like the way you look and you’re still mad at God because God made you the way you look.
Some of you are still resentful at “Why didn’t God give me different parents? My dad – my mom ... they’re looney!” Some of you are disappointed in your marriage. It’s not at all what you expected it to be and you’re blaming God for it. Some of you are still resentful about a handicap or a birth defect or a business you’ve started and failed or a marriage that failed or the fact that you’re not married and you’re still single. What are you carrying resentment at God over?
What are you still angry at God about? That kind of thing is keeping you in turmoil, keep in you at war with God and keeping you from experiencing the love and peace that He wants to pour out in your life. That unfulfilled dream and you’re mad at God about it.
Don’t blame God. Just relax and say, “God! Thy will be done! Thy kingdom come. I accept Your plan. I surrender to Your control.” Because the war with God is keeping you from peace.
Sometimes you go out and in all sincerity you pray, you work, you think you’re on the right thing and you go out and do what you think God wants you to do and it flat out bombs! What do you do with that? Don’t worry. It’s all a part of God’s plan and He’s moving you to where He wants to take you.
I want you to hear Steve’s story.
Steve: I’d like to share with you my recent adventure of surrender and trusting God. Like so
many I grew up believing that the way to make it in life was to depend completely on myself. Most of my adult life I spent doing things my way. But in the last couple of years I have learned that Frank Sinatra was wrong. Even after I recommitted my life to Christ there was a lot of my life that I still tried to control and wasn’t surrendered to God. I thought if I just completed all the classes, prayed, read my Bible, and joined a small group then everything would work out my way. As important as these things are I was still missing the one critical ingredient. I had not fully surrendered all areas of my life to God. I still held on to my way.
But then I attended a Saddleback Men’s Retreat and my life was turned around. The Saturday afternoon of the retreat I took out my Bible and journal and for over four hours I reflected and prayed and wrote down my thoughts. I cried out to God, “Show me what You want for my life!” To summarize my story I began to get an idea for starting a new lay ministry. I shared it with our pastors and ended up getting involved in an existing Christian organization that focused on training Christians to become effective communicators. I launched the first training class here at Saddleback in the spring of 2000. In September of that year Kathy and I attended Pastor Rick’s leadership retreat in San Diego. We both asked God to use us. We committed our lives as a couple to serve Him in any shape, form or capacity.
Just a few short months after that commitment I was asked by a Christian organization to start giving communication workshops in places like Florida, Tucson and Phoenix. I was thrilled that God was using me. Events moved quickly and in May of 2001 the board of directors of that organization asked me to leave my career and join them as their executive director. I prayed to God asking if this was His will. I researched scripture and I sought wise counsel from my wife and several close Christian friends. I got no big warning lights so I accepted the position and gave notice to my company of seventeen years.
For the first time in my life I had completely stepped out in faith. The security and the money I was accustomed to would be gone. The benefits package, the 401K contributions, the company car, the expenses would all be gone. But I did not care. I was committed to serving God and I thought I had arrived. My dream career had come true. No one could have prepared Kathy or me what would happen after I resigned from that job to do what I thought God wanted me to do.
Immediately after we accepted the position with the Christian organization everything began to fall apart and the doors of opportunity began to close. We couldn’t figure it out. Hadn’t we stepped out in faith? Weren’t we doing more important work than the job I’d held for seventeen years? Where was God in all of this? It was a real spiritual battle with Satan throwing every doubt and fear against us. Kathy and I prayed and cried and had sleepless nights but we knew that we couldn’t turn back. Then in November of 2001 at my first board of directors meeting of that organization I was told that the finances for the ministry would be gone by year end and I would no longer be paid as their executive director.
My heart sank. I could not believe this news. I had just left a successful seventeen year career and now I faced the prospect of not being able to pay my mortgage. I had stepped out in faith and I could not understand what God was doing. I had tried to be so careful not to make a mistake. I remember so well both Kathy and I kneeling together and crying out to God not in anger but desperately not wanting to miss His plan for our lives. All we knew to do was to completely surrender our situation to God and trust Him to work it out. He had brought us this far. So we knew He had something better in mind. I felt like I was on a high dive looking down unable to see the water while God was saying, “Jump!” I was scared. I knew in order to really trust God I would have to go to a deeper level of surrender and let God fulfill His plan.
Right after that I got a phone call from a corporation in Boston asking if I’d do a communication workshop for their sales force. I flew to Boston and while in a cab from my hotel to the airport God nudged me. “Tell this cab driver about Me.” I thought, “Is that You, Lord?” It seemed like the idea was from God so I obeyed. Even though I felt weird I started talking to this cab driver about God, enjoyed the conversation, found out he was a Christian and thought no more about it. Two days later I was returning to the airport in another cab. Sure enough, God nudges me again, “Tell this man about Me.” I started laughing. I thought there must be a lot of lost cabbies here in Boston. Even though I felt unsure I obeyed the small prompting in my mind and proceeded to tell this cab driver about Christ. He was more than interested. God had been preparing him to hear what I had to say. God does that, you know. We had great conversation as I told him the difference Jesus could make in his life.
The next day I was having a quiet time and I prayed, “Lord, what do You want me to do? I left a corporate career to serve You in ministry through a Christian organization and it’s all falling apart.” As clear as I can say this, this thought came into my mind. God said, “My ministry is done in the back seat of a cab. Your obedience is My ministry.” This thought literally broke me down and I cried. It changed my entire way of thinking about ministry. It is my total surrender and obedience in trusting God that He wants. That is what really matters. Not that I work in a Christian organization instead of a corporation. God will give me the ministry opportunities every day if I will just be sensitive and trust Him.
What I thought was the ideal career, Executive Director for a Christian organization, was not what God had in mind. He had a better plan. I now see God’s plan behind all of it. It was just a temporary stop on my journey of God getting me to where He wanted me to be. I accept His plan. Since then God has opened doors to serve Him beyond my wildest imagination. Within weeks of my trip to Boston I received a call from that corporate headquarters asking me to train their sales force and management for the following year. I started receiving phone calls from people I have never met and found my self catapulted into the heart of some of the largest corporations in America. It is a lot more fun letting go and letting God have His way. I am doing what I love to do, coaching and training people to become effective communicators. And I’m doing it in the middle of the largest group of non believers possible. What an opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ. My daily goal is to honor and love God with all my heart, my family and friends and strangers as much as I can. I have no idea where the next turn is but I know that God is in control. My job is to simply surrender.
Steve’s story illustrates the third part of the prayer of surrender. First I accept God’s plan. Second I surrender to His control and …
3. I trust in God’s care.
I trust in His care that if He guides me He is going to provide for me. He is going to take care of me. The Bible says this in Isaiah 26:3 “You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on You because they trust You.”
Your life is never going to be problem free. IAS is a reality of life. IAS – it’s always something! If it’s not one thing it’s another. Your life is like big aircraft carrier and the problems are like planes out there circling, lined up, waiting to land. You have about ten or twelve or twenty or thirty planes waiting to land on your deck right now. So just about the time you get one in and you get that problem solved number two plane moves up to number one position and number three moves up to number two. The moment you get number two landed, number three is now number one. And the rest of your life you’re going to have one problem after another after another. You have to learn how to have peace in spite of your problems and in spite of conflict. If you’re only at peace when you’re on vacation you’re going to have peace very little in your life. You have to learn to trust God’s care even when you have problems.
By the way, why do we have so many problems in the world? Three reasons why we have problems in our lives:
1. A fallen world. In a nutshell, Adam choked. Adam blew it. He sinned. Sin entered the world and we live in an imperfect world ever since so because sin is in the world people do things that are wrong and you suffer as the result. Other people cause problems that you didn’t cause. That’s one of the main causes of problems.
2. You have an enemy. His name is Satan. Satan wants to mess your life up. He wants to destroy you. He wants to make you ineffective as a child of God. So you not only have the world working after you, you’ve got the devil after you too.
3. Your own poor decisions. You make a lot of dumb decisions, dumb choices and so do I. Most of the problems I bring on myself.
If you’ve got your own poor decision making and you’ve got the devil and you’ve got the fallen world it’s no wonder. That’s enough problems to keep you going the rest of your life. But let me give you a fourth.
4. Sometimes problems are nobody’s fault. Sometimes God just allows them for a different reason.
One time Jesus was walking down the street and His disciples saw a man who was born blind. The disciples said, “Lord, this guy was born blind. Who did something wrong? Was it his parents who did wrong, who sinned? Or did he sin?” That’s such a contemporary approach to problems. Today when you get a problem you say it was either caused by my parents or by me. It’s either blame your parents or blame yourself. So they said, Who caused this problem, my parents or me? And Jesus said, John 9:3 “Neither. This happened so that God’s power could be displayed in this man’s life.”
Sometimes you’re going to have problems that aren’t caused by the sin of others, aren’t caused by your own sin and aren’t caused by the devil. You’re going to have problems because God let them in your life so that God’s power could be displayed in your life. You just heard two crystal clear examples of that in Deidre and Steve. God’s power being displayed in their lives.
There’s a great promise that goes with the prayer of surrender. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. If I pray that and live that what does God promise? Matthew 6:33 “God will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the kingdom of God your primary concern.” What is the kingdom of God? His will in your life and His will in the world. If you say, Thy will be done and you live that, He says I’m going to take care of all your needs.
I accept God’s plan for my life, I surrender to God’s control for my life and I trust God’s care for my life. Then God says I’m going to take care of all your needs.
Are you really at peace today? Or is there turmoil going on in your heart? Are you experiencing anxiety and turmoil and stress over some area that has not been yielded to God? Question: What in your life do you need to surrender? I don’t know what it is but you do and God does. Aren’t you tired of being at war with God? Aren’t you tired of being in turmoil? You can have – God promises – the peace of God. You can have that. You must make peace with God before you can have the peace of God.
How do you make peace with God? Romans 6:13 “Give yourself to God. Surrender your whole being to Him to be used for His righteous purposes.” He wants you to live a purpose driven life. He wants you to surrender your whole being to Him, saying, “God, I want to live for Your purposes, Your plan. Thy will be done in my life and on earth as it is in heaven.”
Father, I have no doubt that there are many people here today who are stressed out from resentment and worry and the need to control things. I’m sure there are many who are struggling with this issue of complete surrender to You. They’ve held on to something for so long they don’t know how to let it go. Help them to realize how much You love them so that they can relax.
Now you pray. Say this in your heart, “Father, this message was for me. You know how I’ve resented the unchangeable things of my life that cause me pain. You know I’ve asked You many times for an explanation but it’s never come. Today, I want to stop fighting You over the things I don’t understand. I want to be at peace. Today I pray the prayer of surrender. Your will be done. Your kingdom come, Your will be done in my life. Help me to say that every day. Help me to change the things that I can but to accept the things that cannot be changed. Today, Jesus Christ, I accept Your plan for my life. I surrender to Your control and I’m going to trust in Your care. [end of tape]