We are talking about ‘Surrender’.  Surrender simply means, ‘I give up’.  Think of yourself waving a white flag and saying to God, “I’m done.  I’m done doing life my way.  From today on, I want to live Your way.”

There is a great song we used to sing in church when I was kid called, ‘I Surrender All’.  Here are some of the lyrics.

All to Jesus I surrender.  All to Him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him.  In His presence daily live.  All to Jesus I surrender.  Humbly at His feet I bow.  Worldly pleasures all forsaken.  Take me Jesus take me now.

Take a minute and think about your life.  Your life is made up of several different areas.  Now ask yourself, have I given up living my way?  Have I given my life to Christ?  Have I fully surrendered?  That is the core of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

And, it is the tension we experience following Christ – right?  The tension is, we want to surrender but we daily find ourselves wanting to live life our way.  When we try to do both, it can create an internal wrestling match with God.  That’s why doing life God’s way can feel troublesome sometimes.  It’s troublesome because we aren’t fully surrendered.

The Apostle John wrote this.

The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome. MSG 1 John 5:3

Have you given up in the area of money?  Have you given up in the area of success?  Have you given up worrying about your future?  Have you given up the wounds of your life and allowed God to heal you?  Have you given up anger and forgiven those who have hurt you?  Have you given up jealousy or revenge?  How about your view of sex, have you given up?  What is your experience with God?  Are you following after God?  Is following God troublesome for you?

Now just real fast.  When we say ‘surrender’ or ‘I give up’ we are not suggesting that we don’t work hard.  I am not saying we don’t plan for the future.  I am not saying we become lazy and enter into a weird spiritual welfare program.  It simply means, I will do life God’s way.  I will work hard, I will play hard and will fully engage life.  But in all of it, I will do it God’s way.  Does that make sense?

Today we talk about surrendering in the area of our relationships.  But before I do, I want to talk about what Sam said last week.  I loved it and here is why.  When Sam encouraged us to write out what success means to us and then compare what we wrote with what scripture says, I thought wow.  How revealing is that?  We live in a world that rewards and honors the very opposite of what God loves and how He defines success.  Why is this important?  How we define success, Sam said, that becomes what we pursue.  It will determine the direction of our lives.  Then he said something that should have changed your life.  Success, defined by Jesus, is about who you are and what you have done with what you have been given.  That makes success available to everyone.  It was just an awesome talk.

Here is where we are going with this talk.  Today, we will talk about thee relationship test to know if you have heart work to do and what to do about it.  Then, from Monday through Thursday, we will be sharing with you 21 relationship principles.  We will be walking through big questions like, are you ready to be a relationship?  Are you ready to focus on other people?  Are others able to trust you?  Do you know how to purposely invest into someone’s life?  The source of these relationship principles is a book called ‘Winning with People’ by John Maxwell.  John was a pastor who has done a lot of work in this area of how to build relationships.

We open the series today with THEE relationship test.  The test reveals if you have heart work to do in your relationships.  To discover the answer, we want to jump into scripture.  It’s a story of the prodigal son.  It’s a story about two sons.  The younger son is very selfish and disrespectful.  He demands his inheritance early, leaves home and wastes all his money.  The older son is the hard-working and obedient son.  He stays home and faithfully goes to work every day.  In this story, both sons become lost.  However, only the younger brother realized how lost he was.

25 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. 26 Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. 27 He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast – barbecued beef! – because he has him home safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. 29 The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? 30 Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

31 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours –   32 but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!'” MSG Luke 15:25-32

When the older brother found out that his younger brother came home, did you notice something was missing?  Did you find it odd that he wasn’t happy for his younger brother?  Instead, he has a temper tantrum like a three-year-old.  He stomps off in anger.  How does that happen?  How does he become so childish?  How did his heart become so cold, so hard?

Here is what happened.  The older brother never enjoyed his relationship with his father.  He didn’t hang out with his father.  He didn’t celebrate the good times with his dad.  And because of that, his relationship with his dad was about working.  It was about getting things done.

Notice, his life wasn’t about enjoying a relationship, it was about performance.  This damaged his heart.  He became the person who was comparing and measuring his performance to others.  And he concluded, he was better.  Because of his pride, he became cold and hard hearted.  He became selfish.  And to the older brother, it was unbelievable that his father would celebrate the lesser son.  He was the better brother and he earned his right to get a party from his dad.

The tragedy for the older brother was, he never saw how lost he had become.  In his mind, he was the good brother.  He did all the right things.  He was obedient.  He was faithful.  He had become so prideful in how he lived, he couldn’t see how his heart became cold, hard and judgmental.

What a crazy story.  Who would ever live like this?  We do.  This is a story about us.

When we are not enjoying our relationship with God, weird things can happen.  We can focus on doing the right things, knowing the right information and appearing to be a ‘good person’ to others.  We pay our bills, watch our kids, go to work and church.  And all along, we internally begin to compare ourselves to others and we would never say it but, we are better.

And the moment someone gets something that we don’t get, like being celebrated, KA-BOOM.  We are outraged.  We become deeply offended.  Thoughts run through our minds.  We ask ourselves, why am I not noticed and celebrated?  When do I get my payday?  Where is my title? Where is my validation?  I am better than others, I deserve to be celebrated.  We talk to others privately and share our disappointment and anger with them.

In that moment, we have become the older brother.  And we are the ones who go to church.  We did all the discipleships.  We know all the right information.  We appear to do all the right things.  And all along, our hearts became cold, hard and judgmental.  And as we violate all of Jesus’ teachings, gossip in frustration or we leave in anger.

That is THEE relationship test.  When you can’t embrace and celebrate people because you are too busy thinking, ‘when do I get celebrated’, chances are, you are lost.  You are way too focused on you.  What is crazy is, like the older brother, you will feel like you are clearly in the right and everyone else is clearly, wrong.

Can I ask you something?  Is this you?

Are you doing all the right things and find it offensive that others are celebrated?

How do you respond when others are celebrated when you think, you should be celebrated?

Do you find it easier to be judgmental, critical or jealous of others?

Are you easily offended?  Are you easily wounded?

When you don’t get what you want, do you gossip or go to God in prayer?

When you don’t get what you want, do you leave relationships in anger and try to create drama?

Who do you turn to most to find validation in life, God or to people?

Is your heart growing warmer towards others and do you enjoy celebrating people?

Is your heart growing colder and you notice it’s becoming harder and harder for you to hide it?

Here me, that’s when you know.  That’s when we have become like the older brother.  We need heart help.  What do we do?  How do we begin to surrender in the area of relationships?

Jesus explained how.

1 Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment. 2 That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. 3 It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. 4 Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? 5 It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

12 Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. MSG Matthew 7:1-5, 12

Jesus is saying, think of others.

This isn’t deep teaching – right?  This is simple stuff.  It’s easy to hear but extremely hard to surrender to.  Imagine how this one simple principle would transform every relationship in your life.  Let’s see what would change as we walk through real-life relationships.

Marriage.  How do you want your spouse to treat you?  You want them to listen to you and actually do what you are asking of them.  Take the initiative and do that!

Family.  How do you want your parents or kids to treat you?  You want them to listen to you, care for you and encourage you.  Take the initiative and do that!

Work.  If you were the boss, would you want people to assume the worse, gossip and work against you?  Then stop doing that to them.  If you were the employee, would you want the boss to keep putting you down, making promises that never come true?  Then stop doing that to them.

Church.  Have you thought of what it must be like to be the volunteer leader?  The pastor?  The visitor?  The volunteer?

Friendships.  Stop and think of each friendship in your life.  Do you only go to people when you want something from them?  From their point of view, not yours, do you celebrate and build them up?  Do you only bring struggle, gossip and complaints to them?  Do you listen to them talk – do you know more and more about them?

Do you feel alone and wish others would engage you?  Take the initiative and engage others.

Church/Community/Work.  Do you have it all figured out and assume the worst in leadership?  Are you able to serve with compassion, kindness and with no complaints?  Are you easily offended?  Do you leave in a huff because no one celebrated you?

To close out today, let’s quickly recap.

The test that reveals if you need heart work is this.  When you can’t embrace and celebrate people because you are too busy thinking, ‘when do I get celebrated’, chances are, you are lost.

How do you surrender relationships?  Jesus taught, begin thinking of others.  If you aren’t doing that, you have not surrendered your relationships.  Chances are, relationships are a struggle for you and you view people as objects you leverage to get things from.