I’ve been thinking of an old poem by Myra Brooks Welch turned into song and sung by Wayne Watson. It’s called, “The Old Violin: The Touch Of The Master’s Hand”. It starts off, “’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while, to waste his time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile.” He asked for a dollar for it, maybe two. Then an old man came up, tuned it and played a beautiful melody. The auctioneer then asked for $1,000. It then switches and says, “And many a man with life out of tune, all battered and bruised with hardship, is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd, much like that old violin…But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can understand, the worth of a soul and the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.”
In Matthew 14, Jesus is grieving John the Baptist’s death and just wants to be alone. He gets in a boat and sails to the middle of the Sea of Galilee, but the crowds follow His every move from the shore. He goes to the shore and heals the sick all day long. By late afternoon, the disciples catch up and presume to tell Jesus what to do. “You should send the crowds away to the nearby villages to buy themselves some food.” But Jesus has other plans and told them to feed the crowd. They answered in verse 17, “But all we have is five barley loaves and two fish.” “Let me have them,” Jesus replied” (TPT). He then fed the 5,000+ crowd with so little.
If you’re like me, you look at your life and say, “God, how can use you me? I have so little to offer.” But going back to the poem and the story in the Bible, value is measured based on whose hands something is in. You and I can only do so much with what I have to maximize our potential. The exponential change and growth happens when we surrender our lives to Him and place them in His hands. Your background, past and brokenness limit you in your own hands, but becomes limitless in His. Where you disqualify yourself, He tunes up and plays a beautiful melody that touches others. Submitting our life to Him is the greatest thing any one of us can do because that’s when we place it in the Master’s Hands.
One of the books I’ve just read is about discipleship and how churches can create them. The first section of the book helps to define the four areas where people get stuck in the spiritual continuum. Many people never move past exploring Christ. They stand at the edge of receiving Him, but aren’t willing to give their heart to Him. Others who have accepted Jesus struggle to reconcile their private faith with their public life. They have a hard time growing in Christ. Once people become a new creation and develop spiritual disciplines, their life transforms and they move close to Christ. However, the next move is the hardest. It’s one thing to live for Christ, but it’s a totally different thing to completely surrender to Him living a Christ centered life. It’s where we quit asking God for direction and give Him control.
Think of the story of the rich, young ruler who came to visit Jesus in Matthew 19. He asks Jesus what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. The guy then wants to know which ones. Jesus rattled off several of the 10 commandments. The ruler got excited and let Jesus know he’s been following the rules his whole life and feels like there’s more, so he asks what else. Jesus then tells him to sell everything he has, give the money to the poor and then follow Him. The young man went away sad because he was willing to follow the rules of Christianity, but he wasn’t willing to surrender his life completely to Jesus. He wanted Christianity and eternal life without fully surrendering his life.
Psalm 37:5 says, “Give God the right to direct your life, and as you trust him along the way you’ll find he pulled it off perfectly!” (TPT) We usually look down on the rich young ruler for not giving up his possessions, but you and I hold things back from Jesus all the time. We seek Him for guidance, but are we giving Him the right to direct our life? It’s like my driving navigation app. When it tells me to turn, sometimes I go straight because I think I know better. I’m driving and it’s guiding. When we approach Jesus that way, we may be living a life that is close to Christ, but it’s not fully surrendered to Him. God is calling you and I into a deeper relationship with Him that requires more surrender the closer we get. To fully surrender to Him is to fully trust Him.
Have you ever been driving and had someone in the vehicle comment constantly on your driving telling you what to do and how to do it? Did you like it? I’ve never met anyone who likes a backseat driver. According to Miriam-Webster online, a backseat driver is a passenger in a vehicle who is not controlling the vehicle but who excessively comments on the driver’s actions and decisions in an attempt to control the vehicle. We’ve all experienced it from someone in our lives. They make comments about your driving, especially when they feel like you’re taking a risk that they wouldn’t take. What they don’t realize is that backseat driving increases the risk of having a crash because of the added stress and distraction.
When you and I accept Jesus as our savior, we put Him in the driver’s seat of our lives. We, in effect, step out of that role and become a passenger. The church phrase is, “surrendering your life to Christ”. Yet how many of us have truly surrendered our lives to Him? We don’t mind surrendering the parts of our life we struggle with, but being a Christian is about surrendering everything. Remember the old hymn “I Surrender All”? Somewhere we have lost what it means to surrender our entire life to Him. When we are both trying to control the outcome of our life, we become a backseat driver to Jesus and increase the risk of messing things up. We start telling Him what we think He should do when we don’t have all the information He has as the one in control.
Jesus said it best in Matthew 16:24, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (MSG). You and I have to surrender the driving seat to Him. One way I do this is each morning before my feet hit the floor is to pray, “Lord, I open myself up to you. Fill me with your Spirit until I’m overflowing. Speak through me, love through me and live through me today. Let my words and actions be reflections of who you are. Use me in anyway you see fit. I surrender to your will.” Surrendering the driver’s seat isn’t natural. It has to be a daily and sometimes hourly. God is good and has a plan for your life that is greater than your own plan. Getting out of the driver’s seat and allowing Him to take over is the best thing you can do for your life.
Several years ago I lost just about everything in my life that mattered to me. I went through a six month stretch where I would think I hit rock bottom, but then the bottom would fall out again. No matter what I tried, no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop the free fall. When there was nothing left, I cried out to God one night and said, “Lord, I give up! I can’t do this anymore.” Laying there on that floor, i heard God’s still, small voice whisper back, “Finally.” For Years I had been fighting what God wanted to do in my life and had been living life for myself instead of for Him. I had built the life I wanted on top of the foundation He had laid.
That night, in my mind, i saw a picture of myself curled up in the fetal position on a foundation. There was debris all around me and it was pouring down rain. I didn’t have the strength or the will to get up. I believe God was showing me my life at that moment. Everything I had built had been stripped away. When I said, “God, I’ve been left with nothing,” He relied, “You still have your foundation. If you’ll let me, I’ll build on it the life I want you to have.” I prayed, “Lord, do with my life what you want. I don’t ever want to go through that again.”
In Psalm 16:5, David prayed a similar prayer that resonates with me. He said, “You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands” (GNT). You and I can spend a lifetime trying to plan our future and build the life we want, but we will never be satisfied until we give our future to God. He has a master plan for each of our lives and desires that we give Him the reigns of our future. It’s up to us to surrender our will to His. I can tell you from personal experience that the life He wants for you is far greater than anything you can imagine or build yourself.
There are some lyrics to a song we sing at church that keep burning inside me. They say, “Set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain and I can’t control. I want more of you, God.” We had sang that song at church many times before, but on a balcony in Haiti, it became my prayer. As we were having a time of worship in Gonaives, we sang that song and I started listening to the words. I began to internalize what they meant. I began to sing the song with more of a passion than a compulsion.
What does that look like to have a fire set in your soul? What does that feel like to have it burn without bring able to control it? What would happen to me if I truly wanted more of God in my life? Do I really, truly want that and what is the cost? We sing songs and read scriptures a lot without giving much thought to the words we are saying or reading. We rarely dig down deep and plant those words in our heart and mind.
God gives Himself to us to the extent that we allow room for Him. Too many Christians are like the inn keeper in Bethlehem. They have no room for Him, but they want Him, so they put Him in the stable of their lives. He doesn’t just want to be in your stable. He wants the entire inn of your life. He wants to come into every room you have locked up. He wants to fill you up, but you have to make room which means you have to get rid of things.
For me, I want more of Him than I have today. I want to give Him the keys to my inn. I want to kick out the guests of sin, control, security, lack of faith and fear. I want to be like John The Baptist in john 3:30 and say, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (NLT). The only way for that to happen is to set a Holy Fire within that gets rid of selfish desires so I can embrace all He has for me.