"Be ye steadfast, unmoveable." I. Corinthians 15: 58
"No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9: 62.
"Be not afraid; only believe." Mark 5:36.
I. BE DEFINITE.
There is a distinct shore line between land and sea. There is a clear-cut horizon line between sky and mountain peak. Let the surrender which separates the old life of self-seeking from the new life of self-renunciation be specific and definite. The approach to it may have been by a gradual march of events, years and gracious providences. But when the call is clearly seen, the issue met, and the battle fought, let the decision be definite. Either yield, or assume the solemn responsibility of refusal. Some toy and dally -with seen truth, deceiving themselves with the thought that the passive drift of indecision is not rejection. But it is. And the seared and stultified conscience begotten from such a habit works irreparable havoc and ruin. Every crisis of decision must be met, and we meet it in the negative when we neglect to meet it at all. Therefore settle the question as becomes an immortal soul redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and now brought face to face with His consequent claim. Be deliberate indeed. Then be definite. It is a good thing to record the fact and date of so blessed a transaction with your Lord. A glance at such will do much to steady you in after times of stress and trial.
II. BE TRUSTFUL.
When you commit your case into the hands of a physician you are fair enough to let him have his own way. Be at least equally fair with God. Be patient while He works in you. You cannot leap at one bound into the full man in Christ Jesus. You cannot dethrone self at one blow. You are not only to renounce self but also to perfect that renunciation by living daily the life of self-renunciation. (Luke 9:23.) You will not, at the beginning, see all the meaning of surrender. You would not, be able to bear it then. You will not at first have a complete revelation of the self-life. It would break your heart to see yourself all at-once! You would be filled with despair. You will not come into the full light of His Word--the full knowledge of His will-in a moment, a month, a year. True, He has promised to "guide you into all truth," but not all at once. Wherefore be trustful, be patient. He knows you as you will never know yourself. There is much in you that requires the time element in your purification and preparation. "He himself knew what He would do." Wherefore trust Him. It will all come right in His own time and way.
III. BE COMPREHENSIVE.
Make no reservation with God. Let the act of surrender sweep IN every interest, plan, power, and possession of your being. Let one foot of the compass be pivoted at the very center the heart and will and let the other describe a circle to its most distant horizon, omitting nothing from its encircling bounds. As there is no detail of our lives beneath the notice of a loving God, there should be none too trivial to yield to Him. Of course all God asks is sincere-heartedness, not omniscience. He does not expect us to see at a flash all the details which are comprehended in the act of consecration. The God of love whose worship included a sacrifice for sins of ignorance bears very gently with such ignorance in His children. All he asks is that we yield honestly all we do see, and yield trustfully all we do not see but which He may in days to come show us to be comprehended in our act. Let us be sincerely minded to be wholly His, "and if in anything ye are otherwise minded even this will God reveal unto you." So if our hearts are honest in purpose and act, let us not come into the bondage of fearing that we have rot compassed everything in our act of surrender and that therefore God accepts it not. This is grave error. Our God is not unreasonable and arbitrary, but tender, loving, compassionate. The consecration of our life, with an honest heart, tip to our best light and understanding of consecration, is perfectly satisfactory and acceptable to Him.
But let us beware of anything knowingly unyielded to Him: of any self self-engrafted exception in our act of renunciation: of any point where the will remains consciously unsubmitted to God. When we whisper within ourselves "I can say yes to God, I can submit to His will, I can trust His love in all except this one thing," we may be assured that this one thing will work spiritual disaster in our lives. For a child to refuse to obey a mother's direction to pick up from the floor some object which it has petulantly hurled there, may seem a trivial thing. But the spirit of disobedience behind that act is a most momentous thing, for it breaks communion between parent and child and will work irreparable injury to its character in after life. Even so the thing we knowingly reserve from our dedication to God may seem trivial to us. But the failure of trust or obedience involved therein is fatal to that relation of fullest confidence toward God which is absolutely necessary to His fullest manifestation in our spiritual life. It takes but a trifling barrier to keep out the sunshine, but the keeping out of that sunshine is far from being a trifle. So the unyielded thing that bars God's fullness may seem nothing to us, but the fullness which is thus missed is everything to the soul that longs for the unveiled shining of His face.
One wild, stormy night, as the dwellers in a little cliff town on the New England coast watched the tall lighthouse through the thick gloom, a strange thing happened. The warning bells rang out in wild clangor, and the light was seen to suddenly surge forward, hang for an instant suspended over the sea, and then disappear in its swift arc-flight into the seething, hissing waters below, carrying to swift death the lonely -occupants. The morning light revealed the striking secret of the midnight catastrophe. The dwellers in the lighthouse had sometime before fastened a stout cable from the top of the beacon to the rocks below, for the hoisting of provisions and supplies. When the tide and storm arose that night the giant billows beat with weighty blows upon the great hawser until, by degrees, the tall iron supports were strained, and the overbalanced lighthouse crashed to swift ruin. A single line had done the deadly work! A single reservation or default in our surrender to God may work like havoc. If we are saved it cannot wreck our soul. But it may so bar out God's purpose of fullness in and through us that our ship of life, though unwrecked, may yet sail into the harbor of eternity an empty, pauper craft instead of a richly freighted galleon, loaded to the water's verge with all the fullness of God.
IV. BE FINAL.
In all true consecration the deed of transfer is irrevocable. Let it be done once and forever, for all time and all eternity. Let it be so absolute and unconditional that there shall never be any need of renewing it, because there has never been any thought of revoking it. Sometimes a, thoughtless nurse will tease a child by offering it some trifle, then drawing it back out of reach as the little one essays to take it. She may repeat this process again and again until the child is wholly uncertain as to whether the object is to be given or not. Some efforts at surrender seem equally insincere and futile. The life is apparently offered to God, but as soon as He would lay His hand upon it to possess it we nervously draw it back, only to repeat again the process of offer and withdrawal. Whoso gives his life to God should give it never expecting to retake it. So not only all re-taking but all re-giving raises a suspicion of insincerity in the giver. What man who has made an honest sale or gift could re-sell or re-give without impeaching his own sincerity? Hence when the life has been really given to God there is no such thing as a re-consecration. Neither should a truly surrendered child of God be weekly or monthly re-consecrating himself to God. Every time he does so he casts a doubt upon the genuineness of the transaction by which he gave himself to God once and forever. What we may do, and should do, is, not only weekly or monthly, but daily and hourly to say to ourselves, not, "Lord, I give myself to Thee again," but, "Lord, I am Thine, now and forever; let me never doubt it or be unmindful of it." There is a beautiful story of Bengel, the famous commentator. Toiling all day long over the Book of books he was watched by one of his students to see how faithful he would be to his evening devotions amid his weariness. As the clock struck the midnight hour the curious watcher saw the saintly man close the book and betake himself to rest with the simple words, "Lord, Thou knowest that we are on the same old terms!" Even so as servants of God may we, and should we, day by day look up into the face of our Master and say, "Lord, Thou knowest that we are on the same old terms; that I am Thine and Thou art mine, forever."
V. BE STEADFAST.
Look to it that your dearest friends shake not that steadfastness. Many a soul stands strong and steady against the adversary's grosser and more flagrant assaults upon his determination to be wholly the Lord's. But the heart grows sick, and the soul faint, when, with new steps made in the new light of a fuller obedience, there falls upon the pathway the dark shadow of dissent and possible reproach from those whose loving approval and sympathy are so dear to him. Subtle and ensnaring is the temptation at this point, and many fall tinder its deadly onslaught. The wife who would give up all else for the Lord shrinks with absolute terror from the thought of the possible barrier which her closer walk with Him may raise between her and a worldly husband. The husband who would sacrifice all for Christ meets the limit of that all when he faces the thought that the wife of his love will not stand with him in the peculiar place of separation. The test seems too hard and cruel. That "a man's foes should be they of his own household" is too much for flesh and blood. And so the earthly tie becomes the limitation of a loyalty to Christ which should be limitless. Yet all this is of the evil one. Such is the stamp which Christ puts upon it when He says to His own loved disciple, seeking to allure Him from His walk with God, "Get thee behind me, Satan."
The tempter is simply using the tenderest ties of our nature to draw us away from God. And mark, that the compromise we there make invariably fails of its object. The Christian wife who yields to the play, the dance, or the card table, in the hope of winning or preserving influence over a loved husband, is taking the surest plan to destroy it. The only hope she has of lifting him to a closer walk with God is to show him the worth and preciousness of such to her own soul, and thus fill him with desire for a like richer life in Christ. But the supreme thing which convicts him of the preciousness of such a life is to see that it is so dear to her that she will not even sacrifice it upon the altar of her own love for him. Wherefore that life is at once cheapened and dishonored in his sight, when it is so sacrificed or compromised. That which is cast away so lightly must be, he argues, of so little worth that he will not trouble himself to seek it. The jewel in her spiritual crown which had seemed a blazing diamond is, after all, only paste. Respect is gone, and influence vanishes with it. The very compromise made to gain influence has annihilated it. There are hearts that have found this true, to their own unspeakable sorrow. In numberless cases this, our very steadfast loyalty to God, is His chosen plan to bring a loved one to Christ or to a deeper life in Him.
What grief then to know some day that our faithlessness has been used by the enemy to wreck or mar a life we love. We know a wife who is to-day persistently rejecting Jesus Christ because she would rather be lost with her husband than saved without him. A wifely sacrifice this seems to her, to lose her soul with his. But what awful agony to wake up in perdition and realize that if she had been obedient to God he would have followed! There are many such wives and husbands who, bearing aloft the standard of a separated life in the face of every other foe, have let it go into the dust before this one, to their own secret shame and confusion. He that cherisheth not his own beloved ones is worse than a brute. But "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." Let us be true to God at any cost, then we need not fear results, for God will care for all the consequences of obedience. But no soul can estimate the endless train of ruin that will follow disobedience to His known will, however lofty may be the pretext that prompts us to it. You who gently and lovingly, yet with rock-bound stead fastness, stand true to God in all things, are doing the one thing which can possibly lift a loved one up to your own vision of spiritual life and walk. Be not afraid. Be patient and loving in it all, and the victory which is begotten of prayer and obedience to God, though it may be long in coming, will, when it comes, be all the more glorious and complete.
VI. BE HOPEFUL
A young man in the prime of life lay dying of consumption. The years of his strong, young life had been passed outside of Christ until within a short time preceding his last illness, when, won at last by the long-suffering grace of God, he gave his heart to Christ. A childlike trust in Christ, of singular beauty and restfulness in one so young in the faith, characterized his few remaining days. Leaving his room one day a friend suggested to him the hope that if it were God's will He might raise him up again to health and strength. His face lit up, and turning to the speaker, with countenance aglow with the very joy of the thought, he said, "Yes, brother, it would be beautiful to live now!" After the years away from his Lord; after the sweet realization of His tender love in redeeming his soul from death, the thought of living for Christ instead of for self, clothed life with a beauty and glory which filled the heart of the dying boy with wistful longing that could now know no fruition here.
Ah, beloved, after the years of disappointment, of baffled plans, of self-seeking, of following the Lord afar off, of bitter rebellion against His chastening hand, we reach at last the end of self, and yield to our Lord and Master the life for which He has been tenderly pleading all these years. And then with what glad assent do our hearts, echoing the words of the dying boy, cry out in sheer joy: "It is beautiful to live Now." Oh, soul, troubled, dismayed, darkened, dazed, your life has been a jar, and jangle, and discord, solely because it has been out of the center, and that center--Christ. But now that the stubborn will is yielded and His blessed will sought and found to be so "good, and acceptable, and perfect:" now that you know the peace of God as well as peace with God: now that you have found the life plan that He has, from all eternity, had for you, and are joyously obeying His word to Daniel, "Stand in thy lot until the end:" now that "to live is Christ," and "to die is gain:" all this and unspeakably more will make it "beautiful to live now!" Wherefore be hopeful. Though your progress toward Christ-likeness seems slow: though appalled at the growing revelation of your own fleshliness: though the yielded life means more than you ever dreamed before: though the "and now little children abide in Him," which is the mountain height of your Christian attainment here, seems each day to rise higher and higher above your out-reaching soul, yet be hopeful. God is working. He is guiding, shaping, transforming. He is having His way with you as never before. Look back over the days, the weeks, the months since you gave all to Him and rejoice at the real and blessed growth of His life in you. Not yet where you want to be? Nay nor where He desires you to be, and will bring you to be. But He is faithful. Do you be hopeful, and He will bring you into the place, the power, and the peace foreordained in Christ for you from all eternity.
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