by Dr. John Yates
Text: Luke 2:25-35
Decades ago I pointed out that his opinion that that death could never be a good thing was contradicted by the story of Simeon. Luke tells us that “it had been revealed to him (Simeon) by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”, when he sees Jesus a jubilant Simeon exclaims,““Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;” (Luke 2:26, 29).
For Simeon death was nothing to fear for it meant entry into the presence of God; rare is that Australian who faces death with peace. The recent terrorist tragedy has exposed that underneath our laid back exterior of watching yacht races or cricket matches with a beer in hand our nation is full of the fear of death. We need to see Jesus. The appearance of the baby Christ to Simeon was a prophetic prelude to Paul’s bold statement; “grace… has now been made known through the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who destroyed the power of death and illuminated life and immortality through the gospel.” (2 Tim 1:9-10). The appearing of Jesus means not only can we be freed from the fear of mortality but also of the anxieties over the many small losses that threaten us along life’s way. Such deliverance comes only as we see Jesus as Simeon saw Jesus
Seeing the Glory
“the Holy Spirit was upon him (Simeon)” and he was “looking forward to the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25; cf. Luke 4:18; Isa 61:1). Knowing that God had promised to bring comfort to his people through the coming of the Messiah (Isa 40:1-2; Luke 2:26) Seeing by the power of God’s Spirit that Jesus is more than an ordinary baby boy Simeon prophesies; “my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32). What Simeon saw in the Spirit is best expressed in the words of John, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). To see Jesus by the Spirit’s light is to see all the grace and truth of the Father; it is to know with exceptional clarity that God is totally on our side. Such a revelation has the power to free us from all our striving to control the affairs of life (2 Cor 4:6).
Simeon’s peace-filled surrender of his life into the hands of the Lord is an act of faith fully free from resignation; it is a faith-filled “prayer of relinquishment”. (cf. Gen 15:2, 15; Num 20:29). Years ago when Donna was struggling to let go her maternal attachments to one of our children she came across the “prayer of relinquishment” in a book by Catherine Marshall.“Meeting God at Every Turn” by Catherine Marshall Paperback: 256 pages Publisher: Chosen Books [September 2002] Language: English ISBN-10: 080079298X ISBN-13: 978-0800792985 Amazon Books After years of praying for healing from tuberculosis Marshall came to a turning point; “Finally I was able to pray, ‘Lord, I understand no part of this, but if You want me to be an invalid for the rest of my life—well, it’s up to You. I place myself in your hands, for better or for worse. I ask only to serve You.” Later, in the middle of that same night she suddenly awoke with Jesus in the room and she was totally healed.“Let go and let God.” is a pillar of all Christian spirituality. This was true for mother Mary when Jesus was only 40 days old.
“Simeon…said to Mary…, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also)…”” (Luke 2:34-35 ESV). Old Simeon prophesies to teenage Mary that her son will have a life filled with controversy and conflict; his prophecy that a sword will pierce her soul prepares her for the crucifixion. God calls Mary was to relinquish her natural desires for her baby’s earthly happiness and to relinquish him into his Father’s hands. This sounds like a very tough call, but God never asks us to do anything which he has not first done himself.
God Lets Go
God has always been a letting-go God. From Eden on the Father has let us sinners go our own way in the world (cf. Luke 15:12). Most profoundly, God must let go of God if we are to be saved. The Father “lets go” of the Son in sending him into a world where from beginning to end his life will be targeted by demonic powers, raging tyrants and envious religious leaders (Matt 2:16; Matt 26:59; Matt 27:18). The Lord’s greatest act of relinquishment comes in Gethsemane where Jesus must let go of the hold of the Father.
He prays; ““Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mark 14:36). By faith Jesus knew that all the goodness of God is concentrated in the will of God and will lead to the glory of God; no matter how great the cost. In accepting the cup of judgement Christ lets go of all his entitlements as “Son of God” knowing that the relinquishment of such rights will lead to the loss of the presence of the Father; “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.”” (Mark 15:34). God however is greater than death. The end result of Christ’s relinquishment to the will of God is his glorious resurrection joy (Heb 12:2 cf. Rom 1:4). The death-and-resurrection of Jesus testifies to us that letting go according to the will of God always issues in extraordinary blessedness.
The Fruit of Relinquishment
Simeon’s soul was filled with a sense of peace as he surrendered his life to the Lord (Luke 2:29). Andrew Murray sums it up well by saying; “entire surrender is the Father’s claim, the Son’s example, and the true blessedness of the soul.” (A Murray). Paul testifies to the benefits of a relinquished life; “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13). Living contentedly in all the ups and downs of life is a powerful testimony to Jesus in a stressed and dissatisfied world. The fruit of a life of relinquishment is satisfied rest. Why is this wonderful vision so rarely mastered?
The Struggle to Relinquish
In a prayer meeting the other day someone was praying for the healing of a Christian wife and mother with terminal brain cancer being kept alive by repeated painful surgery and chemotherapy; I was moved to speak out that she should already be dead but she had not been able to enter the Lord’s rest because she could not let go. Immediately another lady present shared her sister-in-law was in hospital slowly dying but was afraid to let go and leave behind an unbelieving family. The Church today has forgotten how to let go. We have forgotten how to let go of trying to meet the expectations we believe family, friends, and God have of on our lives.
I recently said to a dear brother who has been enduring a most painful separation that he needed to let go of all human efforts and hopes that his wife would be reconciled to him and leave the future of his marriage entirely in the miracle working hands of God. On the other hand I have had to pastorally exhort men and women to relinquish their craving for a spouse; they did not listen, their marriages ended in disaster and they later confessed I was correct. What about letting go and trusting God in relation to career and finance.
When Jesus was calling me to leave behind a career as a scientist and go school teaching I struggled very much. Anyone who has never had a struggle in giving away money either has perfect faith or does not know how to hear the Spirit’s voice. When our young family of 6 was about to cross over from Victoria to WA a young businessman who had recently suffered financial struggles walked in and said, “I need to give you this money. I was on my tractor mower and God said ‘Give the money from your latest job to the Yates’’. To be honest I didn’t want to do it, but here it is.”
Health, relationships, career, money but perhaps the greatest failure to let go and let God is found in church leadership. Most churches and ministries never grow to maturity because the leadership cannot let go of their control. A prophetic voice representing Jesus once said, “Give me back my Church so that I may give it to the world.”
Our society is bearing the bad fruit of its failure to live a life of relinquishment. Old people who have never learned to let go of feeling “useful” to their families lose a sense of dignity think of themselves as a burden and become candidates for the euthanasia lobby. I have a vision of older Christians who, having learned the secret of letting go and letting God, radiate the peace of God into a community where old age and terminal decline so often mean only fear and embarrassment. Simeon’s story has one last lesson for us; the title he uses for God at the start of his prayer holds the secret of how to “Let go and let God.”
“Master, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word”. How we struggle to accept that God is our Master and we are his servants (Acts 4:24-27). When William Ernest Henley lost a leg to gangrene he wrote a God-defying poem in protest against the Lord’s will. “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” His poem is called Invictus, the Latin word for “unconquerable”, and he is boasting of an unconquerable will. Henley’s honesty is rare, but at some level we all hate the thought of someone else running our lives. The only solution to our arrogance is the crucifixion of the will.
Simeon possessed a will that had died to self-interest, Mary had to learn it, Jesus embodies it and Paul sums it up in a very well known verse. When I awoke at 2.20 this morning with a clear mind simultaneously aware of an impending problem for our household that emerged a few hours before I knew these words from Galatians 2:20 were a challenge for me personally to “Let go and let God”. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:19-20). True relinquishment requires a daily crucifixion of the will, letting go of what I will and accepting the will of my Father in heaven. This daily struggle is a mark of real Christianity.
In our “Age of Entitlement” where people think they have the right to an endless trouble free and happy life the notion of relinquishing your rights to a power greater than yourself is utterly offensive. But the benefits of a life of “letting go and letting God” are immeasurable.
The families of a church that practiced relinquishment would be free from nagging, bullying and rebellion because husbands, wives and children had surrendered their “rights” to getting their own way. The members of such a Church would radiate the peace of Christ in the midst of the crises of health breakdown, old age, relational strain, demotion, unemployment and financial strain. Wisdom in letting go and letting God is a complete way of life that opens the doorway to happiness with God. Jesus is calling us to follow him in this way today.
From eternity he surrendered the privilege of remaining in heaven and willed to come down to earth and lay down his life for us (Phil 2:6). The fruit of Jesus’ perfectly relinquished life is that he has conquered the power of death and re-entered the endless joy of his Father’s presence. Today he calls us to share in both relinquishment and resurrection power (Heb 12:1-2). .
No one but Jesus can make perfect sense of your life. Billions of dollars spent on Boxing Day sales will not bring one degree of lasting peace to our nation. Without the prophetic power of a lifestyle of relinquishment crazy consumerism, substance abuse and endless social and family problems will be our national inheritance. Without relinquishment life looks like the tangled threads on the back of a tapestry, the pains and suffering of existence leave us with a sense of random disorder drawing out anxiety, depression and the fear of death.
Simeon’s experience in the presence of Jesus teaches us that there is another way to live.
In letting go of everything into the hands of God we start to see the Lord’s hidden purposes in all of life’s experiences weaving all things together for our good (Rom 8:28).
A life of relinquishment is a life of great wisdom.
The Spirit is calling the Australian Church to a prophetic lifestyle of “letting go and letting God”; the Spirit is calling.
Will we obey Jesus today?