Saturday, July 9, 2011

Grasping the Nettles of Commitment ~ Part 2

Tender-handed stroke a nettle,
And it stings you for your pains;
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains.

My new motto is "Better late than never." But I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July! I was happy because I got out of the house and visited with family. It's been a long haul with the smoke-laden skies of New Mexico, but it's better now. There is often a haze and poor air quality, but it isn't oppressive like it was at first.
This is the second half of a valuable lesson for us from Chapter 30 of Meeting God in Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith. In the second part of the lesson, LaGard wants us to understand what the parable is saying about our own reluctance to surrender to God. Why are we so hesitant? Because we're afraid it's going to hurt!

LaGard says: "Most of us flounder about, wanting to be fully committed followers of Jesus--thinking about it, coming close--yet never quite getting to the point where we are willing to "grasp the nettle"--to give ourselves wholly to God. To empty ourselves totally of self-will and self-direction. To surrender completely to Christ."

We're afraid of the unknown, asking serious questions about what it would mean:
1) What would my life be like if I really gave my life over to God?
2) What would my family think of me?
3)  How would it affect my job or career?
4) What would it cost me financially?
5) With all this at risk, do I really want to "grasp the nettle" of full surrender?

Remember the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life? He had obeyed all the commandments, though probably without much sacrifice. But when Jesus asked him about giving up all his possessions, his heart couldn't make the complete surrender that was required. Ask yourself about your own willingness to surrender. What treasures in your life are you unwilling to give up for God? Are you holding on to something at all cost?                                        

The prophet Joel tells us that we aren't alone in deciding whether to surrender to God. He says: "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision." And what he's really saying is that most of us go through an entire lifetime in the valley of indecision. We just can't decide whether to surrender to God--or NOT!

The prophet Elijah was on a mountaintop when he asked the people of God to choose between the one true God and Baal. The verse says: "Elijah went before the people and said, 'How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.' But the people said nothing." NOTHING! Saying nothing is saying everything. It says that we haven't given up self to trust in God's leading.

Another man who chose God was Joshua when he said: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua's surrender to God was a matter of life and death. And then there was Moses, who said to the children of Israel: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life...." Moses was pleading with the Israelites to cling to the God of their salvation--to surrender all for Him.

But no one "grasped the nettle" like Jesus did. Jesus had no possessions to give up like the rich young man who wanted to inherit eternal life. But Jesus knew that surrender to God doesn't lead to death, it leads to life. Sweating drops of blood, His agony was apparent when He prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me." And then He said, "Yet not my will, but yours be done." Not even death was too great a sacrifice. Jesus' surrender was complete because He knew there is freedom in submission. And there is liberation in wholehearted, unwavering commitment!

Can we begin to say like Jesus, "Not my will, but yours"? Are our eyes fixed on Jesus who endured the cross for us? LaGard says: "Through his complete surrender on the cross, Jesus has already grasped the nettle for us. He has taken away the sting of death. All we need to do is to put our hand in his--to feel the softness of his love and never let go!"

It's wonderful to me that we have a choice...we can make the decision or's up to us whether we surrender to God and live our lives through the love of Christ. Stresses and strains make it hard for us to give up our stubborn control, but you can be sure that it will make life more worthwhile in every way.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!


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