As I was worshiping, the Lord gave me a tremendous challenge for the Church in our day. “There is glory resting atop the mountain of God — blazing brilliant, bright, and glorious. I am bidding you to come up, higher up, into the glory of God. To go up higher, the pathway is first to go lower — surrender, surrender, surrender! If you will surrender all, I will lift you up higher … higher into My glorious presence!”
Every believer I have ever talked with wants to come more fully into the glory of God. However, wishing and hoping won’t get you there … and neither will working and striving allow you to attain God’s glory. In the paradoxical kingdom of God, the way “up” into God’s glory is not the higher way of striving, works, performance, etc. It is by choosing the lower way — the way of surrender.
Jesus showed us this in the parable of the wedding feast found in Luke 14:7–11. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” In the kingdom of God, those who surrender their desire to be noticed, approved, and commended are elevated and acclaimed. The path to going higher spiritually is not striving and self-promotion, but the low way — the way of humble surrender.
Though true, this can be a hard concept to grasp and a difficult lesson to learn … especially for Americans. In a society so strongly founded on efforts being rewarded and the value of everyone earning their own way, it is hard to realize that in the kingdom of God surrender, sacrifice, and submission are the pathways to promotion. As the Lord spoke to me recently, “Surrender is the seed of spiritual success.” We must transform all of our efforts to perform into efforts to surrender. We must surrender our will if we would know His ways. We must surrender our agenda to walk in His plans. And, as Jesus taught us in Luke 14, we must humbly surrender our pride if we want Him to promote us into His glorious presence.
Surrender … Then Friendship
The kingdom of God is full of great and precious promises. Many or most of these are not given to just anyone and everyone, but to those who are the friends of God. How did Abraham, the father of our faith, become one whom God called His friend? He began as a surrendered seeker who left behind his home and family to pursue a relationship with God. Abraham proved his friendship when he obeyed God and surrendered all his hopes and dreams for his son Isaac to God’s way. In the kingdom of God, friendship comes first. It grows out of surrender to God’s will and His ways.
There is a story about Britain’s great eighteenth century naval hero, Lord Horatio Nelson, that illustrates this point. While the British admiral was best known for his brilliance and dedication to his duties, he was also noted for his courtesy and kindness toward those he defeated. On one occasion, a defeated admiral, with his sword at his side, strode across the deck of his ship to meet Admiral Nelson. The defeated admiral extended his hand out to surrender to the British admiral. Lord Nelson looked at him but would not immediately shake his hand. Instead he nodded and said, “Your sword first, then your hand.”
This is what our Heavenly Father says to us. He wants to give us the gift of friendship and fellowship (for He created us for relationship with Him), but first He requires us to surrender our lives to Him. We must give God our hearts and our wills first, and then He will extend His hand of friendship, giving us the vast reaches of His kingdom — the greatest of which is His glorious presence. If we will humbly and completely surrender to the lordship of Jesus, He will open a door in the heavenlies that no man can shut — making a way for us to come higher up into the bright brilliance of His glorious presence.