“Breezy, self-confident Christians tell us how wonderful it is to accept Christ and then have a good time all the rest of your life; the Lord won’t demand anything of you. Yes, he will, my friend! The Lord will demand everything of you. And when you give it all up to him, he may bless it and hand it back, but on the other hand he may not…” (A.W. Tozer)
In offering ourselves up as living sacrifices, we die to ourselves — to our right to self. It’ll undoubtedly be painful, and that pain will be multiplied by being misunderstood by our more respectable brothers and sisters. But we need to remember that the cross was never respectable. It was foolishness, an insult, a shame, a disgrace.
In laying down our right to ourselves, we’re casting ourselves on the mercy of God, trusting him for everything, and allowing him to do with us whatever he wants. He’s worthy of that trust, and will do what’s in our best interests, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll do things our way.
As I wrote the last sentence, an email came in about a fabulous young missionary who was killed in a car crash in West Africa last night, leaving a wife and three-year-old daughter. They’d only been on the field several months after many years of single-minded preparatory training. Try giving a breezy and self-confident answer to those situations, and you’re setting yourself up for a fall. I feel bemused, gutted, and angry even. One day I’ll get my answers, but in the meantime I’ll have to wrestle with my God whose ways and thoughts are not the same as mine…
So we may not fully understand, but we surrender and submit to the Lord, trusting that he sees the bigger picture. We willingly put ourselves in his vice, on his anvil, or in his purifying furnace, and embrace whatever he sees fit to do with us. We cling to the fact that there’s a purpose in sufferings and difficulties when they arise.
This reminds me of a story of woman in a Bible study group in Kentucky, where they were studying the book of Malachi. In Malachi 3:3, they read, “He will sit like a refiner and purifier of silver”. She was fascinated by the analogy, and wanted to gain the full impact of it, so she went to see a silversmith in action the following day. She observed him at work for a while, and then asked him, “Do you have to sit the whole time the refining process is taking place?”
“Yes,” he replied, “it’s crucial — because if the refining process is exceeded by the slightest degree, the silver will be damaged.”
The Lord is watching over us, and however difficult our current circumstances are, he is in control. He won’t let the refining process go on a minute longer than is required, because his purposes are good, and he doesn’t want us to be damaged.
The silversmith finished his explanation with: “I only know that the refining process is complete when I can see my own image reflected in the silver”.
So the process of total surrender may be painful. But no pain, no gain! That’s hard to accept, as our natural inclination is to avoid pain and opt for the easier road. David Livingstone once received a letter from a society in South Africa, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If the answer’s ‘yes’, we want to send other men to come and help you.”
Livingstone replied, “If you have men who’ll come only if they know there’s a good road, I don’t want them.”
I dream of a generation who count the cost and are willing to embrace the pain of surrender…
If you want to read ahead you can purchase Simon’s book of daily readings — ‘Choose Life 365’.
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