Jan 06

A dear friend a fellow warrior asked me today, “What is the difference between defeat and surrender.”  As I attempted to answer the question, I realized it wasn’t that simple.  It wasn’t something I could just spit a short reply and it be clear enough.  So I decided to explain my thoughts more thoroughly.

“Defeat” is a simple concept.  It is the opposite of victory.  Defeat happens when one doesn’t win, except in those strange situations we’ve defined where nobody wins or we call it a “tie” or a “draw.”  Personally, I tend to count draws and ties as defeats.

Surrender, on the other hand, is a far more interesting concept than defeat.  By itself, surrender is not a victory, a defeat, or a draw.  Surrender is a decision.  That decision can result in victory, defeat, or a draw, but surrender itself is none of these things.

Surrender is merely the choice to stop fighting.

Not fighting is not the same as being defeated.  One can be defeated, but not surrender.  One can surrender, but not be defeated.  One can be defeated, but surrender with what remains of their dignity, or one can be defeated and fight to one’s last breath.

Take someone who doesn’t know how to swim and put them in water over their head.  One person will fight and flail against the water, only to be defeated and drown.  Another person will surrender to the water and float.  One fought and was defeated.  The other surrendered and survived.

Suppose you have a child who refuses to eat their dinner.  I have yet to see a child surrender.  I have seen many adults who attempt to fight the child and end up defeated.  On some occasions, I see adults who surrender.  They refuse to engage in a fight with a child (which, by the way, is the only path to victory).

Some enemies keep fighting long after they have been defeated.  They are defeated but have not surrendered.  They cannot win but still they keep fighting.  Sometimes this is noble.  Sometimes it is humiliating.  In some cases, a foe fights to the point that grace is no longer an option.  By refusing to surrender, they create a situation where there are no future chances – only a permanent defeat.

Unfortunately, some people see surrender as “giving up” or “quitting.”  They see surrender as defeat.  This can be a very short-sighted mindset.  Have you ever played Chess or Checkers?  Have you been able to win without losing a piece?  Not if your opponent has any clue about how to play.  Quite often, the key to victory is in knowing which pieces to surrender in order to win.

Jesus demonstrated this perfectly.  He surrendered Himself to die.  He was not defeated.  He could have fought on and won a victory, but it would have been a tiny victory compared to the one He actually won by surrendering His life.  But even death was denied a victory – Jesus was raised back to life.

This appears to be a paradigm, a pattern, favored by God.  Over and over again He calls on His people to surrender and then He saves them from defeat.

  • Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid.Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see”  Exodus 14:13
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  Daniel 3:16-18
  • Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”  Daniel 6:21-22
  • Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.  2 Kings 5:13-14
  • “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25

In story after story, when someone surrenders their will and their fate to God, God rescues them.  Those who try to rescue themselves are always the ones we see defeated.  Victory belongs to the one who fights for it.  If I fight and win then the victory is mine, as is the glory.  When God fights and wins then the victory is His, as is the glory.  We do not share glory.  In any given story, there is one who is credited with the victory.

In my personal stories, there are times when I fought and won.  Those stories aren’t nearly as satisfying, nor are the outcomes as magnificent, as those times when I surrendered and let God do the fighting.

Maybe that’s what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  If I fight a battle on my own, I might win.  If I let God fight the battle, not only can I never lose but the victory is even greater than what I could have won on my own.

When we envision someone surrendering, we often picture someone on their knees or with their hands in the air.  Maybe both.

This also how many people look when they pray.

So it comes as no surprise to me that my best fighting is done on my knees.

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