Throughout the journey of our faith, God is constantly shaping and molding us to be more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). Sometimes this can be a difficult process that involves a lot of pain and God-to-self-work (when God is working on our character). Being more like Jesus means being less like ourselves—and coming to that realization means climbing off of your high horse and denying yourself.
It’s called humility.
And learning humility means learning surrender; surrender means letting go of your desires, your flesh, and your mindset to raise the flag of Christ.
Raising the flag of Christ in surrender is a process that my good friend Clay Troyer is learning out here in the Rockies. Clay is a graduate of Kent State University, a true pal, a MOG, and knows how to lay down some sod.
Jokes aside, this is Clay’s third summer in Estes Park Leadership Training, and it has been a lot different than what he had initially expected. This being his third summer in Colorado, he knew better than to come out here with expectations, but as most of us can agree it’s easier said than done to drop your expectations.
“Life is weird,” Clay said as we sat down to chat about the things God’s doing in his heart. He graduated a year ago with a degree in Integrated Health Studies, got a job in his field of study, and life was headed in a good direction, right? Maybe it seemed that way, but in reality, Clay struggled to find joy in his work and wrestled with whether or not he should go into full time ministry.
Through some laughter, Clay explained that he’d be very surprised if he wasn’t at a new staff training in the next year, saying that “I don’t know to what capacity I’ll do ministry, but I’m going to do ministry.”
*all of us cheer*
Even in these realizations, Clay quit his job and ventured out here to Colorado with the pure intentions of figuring out exactly what God wants next for his life, to set aside the world, and to follow God. As pastor and mentor John Drage of Mizzou’s “The Rock” would put it, he came here “to do business with God” rather than just kill time.
For Clay, returning for a third year of LT meant leading a project group*. Except when he arrived, he discovered that this wouldn’t be the case. In this discovery, Clay could have made two different decisions.
He could have chosen to be bitter and angry and use what influence he does have to sway opinions and cultivate a negative atmosphere in the group.
Making the most of the position he does have in order to be a light and an encouragement to those who are in leadership.
Thankfully, Clay chose to be a humble leader, denying his flesh and allowing God to renew and transform him.
Of course this wasn’t an immediate realization; it began at one of the first LT sessions when the topic of a humble leader was addressed. Clay realized that real leaders are able to “take the backseat” and lead even when they’re not in a position of leadership.
And again, his heart for surrender was softened at work when he was given the title-less opportunity of training newbies. It didn’t stop there either, as he was even given a chance to lead in a production team where he felt he didn’t really have that much experience.
All of these moments were influential for Clay’s faith as he realized his purpose this summer was to seek God’s face and not His hand. Last summer, it was revealed to Clay that he needs to seek God’s face and not His hand and this has been a lesson that God has been teaching him over the last nine months. The consistency of this gracefully demonstrates God’s purpose for the season in which Clay is in, and I am personally excited to see where the Lord takes him next! All of these moments were influential for Clay’s faith as he realized his purpose this summer was to seek God’s face and not His hand.
From my perspective, I see so much opportunity for pride to find itself in the midst of Clay’s heart, preventing him from allowing himself to be an encouraging leader and servant. But the Holy Spirit just isn’t letting this happen; it’s so evident to me that God, in all His sovereignty is providing a way to teach Clay how to surrender to Him in a beautiful swirl of gracious humility and love.
In reference to learning surrender, Clay said “[there is a] part of me that is convinced I can do this on my own, but my spirit tells me that even if I could I wouldn’t want to, because I can lean into God…I can’t do this on my own.”
And what a beautiful realization that is?! There are a lot of attacks from the enemy that could have prevented him from fully engaging with LT; being able to identify where those fault points were + counteracting them with Truth is invaluable to faith and to spirit!
I loved having the opportunity to sit down with this guy and learn about what God is doing in his heart; through inevitable expectation, through choosing to be an encouragement, through humble surrender, God has continued to mold and transform Clay into the man of God that he is presently.
We could all take a few pages out of the book of surrender; we could all take the opportunity to change our position on the horse. We could bring him [the horse] to a halt, take our feet from the stirrups, and slide off.
I asked Clay as we talked if he could provide some advice for those of us who are taking that step toward surrender.
So here goes: for when you’re learning surrender:
- Put down the flag
Regardless whose flag you’re holding— your job, parents, yourself, sports, wherever you’re putting your identity—put it down. The first step in surrender is putting down the flag that’s in your hands. If you don’t know what it is consider asking a mentor, a close friend, someone who cares for your heart what it could be.
Remove yourself as King; hop off the horse.
“Wash, rinse, repeat” ; continue to put down the flags as you pick them up—if it’s not for Christ, it’s the wrong flag.
- Pick up the flag of the Kingdom of Heaven
As I alluded to before; once you’ve put down your flag (the flag that’s not for Christ) you have to pick up the Good one—the one that’s waved for Jesus, for the cause of the Kingdom.
Clay said in reference to scripture, “I don’t care what I do, I’m doing it for You” which corresponds to Colossians 3:17, “and whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
As far as project leading does, choosing to pick up the flag of the leader and being his cheerleader, which is the flag that Jesus would wave—surrendering to the leadership that has been put in place (rom. 13:1-2); being put under another’s authority— “God wants me to wave their flag,” Clay explained.
- Seek His face
We need to seek God’s face instead of always just His hands [provision]. There’s only so much physical provision that we can rely on before we realize that provision is insufficient. In all Truth, we need seek God’s face, His character, his vision, his sight—just as much, if not more, than we need His physical provision.
Figure out what it looks like for you to seek His face; for Clay, it looks like reading the word, spending time with Him in nature, worshiping, and talking to Him in prayer.
And in regard to prayer and seeking His face, Clay said “no matter how God answers prayer, the invaluable part was getting to spend time with Him.”
Ephesians 3:20 reads, “now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”
Let’s not forget that Jesus is the immeasurably more part!
Some scripture Clay recommends reflecting on:
- Romans 1:20, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”
- Colossians 3:17, ” and whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
- Hebrews 4:12, “for the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double edged swords, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
- Isaiah 6:8, “then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said “here I am, send me!”
- 1 Peter 5:8-9, “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of suffering”
Thanks Clay for your vulnerability, for your example, and for your honest heart.
Keep it quirky.
Talk to you soon,
grace and peace
*project groups are a group of people in Leadership Training that spend a day together serving the Lord, serving each other, and encouraging each other in the faith.