Discipleship. Sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? Well, I thought so, and therefore I had scheduled a class at church for men who wanted to be discipled. We had a signup and about a dozen men put their name on the dotted line. About a week before the class was to begin, I was in the lobby next to the signup sheet. A lady came over to me and said: “Oh Pastor, you must have overlooked my husband’s name, he’s not on the list”. My response was, “I’m sorry, I must have made a mistake” (even though I knew that her husband did not want to join our class) “I’ll add him immediately.” At that point, I glanced at her husband’s face. He looked like he had just been drafted into the war! He was not happy, but what was he going to say?
Maybe you have your own description of what you picture “discipleship” to be. Hopefully it is not as painful as that man’s facial expression in the lobby. Have you ever associated the term with one simple word: “surrender”? I don’t know about you, but when I think about surrendering, I think of waving the white flag, of giving up, just like they did in those civil war movies. The Confederates would be fighting valiantly for days on end until they couldn’t go on anymore; then you see them bring out the white flag, ready to give up. Discipleship is associated with surrender, but not in a negative way such as losing the final battle.
I was in a bookstore a few years back, and my eye caught the title of a certain book, “The Discipline of Surrender”, by Douglas Webster. I didn’t have time to read the book, but I liked the title so much I bought it. I know what you’re thinking: don’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, it turned out well. Webster begins the book with Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” This is the part of discipleship that we don’t talk much about because it causes the person being discipled to ask the question: “Do I want to do this? Am I willing to deny myself, my own desires, my own ideas, my own plans for my future? Am I willing to surrender everything that I have in order to gain everything that He has to offer?
A great illustration of the benefits of surrender is in the case of Gideon. The book of Judges is a book about disobedience and misery. It is about a people who after one generation no longer recognized the stories of Jehovah nor did they obey the commands which were spelled out for them through their leader Joshua. These people would have been destroyed if God had not intervened. God used the judge Gideon, to defeat the Midianites, but the battle plan was very unusual. Gideon had 32,000 men who were planning on going to battle with him, but God said, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into your hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, “Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.” (Judges 7:2-3) “Too many men”! Are you kidding me? Then God continued to additionally take even more men away from Gideon until he was left with a mere 300 men. It wasn’t what Gideon had in mind, but it was what God wanted, and that is what Gideon had to surrender to. (I suggest you read Judges 7 sometime today, it is quite a story).
Being a disciple isn’t about waving the white flag and losing the battle; it is about being humble and realizing that God’s way is perfect, even if it means doing things in an unconventional way. Remember the title of the book was “The Discipline of Surrender”. Is there an area of your life which you need to surrender to God? I know, you feel safer with 32,000 men rather than 300. Who doesn’t? But the point is, what does God want this moment, this day, this week, this year in your life? When Gideon surrendered to God, that is when he found the victory. That is the discipline of surrender.