By: Jenni Walker
“My mother taught me by her example that Jesus is everything. He was the wellspring of her love and joy and peace that overflowed into our home.” (Anne Graham Lotz of her mother, Ruth Bell Graham)
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)
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“Lord, I will do even that for my entire life if it is what You call me to do.”
This prayer from my young heart as a child was in response to a scene in a movie. I do not recall specifically how old I was or even what the movie was about. But the scene that spurred this prayer was of a man dressed in a smock standing by a conveyor belt. As bottles slid past him, it was his job to check that each lid was tightly on each one. It appeared horribly mundane, and I knew deep-down that it was an unlikely job for me. Yet, I wanted God to know that I was willing to go, to do, to be wherever and whatever He asked of me.
Moments of Decision
The first key “ingredient” to being a wholehearted woman by God’s design is the call to live a surrendered life, and it starts with a decision to follow Christ with a heart that cries out: “Here I am; You have all of me!” Abraham comes to mind when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. Genesis 22:1-2 describes the encounter:
“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’”
Abraham could have easily thought, “No, I am doing what God planned for me. He told me He would make me a father of many nations! Surely God did not mean that…” and then withheld that part of himself. But his wholehearted surrender to the Lord required a decision of him. In that moment, he chose to obey what God asked of him, and he traveled with his one and only son to the land of Moriah.
In Genesis 22:11, Abraham is about to slay his own son, and an angel of the Lord interrupts him saying, “Abraham, Abraham!” He responds again: “Here I am.” In verse 12, he is told, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Ladies, have we counted the cost of following our Lord? Have we chosen obedience with a heart of unrelenting trust in our God? Do we also realize that is the place that will truly fill the longing of our hearts because our entire being is fully HIS? In Romans 12:1-2 (NIV), Paul writes
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Jesus tells us to follow Him. We don’t “kind of” follow Him. We either do or we don’t. I heard a pastor recently compare following Christ to sky diving. Just like we either went sky diving or we didn’t, we are either following Him or we are not. There is no in-between. In choosing to offer ourselves in living surrender to Jesus Christ as this verse describes, we will begin to find true joy in doing His will!
Daily and Ongoing
Surrender to Christ is beautiful and transformative, and it involves every part of ourselves: heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let no area be withheld from Him!
But how do we do this? We are called to a sanctifying process by the power of Christ to be intentional in deepening our knowledge of God in relationship with Him in a daily and ongoing way.
One of my favorite examples of a wholehearted woman who daily surrendered her whole self to her Savior is that of Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham. During their engagement, she surrendered her desire to be a missionary when it was clear that was not what Billy was called to. In the years to come, she laid every part of herself down before the Lord, constantly growing in knowledge of His Word, and letting Him tend to her heart in joyful and difficult times.
In The Legacy of a Couple: Ruth and Billy Graham by Hanspeter Nuesch, Ruth is described as one who “made it a habit of bringing all her worries and cares to God. She didn’t want her life to be determined by circumstances but by the Bible’s promises.”
One of the critical parts that is often lacking in our culture is a deep knowledge of God through His Word. Yet, it is the foundation of our love relationship with our Lord! Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Seeking Him through His Word keeps our heart inclined in relationship and responsiveness to the Lord throughout every aspect of daily life. One of the Graham’s daughters, Gigi, describes Ruth’s habit of intentionally seeking the Lord in this way simply yet profoundly: “All these years her immediate reaction has been to throw herself on the Lord and the Scriptures. As a child I can remember her leaving her Bible open in a prominent place, so she could just get a verse every now and then. We found her often by her bed, on her knees. She had her Bible anywhere she was in the house, sometimes even on the ironing board. There would be a verse that she would be gleaning and meditating upon.”
Ruth’s physical posture on her knees demonstrated the surrendered posture of her heart. She did not walk with her Savior out of duty alone but from a place of ever-deepening love. Is this the habit of your heart, too, in the daily responsibilities of life, the minor irritations, your relationships, the words that you speak, and the attitudes you live by? Dear sisters in Christ, let us wholeheartedly “throw ourselves” on the Lord and His Word! May His Word be in a “prominent place” in our lives as we respond to Him in wholehearted surrender in all things!
Will You Follow?
Praise God that our salvation is certain through Christ! Yet choosing to surrender our whole selves to our Lord happens each and every day as we respond to His work in our lives. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus laid it out clearly when He said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Have you chosen self-denying, relentlessly obedient, moment-by-moment, wholehearted surrender?
This “ingredient” is essential to being the wholehearted women our Lord is calling us to be as followers of Christ, and it is the best place to be! Will you respond by fully surrendering to His lordship with all that you are? It is a choice He calls us to make and, yet, it is only in His strength. Cling to Him, abide in Him, and follow Him moment-by-moment in joyful surrender! (John 15:1-11)
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Let us never stop cultivating a surrendered heart. It matters!