Last night, I had an epiphany while I was reading the book of John.
Tucked away at the end of the fourteenth chapter was one of the most startling things I have ever read.
Jesus is trying to prepare his closest friends, ( soon-to-be-successors) for his departure. They still don’t believe, or perhaps, they just don’t want to believe that he is really leaving.
Here is what Jesus said to them, (and us), that was the source of my epiphany.
(John 14:27) “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Do not LET your heart be troubled?
I was immediately struck with the implication of that scripture.
We have a choice!
We LET our hearts be troubled.
Up until last night I always assumed it was the other way around…
That trouble strikes in some form or another, and my heart was simply responding to the situation by becoming troubled.
I am betting that this is how you see it too.
Trouble descends on you: your house is robbed, your daughter gets pregnant, you lose your job, etc…
In that moment are you thinking, ” This doesn’t have to take me out. I’m not going to LET my heart be troubled.”
We think, a TROUBLED HEART is unavoidable, appropriate even.
But lets stop for just a minute, and set the stage for the conversation that Jesus is having with his friends…
He is in his final hours. He is talking to them about his coming torture, his death, and, following that, his departure from them.
On a scale of personal crisis, I would definitely say that the things he is describing are definitely a ten.
Yet he says, “Don’t LET your hearts be troubled.”
Friends, This is IMPORTANT!
In the art of Surrender, this is a ten.
You have a say in what your hearts give way to.
You can choose goodness, or wickedness.
After I was struck with the idea that it was up to me whether I LET my heart be troubled or not, I wondered if there were other scripture passages that also discussed this choice.
I found a few.
(Proverbs 24:17) Says, ” Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.
I hate to admit this, but when I read that scripture, my immediate thought was,
“Dang – I love to rejoice. I don’t get to indulge this?”
Another passage I found was:
(Psalm 62:10) It says, ” Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
Again, I was floored. How subtle this mindset can be when you get a pay increase, or a sudden windfall, and you find yourself thinking, “Now I will be okay; everything will be fine now.”
This is wrong.
Today, I want to point out that in order to surrender our hearts to God, we need to understand that we have to first make the choice to do so.
Most of us have bought into the lie that “TROUBLED HEART” equals ” natural and human response to my world.”
According to Jesus, that is just simply not true.
We actually have a say in worry, fear, anxiety and all of their cousins.
This is HUGE because these emotions almost always lead to some kind of false comforter such as addiction, unbelief, medication and scrambling.
All of those false comforters are the exact opposite of what surrender looks and feels like.
( Hebrews 4:7) Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.
Yes, I am talking to you, right now.
There is something in you that does not like the idea that you are responsible to shepherd your own heart.
I know this, because I feel the same way.
It is scary, and overwhelming to think that I am responsible for the reactions, that I have always been told were just an automatic response.
Life is easier, so we think, when we just LET ourselves react to life.
Lets go back to the point I am trying to make today:
God seems to think we have a choice.
The really big lie of sin is… that it is inevitable.
This can feel especially true with habitual sins.
When you are driving to work, and that old familiar anger starts to bubble up inside of you, and it feels like it is going to have its way with you.
That is the moment when you have the choice.
As soon as you decide that this sin is inevitable, you will fall prey to it, every single time.
BUT IT IS NOT INEVITABLE.
We now have an option.
Because of the saving work of Christ, God can work miracles within us.
The thing I loved about these passages was the realization that I actually have the ability to shepherd my own heart.
How often have you been burdened by sin, and didn’t know how to escape it.
These passages hold the key, the secret to the freedom of release.
The new model for surrender that Jesus gives us is one that flows from the inside out- from the heart.
Rather than focusing on technical rule- keeping- did I give ten percent this month, stop at yellow lights, return that book I borrowed, etc. Jesus urges us to shepherd our hearts throughout the entire day.
What do you do if that guy at work that you dislike gets fired?
When you feel something inside of you rejoicing at his misfortune?
the instant you become aware of your thoughts, and ask Jesus to forgive you.
Beg him to give you His Holiness right here, right now, in that moment you recognize your sin.
This is an absolutely wonderful thing.
The direction of your heart is NOT inevitable.
You have a say in it.
Will we shepherd our hearts perfectly?
Will we surrender our hearts every time?
Of course not!
Friends, in order to master the art of surrender, you need to set aside the notion of perfection entirely.
Acknowledge that you are on your way.
You are being transformed, right now, as you are reading these words.
But the moment you insist on total perfection, you are setting yourself up for bitter disappointment, every time!
Sin does not have to be your master. You are under Grace.
So it might be more helpful if we focus on what to do when we blow it…
The sooner the better.
For one thing, you don’t want your intimacy with God to be lost.
Another thing, the enemy is just waiting for his chance to jump all over you when you blow it.
And, I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t enjoy getting hammered by my sins for days, weeks , or longer.
Also, we are after freedom, surrender, peace; and the longer you wait to repent, the deeper a hold the sin will have on you.
I firmly believe that if we can begin to bring awareness to this idea, that we LET ourselves react to life in certain ways, we will be gaining control of our minds one choice at a time.
If we begin to practice this instead of say, just resorting to self loathing for several hours or worse, giving way to resignation, I think we will be pleasantly surprised by the freedom we gain.
Friends, surrender is our birth right.
If we seek after it, and ask God to show us the way to pursue it, it can be our way of life.
Our mindset can be one that is relaxed and at peace, no matter what the outside influences around us may be, we can find peace.
I don’t want to ever pretend or imply that the process of transformation is easy.
You already know that it isn’t.
But, I do believe that we can find the genuine goodness of Jesus in our deep and lasting struggles.
I believe it can happen; I’ve seen it happen in my own life.
Which is why, the scripture last night hit me so hard.
I have had personal experiences where I chose not to get upset, even though
I had every right to do so.
The scriptures promise us that it can happen. That we have a choice.
It is also extremely helpful to always keep in mind that this is a process.
A process that God is committed to helping you with.
It is a process in which we can cooperate.
A process that NEEDS our cooperation in order to succeed.
There is a way to find the peace that comes from Surrender…
And it starts with you making the choice to surrender.