By Cynthia Carrier
My husband unexpectedly announced that he was going to sleep in on a recent mid-week morning. I tried to be understanding. After all, he had been running a bit of a fever and had gotten up quite a few times during the night. I knew he hadn't slept well at all. So, downstairs I went, even though I had really wanted to put the laundry away and do a sewing repair to his pants while he was in the shower. After all, it always feels good to get a jump-start on some of those things on the to-do list, doesn't it?
I made my coffee and heard the boys getting up. Down to the basement I went. My oldest was ready to start on some project or other and was heading upstairs already, but I had to tell him that Dad wanted to sleep in, so we'd all be hanging out downstairs until further notice. That didn't go over well. Once I heard the girls rustling upstairs, I called them down to the basement to join us.
Well, at least our laundry room is in the basement, so while the children played I got to do some of the ironing that was on my list for the day. But by the time my husband got up it was 8:30. Funny how it could be that early in the morning and I could feel like half the day was wasted! On a good day, by now we'd have had our family devotions and gotten most of our morning chores done. At this rate, it'd be 10:00 before we ate breakfast and everyone was already a little cranky from the "forced" containment.
I tried not to complain too much to myself. After all, "attitude is everything," right? So I sat down to bottle-feed our rescued wild bunnies while we read the Bible and prayed as a family. My husband closed our devotional time with a rousing call to breakfast—a much more involved breakfast than would have been my plan today, especially given the time! But I got to work on breakfast while directing the children to their various chores. Since it was so late and I was taking so long in preparing something, all the baby did was complain at my knee while I was at the stove. The girls doing dishes at the sink played in the bubbles, spilled water on the floor, and bickered with one another about who was supposed to be doing what. In dealing with each of those incidents, I barely saved breakfast from being burned. By now I was more than a little cranky myself.
I'm sure every mom can relate to circumstances such as this. Even though your day may look a little different than mine, we've all had days when things just didn't go as we expected, or desired. That's where surrender comes in.
In this continuing series, we've been exploring how to simplify our children's spiritual instruction and more powerfully equip ourselves, as a family, to live out God's Word by focusing on the values that God values. Our children need our positive example as parents, so we need to look to our own faith walk first. That's why I knew that my own failure in the area of surrender, on this particular morning, was so important to rectify, through prayer and meditation on God's Word. And boy, did I work on it!
Surrender is not a popular term. It brings to mind loss, forfeit and failure—yet God asks for us to surrender ourselves to him and to his will. This means giving up our own plans so that we can live according to his purposes. In so doing, we maximize our potential for health and happiness as we serve the Lord. Ultimately, surrender is for our good. Surrender to God requires a right understanding of, and respect for, who God is. The Bible calls this, "the fear of the Lord." It is not a fear that produces anxiety or dread, but rather a reverent awe. The Scriptures help us understand this foundational fear:
"What does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God…..For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome….Fear the LORD your God and serve him…. he is your praise; he is your God." (Deuteronomy 10:12, 17, 20-21, NIV)
Balanced, Biblical teaching on the fear of God is not as common today as it once was. There is more of an emphasis on God's love, mercy and grace, to the exclusion of a reverent awe before a holy and righteous God. However, many of the blessings of the Lord are reserved for those who fear him: "How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you" (Psalm 31:19, NIV). The fear of the Lord is a fundamental prerequisite to receiving the wonderful blessings that God has for us. Although we fear God, we are confident that he loves us and has our best in mind. It is important to keep a balanced perspective on the nature of God, fearing him yet also trusting in his mercy and grace. The Bible is clear that these attributes of God must remain in harmony:
"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him…As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him." (Psalm 103:11, 13, NIV, with emphasis added).
God is a gracious God and God is love (1 John 4:16); however, he is equally worthy of our respect and awe. Though he disciplines us as a loving father, he still shows compassion to those who fear him, for he knows our weaknesses and frailty.
Surrendering ourselves to God can mean many different things, but in particular it includes having a teachable spirit that willingly receives God's training through the everyday experiences of life. This is like having the "good soil" that is described in Jesus' parable of the sower (Luke 8:1-15).
If we are truly surrendered to God, he will often teach us through adversity. We will be subject to his discipline, and even punishment. At these times, it just doesn't feel good to give ourselves to God, yet Hebrews 12:11 (NIV) tells us: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." This is a valuable promise for us to cling to as we surrender our lives to God, in good times and in trials. It's also important that we emphasize this truth in our child training, since it will help our children understand that our discipline is designed to help them to grow in godliness. Ultimately, they will be shaped to receive and learn from God's discipline.
Discipline can be viewed as a teaching opportunity that is designed to bring us into greater agreement with God's Word. The discipline of God is for our benefit, and surrendering to that discipline is God's desire for us. Hebrews 12:10 tells us, "Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." Discipline opens the way to righteousness, so it should be embraced as a necessary part of the surrendered life.
Encourage your children to approach every difficult circumstance with the question, what is God trying to teach me? There is a lesson in everything, if we are humble enough to ask God to reveal it to us. Sometimes those lessons are painful, yet they result in great personal growth.
Remember, however, that God only subjects us to things that are for our good and that will ultimately strengthen and equip us to fulfill his perfect plans and purposes. We can rest assured that we are subjected to trials because of God's love for us (see Proverbs 3:11, Revelation 3:19, Job 5:17-22).
While discipline is designed to shape our character, punishment can be given as a consequence for wrongdoing and as a deterrent to future misbehavior. God may allow us to experience punishment as a result of our own sin and folly.
The Biblical concept of punishment does not discount the forgiveness of sins that we have through Jesus. If we have put our trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, we will not have to stand before God in judgment for those sins after we die. However, there are examples in Scripture of people getting punished for their actions while here on earth (see, for example, 2 Samuel 12, 2 Samuel 24, Acts 5:1-11). Though we may not like the word punishment, it is something God may use to further his purposes in our lives. As parents, we can both teach about and model a life that is surrendered to God: learning and growing through loving discipline, and giving grace when the goal of discipline has been realized.
As we encourage our children to submit to our discipline, they should willingly do so because they have a respect for our authority. Therefore, it is important that we emphasize the Biblical teachings on submission to authority, so that our children mature with a right understanding in this area.
Whether it is government leaders, spiritual leaders, or household leaders, the heads (or authorities) appointed by God are entrusted with the duty of protecting the institutions they lead. Christ is the Good Shepherd of his Church, and he protects us from Satan and sin (see John 10:11-15). Elders are under-shepherds, tasked with keeping out the "wolves" of false doctrine and maintaining unity of the body (as in 1 Peter 5:1-4). Our government offers services for safety and military for protection. Romans 13:4 tells us that our governing authorities are put in place by God to do us good. Even in the home, we see that the headship of a husband and father offers protection and is ordained by God (see Numbers 30:3-15). Likewise, children are instructed to submit to the authority of their parents, so that it will go well with them (Ephesians 6:1-3).
God wants us to commit ourselves and our lives to him, because he is worthy and he has only our good in mind. Yet the Bible also reveals that submitting ourselves to God, with a right heart, brings us blessing. God asks for our willing surrender to his Word, to his plans and purposes, and to his Spirit for our own best interest and for our own blessing.
Deuteronomy 4:39-40 says it beautifully: "'Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you….'"
So be encouraged that, although it's not "easy" to do things God's way rather than our own, there are great rewards. Just one of them is that our children will see us grow in our dependence on the Lord and submit to his plans for our lives. In so doing, they will develop a proper understanding of surrender that will carry over into their own relationship with the Lord.
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