When to Act and when to Surrender

This has been the toughest question for me in my five years of being a Christian. Before this, I would say that acting and fighting back was the only right or noble option when put in a tough situation, but as many of you know fighting all the time can be exhausting. I will never forget when after making a series of emotional decisions to “fight back” a friend of mine asked me, “aren’t you tired of fighting?” When he asked me this, the question really impacted me because the truth is, I really was tired of fighting. As I read through the bible, we have examples of both people who in their faith patiently waited on God like Joseph and we also have examples of people in their faith acted courageously for God like Nehemiah. Regardless of the decision we make, it must be by faith. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 it says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” This much is clear, our decision to act or not act, must be made in faith. If through prayer, meditation, scriptures, and advice we believe it is Gods will for us to act, we must act with the faith that God is going with us and will give us victory. If we believe that it is Gods will to surrender control in a given situation, we must surrender completely with the faith that God is way bigger than we are and can take care of things much better than we can.

I remember when my wife and I were deciding if we wanted to go to Spain on the mission field or not. I wanted God to just lay it all out for us so clearly, I didn’t want to have to do anything because in our fear, we really needed the writing on the wall if this is his will or not. A lot of time went by and I remember realizing that if we do not act, we will not be prepared for such a big move. We decided to begin planning to move to Spain while still being surrendered if God should close the door. We constantly prayed to God that if it is not his will, do not allow us to go. This has been my blue print for every “big” task I would like to pursue. I begin to investigate, read scriptures, pray, get advice, and actually pursue it actively and trusting God in faith to close the door if it is not his will as he did with Paul in Acts 16:6-7:

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.

I think sometimes as Christians and for people who do not like taking issues head on, we can hide behind the word “surrender” as really a cover up for not wanting to or being too scared to act. I also think as Christians, we can confuse our emotions with our faith and think the Holy Spirit is leading us to act (my struggle), when it is really just our emotions. Having said that, there certainly is as Solomon says, “a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.[1]” However, discerning which stance to take can be very difficult. The first step is being honest with ourselves and putting it in the light. As John says in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” If we are scared, be honest about being scared rather than hiding behind common Christian phrases like, “I’m just surrendered” and “I’m trying to be wise.” If we are emotional, angry, over zealous and want to act on these emotions immediately, we should own that as well and not confuse it by saying things like, “I really feel the Holy Spirit put it on my heart” or “Jesus wasn’t a doormat.” This is just the first step and this step does not yet answer your question about what to do. Just because you are emotional and tempted to act, doesn’t automatically mean you shouldn’t and just because you are fearful doesn’t mean you shouldn’t surrender. We have to first get our flesh out of the way to discern what Gods will is. As Romans 12:1-2 says: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Being vulnerable and honest with yourself and with God is just a starting point on your journey to wrestling with God for a blessing on what to do. In my experience in seeking out Gods will sometimes he calls me to act, but in a different way then I envisioned or he will call me to surrender, but with a new found perspective. Whatever the case may be if we diligently seek out God for the answers we will receive the guidance we need.

In your situation whatever it is, are you scared and drawing back or are you angry and tempted to act out of emotion?

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:7