“You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Christians are oddball people. It took me quite awhile to figure that one out. They give up.
When I was young I used to read the prayers in the pew missal. There were all kinds of prayers – a prayer of confession. There were prayers to be said after receiving communion (something we find on pages 1-8 of our pew missal). A there was this prayer that really bothered me. A few lines from that prayer (attributed to Ignatius of Loyola):
“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess”
I said to myself – hold on – that cannot be right. Why would I give up those things? Didn’t God give me a will in the first place?
Frankly, this prayer confused and angered me. In those feelings I eventually found the source of my sin, and the source of all sin. It is our tendency to say ‘my way or the highway.’
Throughout biblical history God asked His people to surrender, to give up their will and to do His will. Again and again His people said no.
Jesus set before us the prime example of surrender as He prayed to His Father in the garden: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus agonized over surrender so much that He sweated drops of blood. Surrender is hard work. It requires intense warfare against our tendency to say no; to say ‘my will be done.’
Jesus asks us to do the hard work of surrender each day and today’s scripture exemplifies the level of surrender we are to have. It is extreme, it is powerful, and it is scary. It means saying yes to God and no to the world – even to family and friends. It means we may be hated or even killed.
If we surrender everything to God, if we choose – and we have to choose one way or the other – we rely on God to work things out. We stop trying to manipulate, plan, force our agenda, or control the situation. We no longer react to criticism or rush to defend ourselves. Our way of relating is changed. People are no longer the other. They are now before us. We are no longer self-serving but other serving. We let go and let God work. Instead of trying harder, we trust more.
Each day let us truly give up – giving all we have up to God. In that we will be victorious. As Revelation tells us: they have conquered because they loved not their lives even unto death.