Michael Youssef - The Blessing of Surrender
Sir Winston Churchill said during World War II, "We will never surrender, never, never, never surrender". I know these words of Sir Winston Churchill have encouraged a lot of people, many people, through the years, and they hung on to this. And today I want to tell you that there are times when we must never, never, never surrender. But then I'm going to show you again from the Word of God that there are times when surrender is the only secret of blessing. Now I'm talking, of course, about the surrender of my will and your will to the will of God, the surrender of our plans to the plan of God for our lives. The surrender of our desires to his desire for us. It is that surrender that I'm talking about, and that is why I would like to call it sweet surrender. Can you say that with me?
Now, I want to give you a warning, a warning, warning. That surrender is not always sweet. There are times when that surrender doesn't feel sweet. There are times when that surrender is painful, when that sweet surrender is filled with agony and grief. Why do I say this? Because by nature, and the Bible calls that the flesh, our lower nature. By nature, by nature we want to do our own thing. By nature we want our own way. By nature we want to chart our own course. By nature we want to be the captains of our ships and the ships of our lives. By nature we want to be in charge of our destiny. By nature we want to handle our problems, and by nature we love, and we fall in love with our own strength and our own thinking, with our own ego.
Now, all of this is well and good, even for those who try, until the ship of life hits an iceberg, and the ship begins to take water in. And then they begin to think of surrender. And this is where we find our friend Jacob in Genesis 32. We began to look at this man's life from the prism of the grace of God that is multiplied. Jacob was a man whose name had to be changed from Jacob to Israel, because you see, that's what the grace of God does. There are some people in the church of Jesus Christ who think that those of us who are in the Reform tradition believe that grace is merely a license to live in sin after salvation. And that is why they reject it, but this is a misunderstanding, as many times I quoted Charles Spurgeon. He said, "The grace of God that does not transform our lives into the image of Jesus Christ is not the grace of Jesus Christ".
You see, grace has to change us, change every one of us, from a Jacob to Israel. And so here we see this so clearly in Genesis 32, and Jacob is truly caught between the rock and the hard place. In Genesis 32, we find Jacob in a deep predicament. His uncle/father-in-law was pursuing him from behind, and he was after him. His brother Esau, whom 20 years earlier vowed to kill Jacob, heading toward him. I mean, just think about this. This is not between the rock and the hard place. This is like this. I mean, the rock coming right in front of you, and the hard place behind you. This is what you call, beloved friends, heads you lose, tails you lose. There is no way out. His uncle behind him, he wants to dominate him. His brother in front of him, he wanted to kill him, or at least that's what Jacob thought.
That's exactly what he thought. This is something was in his head, and he believed it. Even though his fears were not based on facts, even though his fears were based on conjecture, even though his fears were based not on reality, but he believed it. This is what he thought. This is what he anticipated in his head. So look closely at this very exciting episode in Jacob's life. If you review the situation, you find, of course, here in verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 32, Jacob sees an angel of the Lord going before him. But that was not enough, because there's more. In the past 20 years he has seen the hand of God working in him, and specifically the last 6 years God blessed him out of his socks in ways he could never have anticipated. Twenty years earlier he saw a vision of the preincarnate Christ and a ladder going from earth to heaven, and the angels ascending and descending.
That's why he called it, "This is the house of God, Bethel". But way, way, way, way back before he was born, God gave an oracle to his mother that the descendant of the Messiah is going to come through his line, not his brother, Esau. Twenty years earlier he saw a vision. God fulfilled his promises. He blessed him, he left a solitary man, and he says this in verse 10: "But now I become two armies". God promised Jacob that he will be the fulfillment of the covenant that God made with his grandpa, Abraham. And yet, of all these facts, with all this knowledge, with all those realities, at a moment of panic and fear, Jacob forgets all that. Have you been there too? I mean, you look back and how God blessed you, how God protected you, how God did things for you and you were overwhelmed, but then a moment of fear, a moment of panic, and all that is forgotten. Ah, but some rumor, hearsay, false information, some misunderstanding, we plunge into a survival mode, and we begin our own wild schemes.
Verse 9, Jacob sends one telegraphic prayer, and he's not really sure if God is going to answer. He's not really sure yet. He just sends it fast and hopes for the best. So he asked himself, "What do I remember about my brother Esau? It's been 20 years since I saw him. But I do remember some things about him. What do I remember about him? What about his character? What kind of a person he is. Ah, I remember. He is greedy and covetous. He is into instant gratification. I mean, he sold me his birthright for a bowl of soup. He wants to satisfy his ferocious appetite. I know what to do. I feed his greed. I feed his covetousness. I'm going to send him stuff". Here's his scheme. "What I'll do, I'll send him goats and then wait in the hope that he likes goats, but if he doesn't like goats, I'm going to send him camels. Maybe he's going to like camels. But if he doesn't like camels, I'll send him donkeys. Donkeys are cute, aren't they? I'll send him some donkeys. And if he doesn't like donkeys, I'll send sheep. I mean, I'm going to keep sending the fruit of the month until he gets something that he likes".
In a state of panic, he tries to buy his brother off. My precious brothers and sisters, what Jacob did not realize was that God had already heard and answered his prayer, and he's answering him in ways that he could never imagine. Look at Jacob's closely please with me. God did not only prepare his brother's Esau's heart and cause him to repent and to forgive his brother Jacob, but God himself showed up. Be very careful when you pray a prayer like this, because God is going to show up, and don't miss him when he shows up. Don't miss him. Esau is sending 400-men army not to kill his brother Jacob, but as a welcoming committee. How do you like them apples? I wonder how many of us, in our scheming, we become so possessed with our own negative emotions, our own negative imagination, and we think the worst.
I want to share with you four thoughts that whenever you find yourself at the horns of a dilemma, ask yourself that question. If you don't have a pen and paper, get your iPhone and send yourself a memo. Write those four things down. I hope you'll never forget them. You might not need them now, but you will need them at some point. First of all, find out what causes you to tremble. Secondly, understand the necessity of wrestling, and thirdly, discover the blessing of clinging. And fourthly, experience the power of limping. They will make sense in a minute, okay? Find out what is causing you to tremble. You're facing a problem, real or imaginary, it's in your mind or it's not, doesn't matter. Most often what causes us fear, what cause us to tremble, is not even real. Most often. Most of it is in our own imagination. Most of it, based on half-truths. Most of it is not even factual, but be that as it may, I'm going to take it for granted that it's real.
When Jacob heard that Esau is coming to meet him with 400-man army, he panicked. He become a panic-stricken man. After all, why in the world would Esau be coming out to meet him with that many people? This is the very man 20 years earlier said, "I'm going to kill you". And Jacob trembled and shook. That's what the literal word, he was trembling, he was shaking. All night long, he was trembling. Over what? Erroneous information, wild imagination, and wrong contemplation. Jacob was sleepless. He can't sleep, he's tossing and turning. He's restless. Every time an animal makes a noise, he starts singing, "Nearer, my God, to thee". Every time he hears an unusual sound, he probably was reciting the Lord's Prayer. Now he didn't, but you do. Which brings me secondly to the necessity of wrestling with God. I'm going to explain that to you, because a lot of people misunderstand that part. I want to explain it very carefully. Verses 9 to 12, and Jacob cries out to the Lord, and he says, "O Lord, my God, deliver me".
My beloved friends, I hope you know what you are saying when you pray a prayer like this, because you might be praying for something but then you discover that the Lord himself shows up, and he's right there. In the midst of fear and terror, Jacob cries to the Lord, and the Lord shows up in person. Watch this, don't miss it. Don't miss it. The Lord shows up to bless Jacob. That's really the purpose of coming, of showing up. He wants to bless Jacob, but here is a big but. Before he could bless Jacob, he needed Jacob to surrender. In the middle of the darkness, the preincarnate Christ appears to Jacob. Now, some of you know this, some of you may not know, but in the Old Testament the Lord Jesus, the preincarnate Christ, appeared many times. He appeared to Abraham, he appeared many times. The theologians have a big word for it. They call it theophany. Can you say theophany?
Now you've passed first year of seminary. Here's something else I don't want you to miss, because many of the Bible, and the wording and the translation says that Jacob was wrestling with God. You got it? You see it in your Bible? And many a preacher, through the years I've heard they said, "Oh, Jacob wrestled with God. You must wrestle with God until God answers you. You must do this and you must do that". Now, wait, wait, hold on. The Lord did not show up so that he may give Jacob an opportunity to wrestle with him. Are you with me? The Lord was not really looking for a wrestling match. The Lord showed up so that he may wrestle with Jacob, rather than the other way around. It is true that Jacob asked for a blessing, but he would not get it until he surrendered. It was God who showed up to bring Jacob to the point of surrender, because he was not going to get that blessing until he surrendered.
In the end, he wanted it and yes, he received it, but God waited until he surrendered. Just as the camel cannot receive goods until he kneels, he's too high. And I'm going to explain to you this is really the root of the Hebrew word. The word barakah means a blessing. It has its root in the word of kneeling, barakh. A camel has to get down on all four in order for the blessing to be loaded on top of him. In the same way, God will not bless the non-surrendered. There can be no real blessings without surrender. There can be no true success. Oh, there might be worldly success. I'm talking about true success, without submission. There can be no true victory without relinquishing control. There can be no effectiveness, true effectiveness for God, without yielding. There can be no great power without obedience. Find what cause you to tremble.
Understand the necessity of God wrestling with you. Experience the blessing of clinging. Jacob kept up the struggle til daybreak. He was not about to surrender. If you think it's easy, you have not been there. He stubbornly held on. He wanted the blessings from the Lord, but the Lord would not give him the blessing until he surrendered. And because the Lord did not want Jacob to see his face, he was about to leave without blessing him, because Jacob would not surrender. Beloved, I personally believe that Jacob knew why the Lord was wrestling with him. It's for his good. It's for his good. And so he clung on to the Lord, but the Lord wanted of his chosen vessels, all his chosen vessels, what he wants from them is to learn just as he wanted Jacob to learn that all of his past striving and all of his past struggling, all of his past scheming, all of his past maneuvering and manipulating, all the stuff that he been doing, did not really bring him a real blessing. But now he must struggle against the Lord and lose.
See, that's the purpose of wrestling. God does not come here just to have a wrestling match, and he wants us to lose. Find what cause you to tremble. Understand the necessity of wrestling. Experience the blessing of clinging. Finally, welcome the power of limping. The last thing that you see here in Genesis 32 is dear old Jacob limping his way over to meet with his brother, Esau. He was limping. It's not all that bad. Not all limping is bad. It is a limp that says, "I am decreasing and God is increasing". It is a limp that says, "I am walking not in my own strength anymore". It is a limp that says, "I am no longer Jacob; I am Israel". And the word "Isra-el" means God rules or God commands or God prevails, more accurately. Just like the other names, Danielle, Daniel, Dani-el means God judges. Or Samu-el, Samuel, God hears. Isra-el, God prevails. God prevails. He's no longer a grabber, Jacob, but God prevails. Jacob lost, and he began to experience true success.
Beloved, let's be honest with each other. The world outside will never understand, they will never understand until they come to Christ. They will never understand that for us believers in the Lord Jesus, our success is in losing to the Lord. Our victory is in surrendering to the Lord. Our blessing is in submission to the Lord. For years, Jacob contented and cheated and, his father and tried to cheat his brother, and he tried to scheme and maneuver, and didn't go very far. God said, "From your loins, my Messiah is going to come. From your seed, Jesus the Messiah, will be born". And therefore, you have to lose so that God may win. Now, I'm not saying that any of us in this kind of a situation now, but you are a beloved child of God. Jesus died on the cross for you. He loves you so dearly, and he wants you to surrender because he wants to bless you. Can I get an amen? Because here he is, Jacob, 20 years later, he was still terrified of his brother Esau. He's not living in victory. Despite of the fact that he was successful, worldly standards and everything else. He was still living in fear, not in victory. But now he knows what victory is all about. So let me ask you, are you ready to lose? Are you ready to lose? Are you ready to give up fighting? Are you ready to surrender?