Matthew 23:12; John 1:16–18; Romans 5:3–5, 12:1; James 4:6–11; 1 Peter 5:6–7
The alternative to self-reliance is surrender; to humble oneself under God’s mighty right hand. This sounds easy enough, but it is 180 degrees from our nature. What makes it worse is that often when we surrender to the leading of God’s Spirit, we are met with difficulty and suffering. It’s not that God wants us to be miserable or enjoys causing us pain, rather our broken world hates those surrendered to God (John 15:18–19). The question is not, “Will we suffer if we surrender to God?” but “How will we respond to the suffering we will certainly face?”
Two responses are possible. The first is something like this: “I’m not sure God is doing his job very well. I think I’d better help him out a little bit.” This leads us back across the self-reliance path to disillusionment or delusion. The second is perseverance in surrender: obeying, trusting, and learning to hoist on God the inevitable anxieties we will face. I love 1 Peter 5:7 because it tells us that we will have anxiety when we humble ourselves under God’s authority, but it also tells us that God cares about us, shares in our suffering, and is willing to exchange our anxiety for his peace.
God uses something bad (suffering) to produce something good. What is the good produced? Romans 5:3–5 tells us, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Endurance, character, and hope are produced. The other thing it does is it demonstrates the depth of our humility which determines God’s timing. (1 Peter 5:6: “at the proper time he may exalt you”). God knows the proper time to lift us up—when we are humble enough to know that we don’t deserve to be lifted up and to know that what we need is more grace.
And that’s exactly what he does—exalts us upward to receive more grace. This leads to a deeper relationship with him, making us even newer people. And then we get to choose again, and again, and again whether to surrender or to say, “Thanks. I’ve got it from here.” This process of surrender, suffering, exaltation, and receiving grace upon grace will continue for the rest of our days, as long as we do not choose down and to the right. This round and round process is called sanctification—and sanctification is a part of salvation. More on that later.
Share with your group a time in your life when you truly surrendered to a leading of God’s Spirit. Share how you suffered during that time and how you responded to that suffering.