Are Commitment and Surrender the Same?

Dr. Marvin Powers told our Sunday School class of his experience of learning that although he was committed to following Christ, he was not totally surrendered.

In the week following his enlistment in the U.S. Army, he was brought to a cross-road confrontation with Christ. In a late-night prayer session, while all alone, he pled for forgiveness and arose a new creation!

That night God called him to enter the ministry. He was surprised! He had never given a thought to this possibility, but the challenge instantly gripped him.

While in the army he witnessed to others and studied the Bible. He was committed to this task of ministry. Upon discharge, he entered college in order to prepare to fulfill God's call. As a college student, speaking engagements opened for him.

Dr. Powers tells it like this:  "Preaching was primary! I was committed to this honorable task and pictured myself moving both forward and--and shall I say it?--upward upon graduation."

One day while in prayer, a whisper as gentle as a breath of air made its way into his inner consciousness. That tender murmur raised a point about his motivation for preaching. He put it from his mind, thinking it may have arisen from some outside psychological source. Or perhaps even Satan! Yet inexplicably, he affirmed to the unidentified Whisperer that his purpose was to reach people for Christ and his preparation was putting him into a better position to touch even larger crowds.

The Voice came back. "Why--just why--are you doing what you do in the pulpit?"

He saw that he was in a conflict of some sort and hardly knew what to make of it. "Lord, I am committed to a lifetime of service in your Kingdom. I am willing to work hard to fulfill the calling you have brought into my life!"  He was unable to pinpoint the thing that was creating the fogginess--or was he?

On the last day of that year, he awakened and before getting out of bed, he reached for his New Testament. He flipped it open, randomly, and his eyes fell on these words:

"What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ" (Phil. 3:7).

The Spirit spoke to his heart lovingly, but with a powerful question: "You don't count your ministry loss for Me, do you?"

Instantly the truth became clear. In his unhesitating commitment to do the work of God through ministry, he was not surrendered to making it all for God's glory! For the first time, he got a glimpse of 'self,' of pride, of peoples' favorable opinions, of residual corruption within him that he did not know existed.

His heart was overwhelmed with sorrow. He recognized he had taken the message of God's sacrificial love and used it to bring glory to himself. He saw that his quest for the larger crowd and the popular church reflected the desires of his own self-will. He knelt in a tiny bedroom closet, and through a morning of agonizing heart-searching and bending his will to meet God's will, he made every effort to give himself to God in absolute surrender despite the crashing of his grandiose dreams.

"I told God that I no longer wanted to pursue the large church, that He could send me to 'Podunk Center' (which He eventually did!), that He could bury me unknown in the heart of Africa, that I would follow His will in preaching without consideration of praise or criticism.

In those moments, Marvin Powers got beyond sincere commitment to full surrender. With that surrender came a sweeping heart-cleansing and an infilling of the Holy Spirit that has made all the difference in his ministry.

"I can testify that in full surrender to Christ and the rejection of the claim to myself-from that last day of the year 1947 to the present--I have never preached a sermon except for the glory of God."

Sincere commitment is wonderful, but only absolute surrender enables us to say wholeheartedly, "To God be the glory!"

Correction: In last Friday's devotional, the quote was from Oswald Chambers - not Charles Spurgeon.