In the farcical sci-fi comedy movie “Galaxy Quest” the main character, played by comedian Tim Allen, has a signature line which he repeats often throughout the show: “NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!”
Through much of my life, I have heard and been taught such a philosophy. Whether it was on the football gridiron back in the glory days, when our coach would holler, “Never stop blocking until the whistle blows!” Or while running conditioning drills I would hear, “don’t loaf it in, sprint to the finish!” Or “The game isn’t over until the last second has run off the clock.” Even in our work, educational pursuits, or simple life challenges we often have ingrained into our brains that we need to keep persevering and never give in.
Now while there is great merit in being a hard worker who never succumbs to sloth and slacking, and the above stated movie is great for some good laughs, there is a lot of merit in never giving up in certain aspects of life, especially when things get tough. But there is a different kind of victory which only comes with complete surrender – Spiritual Victory.
So why would it be different in spiritual matters compared to all other aspects of life? Why would we be expected to work, strive, persist, overcome, subdue and conquer in all other life areas, but be expected to surrender when it comes to things of a spiritual nature?
We might find ourselves asking “How can this be? In spiritual warfare against the adversary, we can "never surrender.” And this is true. To the adversary we should never surrender, but to the King of Kings, surrender is our only option if we want to found on His winning side of the battlefield.
The answer may be found in the following quotes and thoughts:
THE DEFINITION OF SURRENDER = MOVING TO THE WINNING SIDE
“He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.” – (Matthew 10:39)
“Growing closer to God is not the result of trying harder, but surrendering more fully.” - Unknown
“The greatness of our spiritual strength equals the measure of our surrender.” – Anonymous
“There is only one things God wants, and that is our unconditional surrender.” – Oswald Chambers
There are a few examples in the scriptures of how this concept actually applies in real life situations. One of them is found in Alma chapter 24 where we find the story of a group of people who had spent their lives involved in plunder and warfare against their fellow countrymen, who had converted to the Lord and his gospel. As a sign and covenant with God, that in exchange for forgiveness of their sins, they literally dug a deep pit and buried their weapons of war and rebellion in the earth. They surrendered their lives to Christ!
Not long after this conversion and commitment, some of their countrymen came to battle against them. But even in this dire circumstance, “there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded then that they should not.” And when their enemies fell upon them, “they went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them on the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord.”
The story continues that when their enemies fell upon them, many of them were slain, but in this act, we assume they were taken home to God in their righteous condition. And when their enemies “saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praise God in the very act of perishing under the sword… they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done. And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and would not take them again… And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved.”
A complete surrender, which brought salvation not only to them, but also to many of their enemies!
And of course, the ultimate example of complete surrender, which brought about total victory over both temporal and spiritual sin and death, was that of Jesus, when He humbly partook of the bitter cup and proclaimed, “Father, not my will, but thine be done!”
In fact, it might be restated to say that Christ’s victory in Gethsemane, upon the cross and over the tomb was because of His total surrender to the Father’s will.
C.S. Lewis stated, “The full acting out of the self’s surrender to God, therefore, demands pain. This action, to be perfect must be done from the pure will to obey.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said – “Spiritual submissiveness is not blind faith, but deliberate obedience.” (Not My Will, but Thine, pg. 108)
In today’s fast paced world, where we seem to have to fight tooth and nail in order to stay alive, relevant or to get ahead, such submission seems to fly in the face of mortal reasoning. In fact, the voices of the world and its great and spacious building justify and proclaim that there is no harm in trying to get ahead. “And there shall also be many which shall say; Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God – He will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Yea, and there shall be many which teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.” (2 Nephi 28:8-9)
And even if our intentions are not malicious or with intent to get ahead of another, we often still tend to want to be selective in how much we surrender to the Lord. We find it convenient and easy to surrender those parts of our lives which we don’t really like anyway, but we still want to believe and cling to other aspects of our own will and desires, instead of submitting to what God desires for us. With pride we think that we know better in some regards, what is best for us, and only partially surrender.
This is the equivalent of being on the field of battle in a war which the Lord has already won. But as the final skirmishes are still being fought, despite the Lord’s open invitation to come and join Him in His victorious kingdom, we decide to remain in the midst of the battlefield and submit ourselves to the flying bullets and missiles from the rebellious but already conquered forces of the adversary – and thinking that is somehow a better position of safety than coming into the protective fold of the Lord. It makes absolutely no sense!
To these thoughts, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said – “If instead of surrendering to Him we surrender to ourselves, we are surely bowing before an unjust and unwise emperor. There can be no conditions attached to unconditional surrender to God. Unconditional surrender means we cannot keep our obsessions, possessions, or cheering constituencies. Even our customized security blankets must go. Does this sound too severe and too sacrificing? If so, it is only until we realize that if we yield to Him, He will give us everything He has.” (Not My Will, but Thine, pg. 99)
In my career, I have worked for the past 23 years with elderly people near the final stages of their lives. As I visit with them and hear their life stories, I have come to realize certain truths: Financial wealth can disappear very quickly, and even if you hold on to it through your life, you can’t take it with you when you die. Health and vitality deteriorate and eventually end in death. Knowledge and intellect can fail and be replaced by dementia. In essence, all worldly accolades and achievement will fade and eventually fall by the wayside. But our relationship with Christ will endure!
I have visited with many during their final days before passing through deaths door. Some are filled with fears and regrets, which even if they had hidden such feelings their entire lives, when faced with death and the great unknown beyond, they worry about what their future will hold. Yet I have met many others, who through lives of faithful obedience, submission and surrender, approach the gates of death with excitement, peace and longer for the blessings they already know await them.
So as we walk through the spiritual battlefield of life, let’s remember to take time to stop, and realize what side we are fighting for. Because the reality is, we are always surrendering to someone or something, there is no middle ground. We either surrender to the Christ, or we surrender to the persuasions of the adversary who wants to prevent us from giving ourselves to the Lord.
So why not surrender to Christ? Let us submit ourselves fully and unconditionally to His royal army and kingdom. For in that complete surrender to Him, Victory is obtained!