Surrender is when somebody gives up, or yields, to another power. When bad guys rob a bank and a police officer shows up, the officer yells, “Stop right there!” and the bad guys are going to stop and surrender. They put their hands in the air and drop the money. They know that the police have more power than they do, and they surrender because even though they’re going to be in a lot of trouble for what they did, it would be a lot worse if they keep running away.
God wants us to surrender our lives to Him, which means He wants us to give up our sin and stop running away from Him. And I have some great, great news: when we surrender to God and quit sinning, He already took the punishment for our sins. So the robbers in that story are going to go to jail, but because Jesus already took our consequences, we don’t have to be punished for our sins.
Jesus told His disciples that in order to follow Him, they would have to give up ruling their own lives. Luke 14:28-33 (NLT) reads: “Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”
Jesus is saying, “Don’t say you want to be a Christian and follow Jesus unless you’re willing to give your whole life to Him.” If a king knows he can’t win a war, he’s not going to try. He’ll try to sit down with his enemy and make peace instead. It would be foolish to go into a war that you know you can’t win. Jesus is using that story to show that it would be foolish to say you’ll walk with Him if you can’t really commit to following Him with your whole life and your whole heart.
Sometimes God will ask people to sell everything or give away everything they own. Usually, though, the way we can interpret this is that God wants us to surrender everything to Him. So if you have a million dollars and then you become a Christian, you don’t have to get rid of all that money (unless God tells you to). But now you recognize that it’s not your money anymore; it’s God’s. So instead of making money just to make money and get rich and buy fancy things, you start making money so you can use it as a tool to help build God’s kingdom. You can give money to your church and to missionaries and you can buy groceries for your neighbor who doesn’t have much money. You can keep working hard and keep building wealth, as long as you know that it all belongs to God.
When we surrender our lives to God, it means we put everything we own, all our money and all our time and our friendships and just everything that we have, we give it to Him and say, “Okay God, none of this is mine anymore. Everything I have and everything I am is yours. How do you want me to use it?”
There’s a story in Mark 12:41-44 (NLT) that illustrates this: “Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.’”
This widow woman gave everything she had. She surrendered. Sometimes people say they love God but they don’t really surrender to Him. They believe in Him, but they’re still living for themselves. Let’s not be like that! Let’s be like that poor old woman who gave up her life and surrendered to Jesus. If we say we surrender all but really don’t, God knows. It’s just not possible to fool God. It would be like eating raw onions and trying to conceal your bad breath.