“Waving a White Flag”
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
“The reason some of us are such poor specimens of Christianity is because we have no Almighty Christ. We have Christian attitudes and experiences, but there is no abandonment to Jesus Christ.”
My Utmost for His Highest
On May 6th, 1942, U.S. Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright surrendered all U.S. troops in the Philippines to the Japanese. The island of Corregidor remained the last allied stronghold in the Philippines after the Japanese victory at Bataan. The defenders were constantly hit with artillery shelling and aerial bombardment and it quickly ate away at their morale. Although able to hold their own for a time, as they approached the northern shores of the island it became clear that they could hold no longer. General Wainwright offered to surrender his troops, but the enemy wanted the complete, unconditional capitulation of all American troops in the Philippines. He had little choice. The odds were against him and the poor physical condition of his troops made a defensive unlikely. He was forced to surrender at midnight. Wainwright remained a POW until 1945, but fortunately would later receive the Medal of Honor by President Truman.
This world is much like a battleground. Since the fall of man (Genesis 3:17-19), the world that God created has been in conflict. Paul reminds us that "creation was subjected to futility...because of him who subjected it" (Romans 8:20; ESV). Paul takes us back to the Garden of Eden. He takes us to the heart, to the center, to "ground zero," to the beginning, not just of the world, but the beginning of evil. And it does not take long to see the destructive nature of sin. Sin destroys lives and sin destroys families; Cain kills his brother Abel. Sin brought death but not just for mankind, for creation as well. Paul says "we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now" (Romans 8:22; ESV). And due to Adam's sin, we are all born on his team. The word "surrender" is a battle term. It means that we are giving up all our rights to the one who has conquered us. When an army faces overwhelming odds, as General Wainwright, they lay down their arms giving control over to their opponent.
One moment in the life of Jesus stands out. Jesus is approached by a rich man. We are not told how this man accumulated this great wealth. I have to give him some credit. His investigatory heart lead him to the source; "a man ran up and knelt before him...." (Mark 10:17; ESV) The picture so far looks really good and it seems to gets even better. The man asks Jesus the most important question that any of us could ask, but the question itself reveals the error in his thinking. "What must I DO to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17; ESV). His wealth likely had afforded him every amenity his world had to offer. Up until this point, money bought everything he needed. Perhaps he thought he could "buy" eternal life. I think Jesus picked up on this. He replies with a list of "do's and don'ts"; "do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, Honor your father and mother" (Mark 10:19; ESV). The man starts checking off the boxes; "I haven't killed anyone, or cheated. I've earned my wealth honestly. I've done all these things! I'm a good person!"
"You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and
give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven;
and come, follow me." (Mark 10:21)
Did Jesus really mean he had to sell everything? Does Jesus have issues with accumulating wealth? Do we have to be "poor" in order to inherit eternal life? Absolutely not. What this man lacked was what Chambers called "abandonment to Christ." He was unwilling to part with the attachment to his wealth. He walked away "disheartened" by what Jesus said only because he had a great deal of wealth. Now, when I read this man's encounter with Jesus, I cannot help but think that this man wanted to be a DINO; a disciple in name only. It would be easy to sit here and blame the rich man for not giving what he had to the poor. But were we to do that we would be missing the point Jesus was making and that is this: What is it that you are not willing to surrender to God? It may not be money. But it may be something. He will reveal it if you let Him. He will reveal to you what is more important in your life. The truth is, however, it is impossible for us to live surrendered without God's help. Later on, Jesus would say to His disciples, "with man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:28).
In this encounter with Jesus, the man was essentially asked, "What is it that you desire? Wealth or salvation? Wealth or discipleship?" I am convinced that God desires nothing more than for His children to desire Him above all things. But in order for that to manifest within us, these earthly desires must be swept away and broken down. I find myself very much a work in progress. God is still revealing to me parts and attitudes of my life that I have not yet surrendered. And though I am a work in progress, I believe that God honors and blesses obedience and the effort to lay those things down. My son is tall enough now to reach things on the kitchen counter. Once he grabbed a knife (albeit a butter knife) and took off running. I called for him several times to stop and give me the knife, but he persisted to run away. The more I pursued him the more he ran. It was a game to him, but certainly not to me. Finally, I got him and grabbed the knife from him. I was not as upset about the knife as I was with his disobedience (but he was barely 3 at the time). So often we behave like a child who clinches their fist ever so tightly to the knife despite the objections of the father telling us to let it go. It is always less painful to simply open our hands rather than having God open it for us.
Concerning Psalm 73, Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, "By his very question he is saying that, as the result of his experience, he has found that there is no-one else anywhere who can help him, that no-where is there any other Saviour. 'Who is there who can help me in heaven or earth but Thou?" he asks. There is no-one else. When things have gone wrong, when he is really at the end of this tether, when he does not know where to go or whom to turn, when he needs comfort and solace and strength and assurance, and something to hold on to, he has found that there is no-one apart from God." And often times I have found that it is precisely during a hard experience where this realization comes into full focus. I thank God for the negative. I can thank God for the trial and hardships, for the overwhelming odds. I thank God for those times and experiences where I did not know what to do or where to go. I thank God for the experiences that have left me feeling empty; where there is no satisfaction to be found anywhere on earth. I thank Him because such experiences take me mightily and hastily to Jesus and His throne of grace. Lloyd-Jones says, "His trouble was that he was more interested in the things that God gives than in God Himself, and because he did not seem to be having the things he wanted, he began to doubt God's love. But now he has come to the place in when he can say quite honestly that he desires God Himself as God, and not only what God gives and what God does."
And that to me, is the ultimate test. The ultimate goal is that I can be able to say, along with the Psalmist, I desire God for who He is and to be fully surrendered to Him. I believe it is only then that I can live a truly abundant and free life. If it means that I must follow God without knowing where He's leading me, like Abraham, I'll go. If it means that I must wait on God's timing, like David, without knowing when it will come, I'll wait. If it means expecting a miracle without knowing how God will provide, like Joseph, I'll expect it. If it means that I must trust God's purpose without understanding the circumstances, like Paul, I'll do it. If it means that I must relinquish the control, then I'll put my hands up. It is probably best that I do not have control anyway. And guess what? It is probably best that you do not either.