The Heart of Worship

“Give yourselves to God ... surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.”

Romans 6:13 (TEV)

The heart of worship is surrender. Surrender is an unpopular word, disliked almost as much as the word submission. It implies losing, and no one wants to be a loser. Surrender evokes the unpleasant images of admitting defeat in battle, forfeiting a game, or yielding to a stronger opponent. The word is almost always used in a negative context. Captured criminals surrender to the authorities. In our competitive world we’re taught to never quit trying, never giving up, and never giving in - so we don’t hear much about surrendering. If winning is everything, surrendering is unthinkable. Yet, the Bible teaches us that rather than trying to win, succeed, overcome, and conquer, we should instead yield, submit, obey, and surrender.

And by surrendering to God, we enter into the heart of worship. This is true worship: bringing pleasure to God as we give ourselves completely to him. Surrendering is best demonstrated in obedience, cooperating with your Creator. You say “Yes, Lord” to whatever he asks of you. In fact, “No, Lord” is a contradiction. You can’t claim Jesus as your Lord when you refuse to obey him. Peter modeled surrender when, after a night of failed fishing, Jesus told him to try again: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Surrendered people obey God’s word, even when it doesn’t make sense.

God is not a cruel slave driver or a bully who uses brute force to coerce us into submission. He doesn’t try to break our will, but woos us to himself, so that we might offer it freely to him. God is a lover and a liberator, and surrendering brings freedom, not bondage. When we completely surrender ourselves to Jesus, we discover that he is not a tyrant but a savior; not a boss, but a brother; not a dictator, but a friend. Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7 (GWT)

Surrendering your life means: Following God’s lead without knowing where he’s sending you; Waiting for God’s timing without knowing when it will come; expecting a miracle without knowing how God will provide; Trusting God’s purpose without understanding the circumstances. You know you’re surrendered to God when you rely on God to work things out instead of trying to manipulate others, force your agenda, and control the situation. You let go and let God work. You don’t have to always be in charge. Instead of trying harder, you trust more. You also know you’re surrendered when you don’t react to criticism and rush to defend yourself.

Surrendered hearts show up best in relationships. You are not self-serving, you don’t edge others out, and you don’t demand your rights. The most difficult thing for many people to surrender is their money. The supreme example of self-surrender is Jesus. The night before his crucifixion Jesus surrendered himself to God’s plan. He prayed, “Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine” (Mark 14:36 NLT). Jesus surrendered himself to God’s will. He prayed, “God, if it is in your best interest to remove this suffering, please do so. But if it fulfills your purpose, that’s what I want, too.”