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Worship Requires Surrender
By Ken Stevens

Having been involved with the St. Luke Purpose Driven Life group for the past several months, one of the core premises around being "on-purpose" is the act of worship and its inherent meaning. An entire chapter in the book is devoted to a discussion of the notion that the very heart of worship is surrender. While the word "surrender" itself can elicit negative connotations, when it comes to the Lord, surrender is the only way. Romans 6:13 states it succinctly: "Give yourselves to God...Surrender your whole being to Him to be used for righteous purposes."

I'd be the first to admit that total surrender is all but impossible, but should be the goal of every Orthodox Christian. As we learned in our seminar, there are three barriers that block our total surrender to God: fear, pride, and confusion. We naively believe it's a lot easier to control our own lives...surrendering our will to God's care is not an easy task. Although all three barriers are noteworthy, for me personally, fear or lack of trust in the Lord comes to the fore. While I gain strength for trust in the Lord through prayer and devotion, time and time again the pull of the secular world allows worry to rear its ugly head. It's a constant struggle of spiritual warfare, that is, trust in God versus anxieties of the world.

We learned that the more we realize how much God loves us, the easier surrender becomes, and that He loves us infinitely more than we can image. The group also discussed the realization that love is not just feelings...it is a multi-dimensional word that denotes awe, trust, obedience, admiration, and other characteristics that together constitute love of God. We also learned that surrender is requisite in both good and bad times in our lives. We are all faced with hurdles in life - we live in a fallen world, and no one is immune from the pain and distress of life's challenges. But as the book states, "...genuine surrender says, 'Father, if this problem, pain, sickness, or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose and glory in my life or in another's, please don't take it away.' This level of maturity does not come easily; it is intense warfare against our self-centered nature."

We learn in Orthodox theology that surrendering -- getting closer to God -- is a continuous process of growing in Christlikeness (i.e. theosis). It may take a lifetime, and sometimes in my impatience to grow in the Lord, it is incredibly frustrating for Type A's such as myself. Innately and selfishly, my attitude is "I want it now," when in fact, God's grace from surrendering it's not something you get by putting 50 cents in a pop machine. Surrender is a struggle against our self-will, our stubborn pride, and our own personal ambition. God's purpose for our lives precludes intense focus on ourselves. While I wish that I could experience one moment of surrender that lasts for my entire lifetime, I realize it is more a process or practice of surrender that must be continually nourished as the pull of life and the Evil One is unrelenting.

We pray that God will bless our lives with a full measure of steady and escalating surrender, and that our sacrifice will be acceptable to Him.

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