I’m travelling this week. My ticket is paid and issued, my bags are packed (well, almost), and my destination set. But despite this preparation, I will never get there if I don’t do one important thing: board the plane.
The same is true for our walk with Christ. In a sense, it is possible to get a ticket, go to the airport, and sit in the terminal for the rest of your life. Churches are filled with people who have apparently decided this is as good as it gets. They accept the grace of Jesus, but never do anything with it. If you built the First Church of the Terminal, it would be filled with people enjoying the food, fellowship, and nice view. We would put in a coffee shop, bring in a band, and spend an hour each week celebrating the fact that we have a boarding pass. Then we’d go home and do other things. We would never actually go.
Have you ever noticed that you board an airplane one at a time? Nobody boards for you. You may line up in groups, but you go one-by-one through the checkpoint. We can congregate in groups in the terminal, but when it comes time to fly, every individual must make a decision. The same is true with our faith. We can go to church and be part of a group, but our faith can’t really soar until we make that individual decision to fully get on board. Nobody can do it for you. You must purposely take the steps to engage in flight. Our intended journey will never begin as long as we stay comfortably on the ground. We can’t even put one foot on the plane and pretend we’re flying. We must get our ticket stamped (or scanned these days) and take our assigned seat.
When I board an airplane, I give up that thing I covet the most: control. As much as I’d prefer it, I don’t go to the cockpit and allow the captain to be my co-pilot. I admit that I can’t fly the aircraft, take my seat, and rely on the crew to get us off the ground. It’s a wholesale act of surrender, which can be a little frightening.
Andrew Murray wrote a great book on the subject called Absolute Surrender. He said, “We find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for God’s blessing while we live in our own will.” Getting on board means we surrender to someone else’s control. Our fate is no longer determined by our own will or actions, but relies completely on another.
The disciples exhibited this type of surrender as they followed Christ. One such instance occurred when Lazarus died, as told in John 11. Jesus had just informed the disciples that He was going back to Judea, which concerned them because the Jewish leaders there were trying to kill Him. They had just left the area and retreated to the countryside because of the danger.
“Rabbi,” the disciples said, “the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” This is the classic human response. We ask Jesus, “Are you sure? Is that really what you want?” We commit to follow Him, then hesitate when He calls us to go somewhere we’re not sure about. We can easily be like the rich young ruler who told Jesus that he had followed the law, then asked what he was still lacking. Jesus gave him a simple instruction, but the man walked away. He was able to live up to the rules, but complete obedience was too much for him to handle. He wanted to maintain control.
When Jesus assured His disciples that He wanted to return to Judea, He explained why. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”
“Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover,” his disciples responded. Jesus was speaking on a level they didn’t understand, so he put it in their language.
“Lazarus is dead,” He said, then added, “and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”
This was a decision point for those twelve. They didn’t understand why Jesus was doing what He was doing. They were unsure about where He was going. To their reasoning, it was not the smart thing to do. But Thomas stepped up with the ultimate surrender. “Let us also go,” he said to the others, “so that we may die with Him.”
That’s not just commitment; that’s total abandonment. Thomas could have said, “Let’s go to protect Jesus,” or, “Maybe we can sneak in unnoticed.” But he was convinced they were marching to their deaths. Still, he was willing to go. Surrender is commitment to the point of death. It’s going forward even when it makes no sense. For most of us, we don’t face the threat of death, yet the principle is the same.
Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). When we truly get on board, we deny ourselves by ceding control to Christ. There’s no such thing as halfway surrender. We either maintain control or we let it go.
This is the issue we face on a daily basis. Will we settle for knowing that we have that ticket to heaven while living our lives as we see fit, or will we go all-in and allow Christ to lead us to new places? It won’t always make sense because we don’t have the full cockpit view. We can barely see past today. We don’t know where our words or actions will ultimately take us, and it’s a little scary to surrender control to the unknown. Yet this is where a vibrant faith takes off and an exciting journey begins.
Adapted from Rise Above by James Randall Robison. Copyright ©2014 by James Randall Robison. Published by InProv, Ltd. All rights reserved.