“Raising the White Flag”
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)
There is a tendency to associate ‘surrendering’ with ‘losing’ or being a ‘loser’. While this certainly might be a proper viewpoint when discussing the outcome of warfare between two armies, it is definitely not the case when we talk about surrendering to the victory won by Jesus Christ when He died on the cross.
Considering the death of anyone by crucifixion on a cross as a ‘victory’ might seem a difficult concept to embrace. Indeed, it certainly would have been for me not too many years ago had I stopped to consider it at all, but understanding the full impact of that statement is crucial to illuminating our own personal path to freedom.
Even though it is not the death of Christ by itself that secured us this victory, His brutal death set the stage for what would prove to be a turning point in the history of mankind. After the Roman soldiers determined Jesus was truly dead, his bloody, lifeless body was removed from the cross and placed inside a tomb. Three days later Jesus was raised from the dead by God, and it is the combination of Jesus’ dying and being raised up from the dead that secured victory for all of mankind. However, understanding exactly what that victory was and what it means to each one of us individually is difficult for many to understand.
The Gospel Of Jesus Christ lays out that victory and is stated by my church quite simply:
“The Gospel is the joyous declaration that God is redeeming the world through Christ and that He calls everyone everywhere to repent from sin and trust Jesus Christ for salvation.
Each of us has sinned against God, breaking His law and rebelling against His rule, and the penalty for our sin is death and hell. But because of His love, God sent His Son, Jesus, to live, for His people’s sake, the perfect, obedient life God requires and to die on the cross in our place for our sin.
On the third day, Christ rose bodily from the grave and now reigns in heaven, offering forgiveness, righteousness, resurrection, and eternal blessedness in God’s presence to everyone who repents of sin and trusts solely in Him for salvation.”
In the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before being betrayed by Judas, Jesus was telling His disciples about what would soon take place and “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.’” (John 17:1-4 NIV)
In my book, “Today Is….A Gift From God”, I state that I am ‘not a pastor, preacher, minister, priest, or biblical scholar ‘, and I am certainly none of those things. I am simply a man whose eyes began to open to the meaning of that victory, and an understanding of Christ’s ‘finished work’, on a beautiful morning in August of 2009 which began in a particularly ugly way.
I had lived for 40 years in willful disobedience to God (although I had yet to learn and acknowledge this), angry with Him for allowing life on earth to exist the way it did, full of personal pain and sorrow as well as the pain and suffering of those around me; people I knew as well as those I would never meet. Since I was never taught to turn to Christ when I was in need of comfort, strength, compassion, love, or support, at the age of 14 I learned instead to turn to alcohol as a way of lessening the pain of growing up. Followed closely by my discovery of the pain-numbing ability of drugs at the age of 16, the stage was now set for what would follow over the next 40 years.
Living a selfish, self-centered, and self-destructive lifestyle where drug and alcohol abuse were a significant component of daily life led me to a seedy, sleazy, rundown motel in south Florida where, on the morning of August 18, 2009, the full effects of my sinful life came crashing down on me and I made a nearly successful attempt on my life.
Lying on the floor of the shower stall in my room of that motel, bleeding from self-inflicted wounds to both sides of my neck, I finally ‘raised the white flag’ and surrendered. Granted, the full life-giving, life-changing impact of what transpired there would take some time to reveal itself to me, but the effects were immediate.
I should not be alive today, and it is only through the finished work of Christ on the cross, and the victory He won for us all that I survived the attack on myself and am able to write these words.
That victory made it possible for the four words I finally whispered as I hovered near death to be heard by God. Those four words were, “God, please forgive me.”
It is amazing how quickly God responds when we finally raise the white flag and surrender ourselves to His victory. In my case, I was found by individuals who should not have found me until long after I was dead. I was transported to a hospital where I awoke the next morning. While I am still very new in my relationship with God, I knew who had saved me the instant I opened my eyes and I have devoted my life to growing in my relationship with Him ever since.
There is a beautiful hymn titled “It Is Well With My Soul”, and I recently discovered the awe-inspiring story behind that hymn:
Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. Spafford was a devout Christian and his circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody other well-known Christians of the day.
At the height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.
In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe to give his wife and daughters a much-needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He was to join Moody on an evangelistic campaign in England. Faced with some unexpected last-minute business, Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had been involved in a collision.
All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.
With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England and it was while on this trip that he wrote “It Is Well With My Soul”.
The incredible burden of all those things would have broken many individuals, but Mr. Spafford, having surrendered himself to victory long before, knew exactly where to turn in his greatest times of need.
The hymn is performed beautifully in this video featuring Bill and Gloria Gaither with Guy Penrod and David Phelps:
“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
He has shed His own blood for you, and for me, and through His sacrifice, our sin was nailed to the cross so that we are able to raise our white flags, surrender ourselves, and claim the victory that leads us to the path of freedom.
May God bless you, keep you safe, and continue to light the way for you.