Chapter OneTHE BATTLE
KINGDOMS AT WAR
Surrender is not the surrender of
the external life, but of the will;
when that is done, all is done.
There are very few crises in life;
the great crisis is
the surrender of the will.
* Mindy, a Christian college senior, can't
believe she ended up in bed with her
fiancé last night-again-after promising
herself she wouldn't give in and praying
about the matter with her accountability
partner just last week. Mindy and Jeff are
planning to get married after graduation and
had hoped to serve as short-term missionaries
before having children. But now . the
whole idea seems hypocritical.
* Angle steps on the scales, sighs, and heads
for the kitchen, where she opens the
refrigerator. She starts to pick up a bag of
carrots, then reaches instead for a piece of
carrot cake that seems to be calling her
name. Just then, the phone rings; her sister is
calling to offer a ride to their weekly Bible
class tomorrow morning.
* Something inside Dan knows he really
shouldn't be going out for "business lunches"
with his attractive young assistant-especially
since their recent conversations
have been less about business and more
about the problems in her marriage. Dan is
nervous about being seen with Stacie by
someone from the church where he is a
respected elder. But some unseen force is
drawing him to spend more time with her.
* Both Tamara and Rod would like for her to
be able to quit her job so she can stay at
home when their first child is born next
month, but they just don't see how they can
swing it financially. Their pastor recently
preached a message from Matthew 6 about
trusting God to provide for basic needs. But
they are afraid to step out-and his parents
have said she'd be crazy to quit her job.
* Reggie is still fuming as he flies down the
freeway at eighty miles per hour. He knows
he shouldn't have lost his temper with
Carla-especially with their three-year-old
son standing there watching the whole scene.
But he can't believe she has overdrawn their
checking account again. Why can't she exercise
some self-control when it comes to
spending? Reggie gets scared when he thinks
about what he might do someday when he is
in one of his fits of rage. Recently his anger
has started coming out with the students at
the Christian school where he coaches football.
* Corrie is troubled by the attitudes and language
her children are picking up from other
children in preschool and second grade. She
wants her children to have a heart for God
and really feels she should consider
home-schooling them, but she can't handle the
thought of being tied down with kids all day
The Real War
These men and women are not alone in their
struggles. Every day, in big or little ways, even as
believers, you and I find ourselves engaged in a
battle (Galatians 5:17).
The battle is real and dangerous. We are like a
soldier in a foxhole, with bullets whizzing past his
head, but our battle is actually part of a larger war
that has been going on since the creation of the
In fact, one of the megathemes that emerges
repeatedly in Scripture is that our battles here on
earth are merely a reflection of a cosmic war
between the kingdom of God and all other
kingdoms. That is true whether we are talking about kids
squabbling on a playground, embattled parents and
teens, estranged mates in a divorce court, warring
desires within our own hearts, power struggles in
the church, or nations at war.
This bigger war-the "real war"-begins in the
opening pages of the Word of God and continues
unabated, gaining in intensity, almost to the final
page. It is, in essence, a battle for control.
In the first recorded act in time and space, Godexercised control. He spoke with authority and power
. bringing light, life, and order to the darkness
and chaos of the universe. When He said, "Let there
be light," there was light. When He said, "Let the
trees bring forth fruit," the trees brought forth fruit.
All creation, including-initially-the first man and
woman, lived in glad, wholehearted surrender to the
sovereign control and will of the Creator.
This surrender did not strip the creation of
dignity or freedom; to the contrary, surrender was-and
still is-the source and means of true freedom
and fullness. The sovereign Creator God ruled over
His creation with tender love, inviting His creatures
to engage with Him in a divine dance-of-sorts, in
which He led and they followed. They responded to
His initiative with trust, love, and surrender. In turn,
their needs were abundantly met, they fulfilled their
created purpose, and they existed in harmony with
God and with each other.
Psalm 104 describes this original, ideal state. In
that passage, we see a definite, unquestioned
hierarchy in which God-the gracious Sovereign-acts,
initiates, directs, sets boundaries, supervises, and
lovingly rules over His creation. The creation looks
to Him, waits for Him, bows before Him, surrenders
to His control, and simply does as He directs.
The oceans stay within the boundaries He has
established for them. The grass and the trees grow
according to God's direction and provide
nourishment for man and animals, also in surrender to
God's will. The sun and moon keep their appointed
seasons; the animals get up when God tells them to
get up and they lie down when God directs them to
What is the result? "The earth is satisfied" (v. 13);
"they are filled with good" (v. 28). Did you catch
that? To surrender to the Creator's control is not
onerous or burdensome; it is, in fact, the place of
blessing, fullness, and peace. There is no evidence in
this passage of any stress, struggle, or strain. Why?
Because the creation is not vying with the Creator
Don't miss this picture. It is what the old gospel
song describes as "perfect submission, perfect delight!"
The Battle Begins
Let's go back to the Genesis account. The first
blip on this perfect screen came when one of God's
created beings-already a rebel himself-approached
the happy couple and challenged God's
created order. Until that point, there had never been
any question about who was in charge and who was
taking direction. Now the suggestion was made that
the man and woman could be in charge of their own
lives, that they didn't have to take direction from
anyone else. You don't have to live a surrendered life;
you can be in control, the tempter implied.
So the man and the woman-created beings-tried
to wrest control from the hands of their
sovereign Creator. Control that didn't belong to them.
They resisted the will of God and insisted on
sharing His throne. The battle had begun.
From that point to this, man has been engaged
with his Creator in a battle for control-dueling
wills, we might call it.
Mercifully, we are dealing with a Creator who is
not only sovereign, but also compassionate. God
knew that if we tried to run our own lives, we would
reap misery and conflict, and that our drive to be in
control would render us hopelessly enslaved and
would ultimately destroy us. He knew that the only
hope for man was through surrender.
From that very first skirmish, God set into
motion a plan devised in eternity past to restore
man back to a place of surrender
to His control. Possessing
absolute power, He could have
chosen to bludgeon His rebellious
creatures into submission.
However, because He desires a loving,
personal relationship with men
and women, created in His likeness,
He has opted first to woo and win the hearts
of His creatures. He wants their willing, volitional
We know that one day "every knee [will] bow"
and "every tongue . confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord" (Philippians 2:10-11). Those who refuse His
overtures of love and grace will do so under
coercion. But those who love and trust Him will find
ultimate, eternal joy in that glad-hearted surrender.
The King and His Kingdom
The very thought of God being bent on exercising
control over His creation raises an obvious question.
If you or I were to attempt to bring the whole planet
under our control, we would rightly be labeled "control
freaks." So why is it acceptable for God to insist
on "world domination"? Why is it considered selfish
and rebellious for us to want control, but absolutely
appropriate for God to assert control? The answer is
and we're not.
In that profound, unalterable, eternal reality lies
the key to understanding and dealing with this cosmic
war, as well as handling our personal, daily
struggles for control.
No one would consider it
unreasonable for a mother to
insist on being in control of her
minivan while her four children
are seat-belted in place. That's
because she knows what she's
doing. She knows how to drive and her children
don't. She is the only one in the vehicle capable of
keeping everyone safe. The fact that she doesn't
share the driving with her preschoolers doesn't
make her a control freak!
In the same way, God exercises His sovereign
control over the universe because He is the only One
capable of running the universe.
Inherent in His being is absolute sovereignty-the
right to rule. He is the Creator-we are His
creatures. He is eternal we are finite. He is all-powerful
-we have no power of our own. He is autonomous,
independent, and self-existent, needing no one and
nothing-we are dependent on Him for our next
breath (Acts 17:24-25).
The God revealed in the Scripture is King-not a
king on a level with other kings, each with their own
sphere of control-but the King over all kings. This
King has a kingdom. That kingdom-the realm over
which He has lawful jurisdiction-includes every
molecule of the planet on which we live; it includes
the farthest-flung reaches of our galaxy and of every
galaxy; it includes those regions that are inhabited by
the angelic hosts (both fallen and holy).
In his commentary on the Gospel of Luke,
twentieth-century Bible expositor G. Campbell Morgan
suggests that the kingdom of God really means thekingship of God.
It means that God is King now, and always. The
Kingdom of God is in existence. God has never been
dethroned; and this is what Jesus preached He
was proclaiming the Kingship of God, the rule of
God, the fact that the Lord reigneth
What this age needs is the proclamation of the
sovereignty of God, the Kingship of God, the
Kingdom of God When a man yields himself up
to that sovereignty, nobody can tyrannize over him.
The concept of a Sovereign King who exercises
absolute control over His subjects is one that our
egalitarian, Western minds find difficult to
embrace. We want to have a say in the matter-to
vote for the leader of our choice. We don't want to
bow before an all-powerful monarch. To the
contrary, what we really want is to be the king-or at
least to have a representative form of government.
But whether we buy into it or not, the sovereign
rule of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ is a
non-negotiable reality that is as determinative and
binding as the law of gravity-and more so. It is an
irrefutable truth with which every human being
must come to terms, sooner or later. And, as Morgan
suggests, those who resist His sovereign Lordship
set themselves up to be tyrannized by other lords.
One Woman's Control Crisis
"Lynda," a forty-something mother of four,
learned the hard way that to resist surrender to the
perfect will of God is to become controlled by
tyrants. I received a letter from Lynda in which she
told her story. She has been married for twenty-five
years to a man she calls "saintly." However, she grew
up in a home with an alcoholic father who was
extremely controlling of her and her passive mother.
As she became an adult, she resolved that she
would never submit to another human. She recalls,
"I had a huge problem when it came time to say our
wedding vows-'to love and obey.' Love? Yes,
absolutely! Obey? I don't think so!"
In retrospect, Lynda can see how her drive to be
in control created numerous problems from the
outset of her marriage and led to choices that ultimately
caused her life to careen out of control. She admits
that she began to turn to other men
to make me feel in control again, and to show my
husband that I-and no one else-was in charge of
my life. Little did I realize that I was "out of control"
in many ways-including sexually and with alcohol
abuse. And I was not ever in charge of my life or
You see, while I refused to submit to my husband,
I was submitting to other men-but not in loving
relationships. I was not in control of my body or my
life-other men were. "Meet me here, Lynda." "OK."
"You drive today, Lynda." "OK." "You check us in at
the motel." "OK." "Wear this, do that, call me"
"OK, OK, OK."
Lynda's experience poignantly illustrates that as
long as we refuse to surrender our will to the will of
God, we are never truly free. Rather, we find
ourselves dominated by ungodly appetites and forces.
When we throw off the restraints of our wise, loving
God, we become slaves to terrible taskmasters that
are intent on our destruction. That is exactly what
happened to the Old Testament Israelites:
Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully
and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger
and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve
the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an
iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.
-Deuteronomy 28:47-48 NIV
You don't want to surrender to God's control? You
won't bow to His will in relation to your marriage,
your morals, your attitudes, your tongue, your
eating habits, your spending habits, or the way you
spend your time? Then count on it-the very points
on which you refuse to surrender will become
"enemies" that rule over you-lust, greed, possessions,
food, sloth, immorality, anger, etc.
After more than twenty years of turmoil in every
area of Lynda's life, the Lord brought matters to a
head by causing her husband to discover her
unfaithfulness. In an incredible display of the heart
and ways of God, her husband not only extended
mercy, but he tenderly and firmly exerted the wise,
loving leadership that Lynda needed to get her life
back in order.
Lynda hardly knew how to respond to such
grace. But in that crisis of surrender, she says, "I
repented. I knew I had to submit
completely to God and to my
husband-in that order!"
Though she had always feared
what would happen if she were to
relinquish control of her life,
Lynda began to experience
blessings she had never known in all
the years she was trying to hold on to the reins.
A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I didn't
want to be in control any more. My journey has not
always been easy, but it has been wonderful and
life-changing. I had to "let go" of a lot of people in my
life-but I have God and my family. I have a beautiful
peace of mind and serenity. And I hold my head
high every day, because I know I have been forgiven.
I will never be the same person again-ever.
Lynda's whole perspective on this matter of
control has changed. Today she tells others, "Even if you
are stubborn and think you will not submit to
anyone, you will always be submitting to someone or
something-and that can be extremely dangerous.
Surrendering her will to Christ's control in
relation to her marriage brought about a dramatic change
in Lynda's life. "Your kingdom come; Your will be
done" replaced her former motto of "I am in charge
of my own life."
What is the turf in which you are in a battle for
control? Perhaps it is in relation to your marriage-you
may be bent on changing your mate, refusing to
accept him/her as God's choice for your life, or
resisting your God-given responsibilities in that
Your battle for control may be in another
relationship-perhaps with a parent, a child, an
employer, a pastor, or a friend.
Or you may be resisting God's right to control
your body-your eating, sleeping, exercise, or moral
habits-or your tongue, your time, your future
plans, or your finances.