The fall season is a picture of surrender. Look outside your window right now and you will likely see partially bare trees, clinging to a few dead and dying leaves. Watch a moment longer and you’ll see them let go of a leaf, and then another. Every year the trees surrender to this process. Every year they let go of summer and surrender to the season of winter. And as we put away our summer clothes, the summer sheets, the patio furniture, knowing we won’t use them again for many months, it can feel like a sad time of year.
Hebrews 12 says of Jesus, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Heb. 12:2 NLT)
The trees surrender their leaves each autumn because it is part of the process by which new growth can occur. We do not despair at the death and barrenness that we see each winter because we have the hope of spring. We know that the leaves and flowers will return and we know that the weather will once again be warm.
When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. 37 And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. 38 Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. …. It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. (1 Cor. 15: 36-38, 42-44 NLT)
For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us. 19 For the eagerly expecting creation awaits eagerly the revelation of the sons of God. 20 For the creation has been subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its servility to decay, into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans together and suffers agony together until now. 23 Not only this, but we ourselves also, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves while we[e] await eagerly our adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we await it eagerly with patient endurance. (Rom. 8:18-25 LEB)
In each of the passages above, we see that when something is sacrificed or when something is laid down, though often difficult, it is done with the faith that a greater reward will be born out of it. Jesus kept his focus on his purpose — on the joy set before him, which was our salvation.
So what does surrender look like in our battle with the sin nature? I believe the answer is found in an unexpected place in the Bible. I recently heard a sermon in which the speaker noted the unusual use of the word fornicator in Hebrews 12 when describing Esau selling his birthright for food. Really, fornication? But I thought that had to do with sex! The preacher went on to explain that fornication has to do with trading what is valuable or eternal for what is worthless or temporal. In the spirit of Romans 7, it is as though we are cheating on our husband, which is Christ, with the world and with sin. Esau viewed his physical need for satisfaction as his first priority. He did not have the confidence of a loving relationship with a parent who would generously provide his needs, so he felt that he must trade and barter for his needs. Finally, he did not understand the value of his father’s blessing and did not hesitate to trade it away for pleasure.
When we do not know the love of our Savior, when we do not have an assurance of his goodness and his love for us, when we do not fully trust his intentions for our life, it is so easy to give way to sin and temptation as we try to bring about our own happiness, our own satisfaction, our own solutions. It is my conviction that in some way every sin stems from a belief that God is withholding something from us. All of us have natural, physical needs and all of us have desires that God has placed within us, but when those desires have not yet been fulfilled or when I feel as though something is being withheld from my life, I often have the tendency to cease from trusting God and choose the path of my own solutions and my own path to satisfaction. One of the absolute hardest things to do is to obey the voice of the Father and lay down that desire and say no to the temptation to meet my own need. In that moment, when you’re staring the winter of your lack in the face, it can be difficult to see ahead to spring. It takes tremendous faith to lay down what we value most (our pride, our security, our desires) in the expectation that God has something much greater to offer. In the moment of crucifying our flesh, it is painful, but out of that seed of obedience that is sown, there will be a harvest of righteousness and relationship that does not compare.