Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Reasonable Service

Leslie Basham: What does it mean to live a life of surrender? Nancy Leigh DeMoss tells us about some ungodly people who gave us a picture of surrender.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In 1900, seventeen years before the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin wrote in a Socialist Party newspaper, "We must train men and women who will devote to the revolution not merely their spare evenings, but the whole of their lives."

Leslie: How much more should we be surrendered, since we know the truth?

Nancy: God is calling, in His "revolution", for the sake of His great kingdom, for men and women who are willing to devote to His kingdom not just their leftover evenings, not just the few hours they think they can spare, but the whole of their lives.

That's what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God, to be a citizen of His kingdom, to be a child of God . . . it means we have given up to Him the whole of our lives-not just a part, but the whole. We want to see the kingdom of God advance on this earth-and by the way, that's what we're supposed to be living for-that the glory of God will one day cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. That's our purpose in living, to see His Name reverenced, to see His Kingdom come, to see His will be done here on earth as it is in Heaven. That's what we're living for!

If we want to be a part of seeing that "revolution", we need to be men and women who are devoting to the kingdom of Christ not just our spare evenings, but the whole of our lives.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, July 17, 2015.

Nancy's continuing in a series called "Surrender: The Heart God Controls."

Nancy: As we talk about the complete sacrifice of our lives to God, about offering up ourselves as a living sacrifice, do you ever feel that it seems like a lot to ask? I have to tell you that I do. I love the Lord, I love His Kingdom, I love serving Him, but truthfully there are moments when I feel like something God is asking of me is just too much!

It's not that He's not worthy of it, but what I tend to do is compare what is being asked of me to what it seems like God is asking other people to do. And there are times when I question, "Lord, couldn't You just let me have a little more normal, ordinary life? Do I have to be always serving, always giving, always sacrificing?"

I'm not proud to tell you that I think that at times. Sometimes it's not some big, huge sacrifice that God is asking. Sometimes it's just a little thing that just hits me wrong. One I think of is the Lord asking me to invest financially as a single woman to help provide Christian education for children of couples in full-time ministry.

Sometimes I feel, "You know, if God didn't ask this of me, there are other things I could think of to do with that money." And it just feels at that moment-though I wouldn't want to admit it-that it's a lot for God to ask! But the kingdom of God requires that we relate every decision and every detail of our lives to what pleases God, to what advances His purposes and His kingdom.

In these moments, when we feel like God's asking a lot, our emotions sometimes cry out, "I've already given so much! I just can't give any more!" That's when we need to take a trip to Calvary and look into the eyes of a Savior who gave everything He had to reconcile us to Himself-no holding back, no limitations.

That's why the Apostle Paul says, as we've been seeing [from Romans 12:1], "I urge you, in view of God's mercies"-in view of God's great, limitless, infinite, ongoing, day-after-day mercies and compassion-I urge you, make a sacrifice! Pay the price! Offer your bodies-not just your spare evenings, but all that you are, all that you have-as a living sacrifice to God.

"For this is your reasonable act of worship." That word reasonable is an interesting one. It comes from a Greek word from which we get our word logical. It's reasonable, it's logical to make this sacrifice. Why? In light of the incredible compassion and mercy God has shown to us-past mercies, present mercies, and future mercies that we yet anticipate because God is a merciful God and He will never stop being merciful and compassionate toward us.

So, in view of God's great mercies poured out upon us, it's altogether reasonable, logical, that He should ask whatever He wants of us, and that we should say "Yes, Lord!"

In fact, this verse appears at the end of the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans that have been an exposition about the mercies of God in salvation: how He took us as fallen, depraved, alienated sinners, far from God, far from hope; and when we had no heart for God, no interest in God, God wooed our hearts, drew us to Himself, and opened our hearts to receive His mercy. He gave Jesus Christ for us.

In light of all that's gone ahead in those first eleven chapters of the book of Romans, Paul says it is absolutely logical, reasonable, that God should say, "Offer up your life as a sacrifice to Him".

I was with a couple not too long ago who were struggling with a sacrifice they felt God was asking them to make. As we prayed together, I remember that husband sobbing, pouring out his heart to the Lord and-almost hard to understand-he said, "Oh Lord, oh Jesus, in light of what You have done for us on the cross, this is not too much for you to ask! And we are willing to say 'Yes, Lord!'"

I quoted in the last session from Helen Roseveare, and let me quote again from her book A Living Sacrifice, where she says,

Today it would appear that we Christians prefer to talk of a measure of commitment, the length to which we are willing to become involved, rather than the depths of God's immeasurable love in which we long to become immersed.

The carefree abandonment of love that marks the sacrifices of the Apostle Paul, of second-century Christians, of nineteenth-century missionaries, that abandon seems sadly lacking today. Today we weigh up what we can afford to give Him. In those days, they knew they could not afford to give Him less than all!

You know the name David Livingstone who was a nineteenth-century missionary statesman to Africa and is often held up as an example of an unusually sacrificial life. But from his perspective, what he did was not sacrificial at all when it was seen in the light of what Christ has done for us.

David Livingstone said,

People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of the great debt owing to our God which we can never repay? Away with such a word, such a view, and such a thought!

It is emphatically no sacrifice! Say rather it is a privilege! Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a forgoing of the common conveniences of this life-they make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and sink. But let this be only for a moment! All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us.

I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made, who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us.

God may never call you to a foreign mission field, but He does ask that you offer up your life and your circumstances, whatever they are, as a living sacrifice, a burnt offering-signifying your wholehearted consecration and surrender to the Savior who gave His life for you.

Could it be said of you that you have devoted to Christ the whole of your life, or would it be true that you are merely giving Him your spare evenings? Is He not worthy of the whole of our lives? In the words of Isaac Watts' immortal hymn:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all.

Father, please forgive me for all the times I have felt I was making a sacrifice that seemed like a lot to give. And even as I've shared these words, I'm reminded of the incredible sacrifice You have made for us.

Lord, you are worthy-not just of what we think we can afford to give-but You're worthy of that careless reckless abandon that we read about, that giving up of the whole of our lives for the sake of the Lord Jesus and of Your great kingdom. Amen

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing you what a life of surrender to the Lord looks like. Would you follow up on what you just heard and study the topic of surrender further with Nancy? Her book Surrender: The Heart God Controls, will give you a biblical understanding of what it means to give your life wholeheartedly to the Lord. You'll be invited to explore areas of your life that need to be surrendered to Him.

We'll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for it when you call with your donation. The number is 1-800-569-5959. Or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We'll send one book per household for your donation.

To wrap up our series on surrender, we're going to hear a powerful life story that illustrates what we've been hearing. When Revive Our Hearts first went on the air, Nancy interviewed a young woman who was in the process of saying "Yes, Lord." She was in the process of preparing to head overseas to serve in a developing country.

Let's listen back to that conversation between Nancy and Shannon Etter. I know her story will encourage you to seek the Lord for all He has for your life, and to surrender to His plan.

Nancy: I have really enjoyed the opportunity in recent weeks to get to know you and to hear a little bit about your story-to know how God has led you in this pilgrimage that now is taking you to the mission field! Tell us a little bit about how you came to know the Lord.

Shannon: Well, I'm very thankful to have been born into a family with parents who loved the Lord, who raised us in the fear of the Lord, and really even from an early age began to teach us God's Word, and to disciple us in the ways of the Lord.

I especially think of my mom, who was very diligent in that on a daily basis. She had us in God's Word and memorizing Scripture and being involved in learning how to pray when I was a young child. So really, all along I have been raised in the ways of the Lord and I'm thankful for that family heritage.

Nancy: So you came to place your faith in Christ. Was it as a small child?

Shannon: It was. I really don't remember exactly a specific day or time, but I can remember during those early years-I was probably about six years old at the time I accepted the Lord. I didn't know much at that time except that I was a sinner and I could never make my way to God by my own good works. I had to have a perfect sacrifice, and God had provided that perfect sacrifice in His Son, Jesus Christ; and that I was to place my complete trust in Him, to be reconciled to God. And that was really all I understood of Christianity.

But I can remember, as a small child, kneeling beside my bed with my mom after listening to a Billy Graham crusade on television, and she prayed with me to receive the Lord. Before that time I had always wondered, "Have I really ever accepted the Lord?" But after that time, with Mom kneeling beside my bed, I had an assurance of salvation and didn't doubt from that time.

Nancy: And now you're headed to the mission field to give your life in vocational service for the Lord. Tell us what it is that you're going to be doing on the mission field.

Shannon: Okay. Well, there are a couple of ways to answer that. Vocationally, I'm a nurse practitioner and I have a specialty in obstetrics and gynecology, so I'm involved in working with women. On the mission field, this is my entrance into this particular country in Asia, which is a restricted access country. The way that I can even get in is to have some type of viable work there to do.

So I will be working in the capacity of a nurse practitioner and taking care of pregnant women and delivering babies. That will be my job. But I'm going to this particular country because I want men and women-specifically women and children there-to know about the Lord. My heart is for discipleship of women and children, and that's really the reason that I'm going to the mission field.

Nancy: Did you always know that you wanted to be a missionary? At what point in your life did you start to sense that this might be God's leading for you?

Shannon: The seed for mission work was actually planted when I was a teenager. We had a couple from our church who were missionaries to China. They were home on a furlough and came to speak to our youth group. I can remember this particular missionary wife encouraging us to begin reading missionary biographies. She encouraged us to begin with Shadow of the Almighty, which is Elisabeth Elliot's book that basically contains Jim Elliot's diaries and the story of Jim Elliot.

So, I began to read about Jim Elliot. I had never met or known anybody like Jim Elliot, whose pulse literally was the Lord. That was so attractive to me back in those years as a teenager, and I began at that time to really consume missionary biographies, and read just about everything Elisabeth Elliot has written.

And then I read Hudson Taylor and William Carey and ultimately Amy Carmichael. And that really sealed it for me. "This is what I want to do with my life. I want to have this type of love relationship with the Lord, and out of that I want to tell the world about Him." So that was really the seed for missions planted in my heart.

Nancy: You know, Shannon, that's interesting, because I can remember as a little child, one of the first books I read was The Shoemaker Who Gave India the Bible, which is a children's version of the story of William Carey, one of the early missionaries. So those also had a huge impact on my own life, my heart for the Lord, and my heart for missions.

I think this is a whole area where moms can really have an influence on their children as they're growing up-to make sure they have in their hands these kinds of stories, true life stories of men and women whom God has used. And in my life, as it sounds in yours also, that had the effect of giving me a sense of passion, knowing what it meant to love the Lord with all my heart, and having the sense of being drawn to give my life to the Lord in service toward Him. So this is a practical thing parents can do in bringing up their children to have a heart for God.

Okay, now you're a teenager, you're reading these books and they're inspiring you. You headed then from high school to college. Were you thinking at that time, "I'm going to be a missionary. I'm going to train for this"?

Shannon: Yes, definitely. I was planning to go into medicine, and then go to the mission field as a medical missionary. However, my first actual cross-cultural experience out of the country occurred after my freshman year in college, when I went with a group from our church to Papua New Guinea.

Nancy: What kind of experience was that for you?

Shannon: Oh, well, in Papua New Guinea I really began to think, "Maybe I have made this decision about going into missions a little bit too hastily!" If you have ever seen a National Geographic magazine, this is literally what Papua New Guinea was. We were living out in the jungle on the Sepik River in these bamboo huts high off the ground, bathing in a little stream that flowed down off the mountain, eating out of the river, living under mosquito nets, and using outhouses.

And I thought, "This is not the American dream! As an American, I know how good life can be, and Lord, I don't know if I want to spend my life doing something like this!"

Nancy: So you came back from this experience thinking perhaps you didn't want to spend the rest of your life camping out under these primitive conditions?

Shannon: Exactly! I thought, "Lord, maybe I can do short-term missions. That's what I'll do!"

Nancy: Had you talked with your parents about your heart to be a missionary? How did they feel about all this?

Shannon: Yes, I did, back during my high school years and my early college years. At that time they were very encouraging, and I think they probably thought, "Well, this is years down the road, and things can change in time." But they were very encouraging all along.

Nancy: Which is really a blessing, when you think about how many parents today discourage their children from really following the Lord. What a blessing for both of us to have had parents who would say, "Yes, we'll miss you, but we want you to do whatever it is God has called you to do."

Shannon: Exactly.

Nancy: Now how did the Lord get you back on track? You had this experience overseas in Papua New Guinea, and then came back saying, "I'm not sure this is for me!" How did the Lord encourage you to keep heading in this direction?

Shannon: The Lord was very patient with me, as He always is. I can look back now, and during those college years there seems to be a common thread. Missionary after missionary contact that I would have, sermon after sermon that would have a theme about missions . . . missions was ever before me during those college years.

One of the transitional points came during my senior year in college. I was studying in Europe, and was in Germany at the time attending a German church, and I was invited by a German friend I had just met to go out to lunch with her. We were about the same age-early twenties at this point.

She shared with me that God had called her to the mission field, and she was going to be leaving within the next year to go into mission service abroad. And I told her, "Yeah, I was going to do that at one time." And then I shared the Papua New Guinea experience with her and told her how I had changed my mind.

And I'll never forget: She looked me in the eye and very pointedly said, "Shannon, your reasons for changing your mind-when God had begun to call you to missions even as a teenager-are not godly reasons. You need to get down on your hands and knees and ask Him what He wants to do with your life. And then when He tells you, you need to ask Him for the grace to be obedient to Him-whatever He asks you to do."

And that really just about bowled me over! We had known each other at this point for only about two hours, and her boldness to speak the truth into my life was incredible. I can remember thinking, You've got to listen to this. This is the leading of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement for me to begin to pray and to begin to open my life back up to the Lord, to see what He wants to do with me. You've got to do that, Shannon! So I did.

Nancy: So it sounds like that experience really put it all into perspective for you; that this was not a matter of what would be comfortable or convenient or to your liking, but it was a matter of what was the will of God and your obedience to that will.

Shannon, I think that's really the heart of the matter for all of us, whether women, men, married, single, children, no children, missionary, here at home. Whatever God calls us to, it's finding out "What is the will of God for my life?" As you said, it entails getting into the Word, getting on our face before the Lord and saying, "Lord, what have you made me for? What is it that You've called me to do?"

And then, just waving that white flag of surrender and saying, "Yes, Lord! You are Lord. Have your way." And that may mean, for you, that you head to the mission field.

There was a time when, as a child, I thought perhaps that may be the way the Lord would direct me. But I've discovered that God's will is not really so much a place or a job as it is a heart, a lifestyle; it's a walk of saying "Yes, Lord!"

So for some, that means being the mother of three small children and devoting herself to the care and nurture of those children and all that involves. It may mean-during a season of life-to be a student, and to be surrendered to the will of God in everything that's involved in being a student.

For some, it may mean being involved in a professional field or a career. But whatever God is saying to us, in every one of our roles as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, friend, as a woman of God, it means saying, "Lord, I embrace Your will for my life. And I'm not going to determine that will based on whether I like it or not, or whether it feels good or not, or whether it's easy."

One of the statements that God has used greatly in my life, along this line, came from a great missionary statesman, David Livingstone, who prayed this prayer: "Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever every tie but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart."

That's what we're really talking about, saying, "Lord, You have your way with my life. Whatever it is, I embrace it." And that really is the pathway to true joy, fulfillment and fruitfulness.

Shannon: We all know very well Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission. But what we fail to realize so many times is that this was a command from Christ. This was not a suggestion. It was not, "take your choice, do this or that." He said, "You will go into all the world and make disciples of all nations."

When we recognize that this is God's command to all of us as the body of Christ, we have to recognize that we have some part to play in this. It may not be that God is going to call each of these listeners today to go. We have to have people who are sending the ones who are going.

The most important thing we have to recognize is that we do have a part to play in fulfilling the Great Commission. So what I had to ask was, "Lord, what part do You have for me to play?" For me, the answer came back, "Shannon, you are to be one of the ones who goes". That is not the answer that is going to come back for everybody.

But the challenge there is to ask that question, and then when you ask the question, to have ears that are open, eyes that are open, hands that are open, and to say, "Lord, whatever You want me to do for your glory in my life, for Your kingdom, I'm willing."

Leslie: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Shannon Etter about surrendering everything to the Lord. They recorded that interview in 2001, and since then Shannon married a godly young man and they are still serving together and raising their family on the mission field.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has written three books on the kind of heart God uses. We've looked at the topics of two of those books. Last week was brokenness, and this week surrender. Next week we'll address the third. Nancy will discuss holiness. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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