We are walking through the book of Proverbs. What makes Proverbs so great is how clear it is. And as we read Proverbs, it forces us to decide how we will live out our life. There is a wise way to live and a foolish way to live. You can choose to be wise or be a fool. Proverbs doesn’t stop there. Proverbs then explains the ramifications of the choice you make. You can choose to be wise and your life gets better. You can ignore wisdom, choose to be a fool, and your life will become harder and harder.
How do we get wisdom? Humility.
Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. MSG Proverbs 1:7
This leads us to ask the question, can I trust God? Is God good and are His plans for me good? If I surrender my life and put my trust in God, what will happen? Have you ever wondered about that?
Proverbs says a lot about trust.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. NLT Proverbs 16:9
Pay attention to what you are taught, and you will be successful; trust in the Lord and you will be happy. GNT Proverbs 16:20
It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe. GNT Proverbs 29:25
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. NIV Proverbs 3:5-6
Do you see the word ‘Trust’? That word means, ‘to lie helpless, facedown.’ Like a servant waiting for the master’s command or a defeated soldier bowing his head to the conquering general. Think about that. Is this how you go to God? Total trust and surrender. Are you face down, completely aware that you are helpless, that you need God? Like a servant, completely ready to do what Jesus asks of you. Like a defeated soldier, completely ready to give up control and stop fighting to do things your way.
I ask you, what have you concluded? Can you trust God? Have you fully surrendered your life to God?
We struggle with trust and full surrender, don’t we? We wonder, if I fully surrender my life to God, will He come through for me – the way I want? We get scared and ask ourselves, “If I fully surrender my life to God, what will He ask of me, what do I have to give up?” We think through the ramifications of surrender and ask ourselves, “If I surrender, what about my comfort, health, and wealth?” If we surrender our lives to God, we don’t know where God will lead us, do we? And because we don’t know where God wants to lead us, we can struggle to surrender and give up control. We want to know the details of our future – don’t we? We want promises that we will get what we want. We want to cut a deal with God. Something like, ‘Make my life perfect then I will give my life to You.’ When we do that, we are trying to be God.
I ask you, what have you concluded? Can you trust God? Have you fully surrendered your life to God?
What happens when we struggle to surrender and give up control? It is very common to live a life where we are around Church stuff but we don’t apply what Jesus taught because it requires us to change something. And when we are confronted with what Jesus says in Church, we squirm a little and go back into our unchanged lives. Years ago, we did a series called, ‘Christian Atheist’. That simply means I believe that God exists but I live like God doesn’t exist. That’s not Christianity. That’s not surrender. That’s control. Another term would be, ‘rebellion.’
Think about this. Jesus taught about forgiving those who hurt us. Loving our enemies. Living a life of generosity. Stop being anxious and trust God. Live a life that serves others. We hear what Jesus taught in Church. We like what Jesus taught. We want our kids and grandkids to be taught what Jesus taught. We want the people in our town to live out what Jesus taught. We agree with what Jesus taught. Until someone hurts us. Until we have an enemy. Until living generously requires us to give. Until we feel anxious. Until we feel tired and don’t want to serve others.
We like what Jesus taught until it requires us to change. That’s when we struggle to trust God. That’s when we struggle to give up control of how we live. What do we do? We tend to overthink what Jesus taught and ask a lot of follow-up questions. For example, Jesus taught, “Love your neighbor.” What did the religious person in the Bible want to know? “Jesus, who is my neighbor?” He couldn’t just take Jesus’ teachings and love everyone, he needed to know the details. Why? He didn’t want to love his neighbor, he was looking for a loophole.
Do you see it? What Jesus taught becomes frustrating and confusing, almost a roadblock to us. Why? It exposes that we are struggling to fully surrender our lives to God. It exposes our trust. Without knowing it, we can be Christian Atheists. We believe that God exists, but we live like God doesn’t exist.
I ask you, do you struggle to trust and fully surrender your life to God? That means you are face down, completely aware that you need God, you are helpless. Like a servant, completely ready to do what Jesus asks of you. Like a defeated soldier, completely ready to give up control and stop fighting to do things your way.
Don’t we wonder, can I trust God? Is God good and are His plans for me good? If I surrender my life and put my trust in God, what will happen?
The direct answer to those questions is ‘Yes’ – absolutely yes. But I need to explain trust and surrender. There are two kinds of surrender. One kind of surrender leads to knowing about God. The other kind of surrender is how you experience God.
Let’s explain surrender that leads to knowing about God. God designed and created the world and how things work. We call it wisdom. If you listen to wisdom, that means you trust God and surrender to how God created the world. You already know this, it’s common sense. For example. You save money all your life, you will have more at the end of your life. Keep sex inside of marriage, you will be free from all kinds of spiritual, physical, and emotional damage. Live life with discipline and intentionality, your life will be more orderly and less chaotic. This is how you learn about God.
Can you trust God, absolutely yes. What can stop us? Our pride.
Let’s talk about surrender that leads to experiencing God. To do this, let’s turn to the moment in scripture when Jesus confronts his disciples about surrender.
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. NIV Matthew 16:21-27
Imagine being a disciple of Jesus. Up until now, following Jesus has been a mind-blowing experience. Jesus is healing people and you get a front-row seat to it all. Jesus is doing miracles and it’s wild. Jesus is very popular with crowds of people going after Him. Jesus is talking about a new kingdom and as a disciple, you have the inside track to have a key role in that kingdom. You fully believe Jesus will overthrow the Romans and you will be a part of His new kingdom. This means a life of health, wealth, and comfort.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Jesus says something that doesn’t make sense. It’s disturbing. Jesus says, ‘I must die.’ How does Peter react to Jesus when He announces His death? Let’s keep reading.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” NIV Matthew 16:21-27
Why would Peter be so agitated and defiant? Because up to this point, following Jesus has been a good decision for Peter. Up to this point, following Jesus didn’t have a downside to it. But now, there is a shift. Jesus just said something about dying. This doesn’t make sense. Jesus is supposed to be the new king to overthrow Rome and establish a new kingdom. Peter is supposed to have a life next to the new king that is comfortable. Peter has to wonder, what does Jesus’ dying mean for me and my future life of comfort? Peter reacts to this shocking news and is agitated and defiant.
Don’t you find it interesting that Peter is now rebuking Jesus? Peter is comfortable telling Jesus, ‘Never!’ What is Peter saying? Peter is saying, “Jesus, avoid the cross. Avoid surrender.”
How does Jesus respond to Peter? Very next verse.
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” NIV Matthew 16:21-27
Well, that was aggressive. It sounds offensive. Jesus is telling Peter that He is asked by God to surrender His life to redeem the world of our sins. But Peter can’t understand this and rebukes Jesus. And because Peter doesn’t understand what God is up to, Peter can’t understand surrender. Because Peter doesn’t understand what God is up to, Peter is acting like Satan by stopping Jesus from surrendering. Because Peter doesn’t understand what God is up to, Peter can only see things from his point of view. He wants a life of health, wealth, and comfort. Surrender makes no sense to Peter. In fact, it’s something Peter wanted to avoid.
Jesus continues to speak and says something alarming. It’s almost like a gut punch.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. NIV Matthew 16:21-27
To be my disciple, to join God in what He is doing, you must surrender your life. Why? Because if you spend your life on yourself, it will be a waste. If you never surrender your life to God, you can gain the world and lose your soul. And the day God comes to hold people accountable, you won’t be ready for that day.
Let’s talk about this story. Let’s ask four questions. What did God require of Jesus? Surrender. Why? It was the will of God to save the world from our sins. You know this – right?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV John 3:16
Jesus had to surrender His life so that God could advance His kingdom through Jesus and save you.
Why was Peter agitated and defiant? Because it was the first time Peter was confronted with surrender. Up to this point, following Jesus seemed to promise health, wealth, and comfort. Now, it sounded like things were changing. Sounds like following Jesus might cost him something.
Why did Jesus call Peter Satan? Because Peter was standing in the way of what God wanted Jesus to do. Peter was focused on what people think is important in this world. Peter was not focused on what God was up to in this world. Because Peter didn’t understand what God was up to, Peter didn’t understand surrender. As a result, Peter was comfortable telling Jesus what Jesus needed to do.
What does Jesus require of us? To give up our lives. Why? To experience God as He advances His kingdom through us.
Can you trust God, absolutely yes. He wants you to experience Him. What can stop us? We want what the world has to offer more than what God has to offer. And this is why Christianity can be disappointing to people. And this is why many Christians in North America don’t experience God. They know information about God. They know God’s principles and what Jesus teaches. However, experiencing God requires full surrender. And that is where many draw the line.
Let’s ask a couple of questions.
Do you trust God? Do you believe that if you follow and do what God asks, it’s for your benefit?
Would you look at your life and say, in general, you have been ‘wise’ or ‘foolish’?
When it comes to surrendering, like Peter, do you feel agitated or defiant? Do you have an internal feeling like, ‘I don’t like this! Please stop talking.’
If you feel agitated or defiant about surrender, why do you think that is? Do you think it’s because you want a Christianity of ‘comfort’ not, ‘it might cost you something’?
If surrendering your life to Jesus is confusing, like Peter, do you think it’s because you don’t fully understand what God is up to?
Instead of surrendering, like Peter, do you find it normal to tell God what He needs to be doing? And does that lead to a growing frustration or anger with God because God is failing you?
Has trying to live out Christianity been disappointing you?
When Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” How do you respond?
Does that change how you love God? Does that change how you treat others? Does that change how you approach life and work? Does that change how you make choices in your local church?
Are you face down, completely aware that you are helpless, that you need God? Are you like a servant, completely ready to do what Jesus asks of you? Are you like a defeated soldier, completely ready to give up control and stop fighting to do things your way?
Questions you have to answer for yourself. Is God good? Where God wants to take you, is it good?