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Words: Elisha Albright Hoffiman (b. May 7, 1839; d. Nov. 25, 1929)
Music: Elisha Albright Hoffiman
Note: As of writing this, the Cyber Hymnal gives a date of 1905 for the publication. However, Hymnary.org shows a song book with it, dating 1900, so that seems the better option.
Every now and then, in the news, a near drowning is reported, a tragedy that was thwarted by the bold rescue action of another swimmer. But frequently it happens that the desperate person thrashes about violently, when approached, striking out at his would-be saviour in panic. Until the drowning person surrenders to his rescuer, he puts them both in peril. It’s in giving up that he gains what he truly needs.
In most situations this is counter-intuitive. Usually, those in trouble are urged to keep trying, and even redouble their efforts. Quitters are scorned, drop-outs are despised, while individual effort and personal persistence are lauded. But there are some cases when resignation is victory, when surrender brings success. That is so in our relationship with the Lord.
The Bible makes it plain that no one will ever get to heaven by his or her own efforts. Salvation is by the grace of God–His unmerited favour–”not of works lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). It is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Tit. 3:5). It is through faith in the Calvary work of Christ that one becomes a Christian (Jn. 3:16). Salvation is not a do, but a done.
And what about after that? What of how we live the Christian life? “Are you so foolish [Paul asks in Galatians]? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?…If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 3:3; 5:25).
The Word of God describes living as the Christians we’ve become through faith it as a walk of faith (II Cor. 5:7), and a life of surrender to the will of God. There is a connection between the two: “by faith Abraham obeyed” (Heb. 11:8). We obey God “doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6), because we trust His Word, and are convinced His will is best.
Over a hundred times in the New Testament Christ is called the “Lord Jesus.” He is both our Saviour and Lord. And if we call Him Lord, we are recognizing Him as the Ruler of our lives. There is a telling incident in Acts when God commands Peter to do something he doesn’t want to do. His response is, “Not so [or, No!], Lord” (Acts 10:14). But that is a contradiction. Either He is Lord or not. If He is, then His will is to be obeyed.
Yet Peter’s response is not unique. Many times life’s decisions come down to a kind of tug-of-war between God and us. One way some may try to resolve this is to compartmentalize their lives, relegating church and religion to one compartment–over which they recognize God’s management. Then, for the rest, family, friends, job, recreation, and so on, that is theirs, and they do more or less as they please with such things.
But, as someone has put it, He is either Lord of all, or not Lord at all. The Bible uses the sacrifice analogy. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the animal did not get to choose whether or not to be a sacrifice–or which part of it would be sacrificed. Then, in the New Testament we read, “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price [paid by the blood of Christ]” (I Cor. 6:19-20). We are to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).
It is in full surrender to the will of God that we find true peace and joy, and fulfilment in life. That is the theme of a gospel song by American pastor Elisha Hoffman. Among the two thousand songs he wrote–often supplying both words and music–is one that says this:
CH-1) You have longed for sweet peace,
And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed;
But you cannot have rest,
Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid.
Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.
CH-3) O we never can know
What the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soul
He doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid.
1) Is their some area of your life you have resisted turning over to the Lord’s full control?
2) What has been the result for you of clinging to the control of this area?