For they gave according to their means…and beyond their means of their own accord…and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
2 Corinthians 8:3–5
“It’s complete surrender.” These are the last words of Eric Liddell, Scotland’s finest athlete. Those familiar with the movie Chariots of Fire will remember Liddell as the man who refused to run on Sunday, even when it meant not running the 100-meter sprint in which he was favored to win Olympic gold. Instead, Liddell entered the 400-meter race—a race that no one believed he could seriously compete in, let alone win. In the 1924 Olympic Games, Liddell shocked the world and brought glory to his God when he not only won the gold medal, but also set a world record in the process.
What is less known about Liddell is that, while at the height of his running career, he left his home in Scotland to serve as a missionary to China. Throughout his life, he was known for his astounding progress in spiritual growth. No matter the circumstances in which he found himself, Liddell was always a faithful ambassador for the Kingdom of Heaven, even in a Japanese internment camp where he would eventually give his life for Christ. With his final breath, Eric Liddell revealed the secret to spiritual maturity—“It’s complete surrender.”
In the sermon this week, Mark reminded us that before we can give ourselves up for others we must first give ourselves to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5). In other words, we must surrender. According to Liddell, “Surrender means that we are prepared to follow God’s guidance, wherever or however He guides, no matter what the cost.” In the context of finances, many of us will find that we have been reluctant to surrender that part of our lives.
What is it that keeps us from surrendering our finances or any other aspect of our lives to the Lord? For some of us, we are not willing to surrender certain parts of our lives to the Lord because we believe we can manage our lives better than God can. If we surrender to Him, then we ultimately lose control over how we spend our time, our talents, and our treasures. And this loss of control frightens us. Why? Because in our heart of hearts we do not trust the one to whom we are surrendering.
The rich young ruler knew this very well. When Jesus invited him to sell all he had and give it to the poor, the wealthy and powerful young man knew that this was the ultimate act of surrender for him. Ultimately it was an act of surrender that he was not prepared to perform, and so he walked away from Jesus with all of his wealth, and also a deep sadness in his soul. You see, the more one has to lose, the more difficult surrender becomes. Thus the difficulty we have in America with surrendering our finances. How can we trust the Lord to such a degree that though it may cost us everything, we will surrender all?
Perhaps the answer may be found by remembering what Jesus has done for us. The scriptures tell us that “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” No one has ever had more to lose than Jesus, and for no one has surrender ever cost so much. Yet, we find that the one who invites us to surrender all to Him has already surrendered all for us. And in His surrender of Himself even to the point of death on a cross, He has secured for us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, and an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. If we are to make any progress in the Christian life, we must agree with Eric Liddell that the secret to following Jesus in every part of our lives, including our finances, is “complete surrender.”