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The Heart of Worship, Part One

By Rick Warren -- ...Give yourselves to God... surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes (Romans 6:13 TEV).

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 were taught to never quit trying, never give up, and never give in - so we dont hear much about surrendering. If winning is everything, surrendering is unthinkable. Even Christians would rather talk about winning, succeeding, overcoming, and conquering than yielding, submitting, obeying, and surrendering. But surrendering to God is the heart of worship.

Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.

True worship - bringing God pleasure - happens when you give yourself completely to God. Notice the first and last word of that verse are the same: offer.

Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about.

This act of personal surrender is called many things: consecration, making Jesus Lord, taking up your cross, dying to self; yielding to the Spirit. What matters is that you do it, not what you call it. God wants your life. All of it. 95% is not enough.

There are three barriers that block our total surrender to God: our ignorance of God - not knowing what hes really like, our sinful nature - the desire to be God ourselves, and our misunderstanding of surrender.

Can I Trust God?

Trust is an essential ingredient to surrender. You wont surrender to God unless you trust Him, but you cant trust Him until you know Him better. Fear keeps us from surrendering, but love casts out all fear. The more you realize how much God loves you, the easier surrender becomes.

How do I know God loves me? He gives us many evidences: God says he loves you (Psalm 145:9); Youre never out of his sight (Ps. 139:3); He cares about every detail of your life (Matt. 10:30); He gave you the capacity to enjoy all kinds of pleasure (1 Tim. 6:17b); He has good plans for your life (Jer. 29:11); He forgives you (Ps. 86:5); Hes patient with you (Ps. 145:8); He sacrificed his Son for you (Rom. 5:8). God loves you infinitely more than you can imagine.

God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us.

If you want to know how much you matter to God, look at Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross saying, "I love you this much! Id rather die than live without you."

God is not a cruel slave driver, or a bully who uses brute force to coerce us into submission. He doesnt 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.

Admitting our limitations

A second barrier to total surrender is our pride. We dont want to admit that were just creatures, and not in charge of everything. Its the oldest temptation: "Youll be like God!" (Gen 3:5) That desire is the cause of so much stress in your life.

Life is a struggle, but what most people dont realize is that our struggle, like Jacobs, is really with God! We want to be God, and theres no way you are going to win that struggle.

A.W. Tozer said, "The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they havent yet come to the end of themselves. Were still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us."

We arent God, and never will be. Were humans. It is when we try to be God that we end up most like Satan, who tried the same thing.

We accept our humanity intellectually, but not emotionally. We give mental assent to the idea, but when faced with our own limitations, we react with irritation, anger, and resentment. We want to be taller (or shorter), smarter, stronger, more talented, beautiful, and wealthy. We want to have it all and do it all, and become upset when it doesnt happen. Then, when we notice God gave others characteristics we dont have, we respond with envy, jealousy, and self-pity.

What it means to surrender

Surrendering to God is not passive resignation, fatalism, or an excuse for laziness. It is not accepting the status quo. It may mean the exact opposite: sacrificing your life in resistance to evil and injustice, or suffering in order to change what needs to be changed. God often calls surrendered people to do battle on his behalf. It is not for cowards or doormats.

Surrendering is not putting your brain in neutral and giving up rational thinking. God would not waste the mind he gave you! God does not want robots to serve him; he already has angels.

Surrendering is not repressing your personality. God wants to use your unique personality. Rather than being diminished, surrendering enhances it. C. S. Lewis observed, "The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because he made us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."

Surrendering is best demonstrated in obedience; cooperating with your Creator. You say, "Yes Lord" to whatever he asks of you. Actually, "No, Lord" is a contradiction. You cannot claim Jesus as your Lord when you refuse to obey him. After a night of failed fishing, Peter modeled surrender when 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 Gods word, even if it doesnt make sense.

In the life of Abraham we see another aspect of surrender: trust. Surrendering your life means following Gods leading without knowing where; waiting for Gods perfect timing without knowing when; expecting a miracle without knowing how; trusting Gods purpose without knowing why circumstances happen.

Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him.

You know youre 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 dont have to always be "in charge." Instead of trying harder, you trust more.

You also know youre surrendered when you dont react to criticism and rush to defend yourself.

Surrendered hearts show up best in relationships. You are not self-serving, you dont edge others out, and you dont demand your rights.

The most difficult thing to surrender for many people is their money. Many have thought, "I want to live for God but I also want to earn enough money to live comfortably and retire someday." Retirement is not the goal of a surrender life.

Because it competes with God for the primary attention of our lives, Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God and money," and "Wherever your treasure is, your heart will be also."

The supreme example of self-surrender is Jesus. The night before his crucifixion Jesus surrendered himself to Gods 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."

Jesus didnt pray, "God, if youre able to take away this pain, please do so." He began by affirming that God can do anything! Instead he prayed, "God, if it is in your best interest to remove this suffering, please do so. But if it fulfills your purpose, thats what I want too."

Genuine surrender says "Father, if this problem, pain, sickness, or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose and glory in my, life or in anothers, please dont take it away!" This level of maturity does not come easy. In Jesus case, he agonized so much over Gods plan that he sweat drops of blood. Surrender is hard work. In our case, it is intense warfare against our self-centered nature.

This article originally appeared in Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free, email newsletter available from Used by permission.

The Ministry ToolBox is for ANYONE serving Jesus Christ. For a free subscription, you can sign up at

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA., a congregation that now averages 16,000 in attendance each weekend. Rick is also author of "The Purpose Driven Church," and founder of, a global Internet community for those in ministry. You may reprint this article in your publication with the following attribution: From Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for those in ministry,

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