"Yahweh is God, and he has given us light. Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar" (Ps. 118:27 WEB). The secret to extraordinary encounters with God and intimate union with Christ is not effort, but surrender. Effort will elevate the devoted and determined seeker of God only so far up the mountain, and then, frustration will stir the climber to greater or new and varied efforts, but not higher heights. Effort is good for a season, as we strive to enter the narrow gate, but will fail to lead us on into the "highways to Zion" that lie beyond. Effort simply cannot make us what we desire to be, nor reveal Him whom we long to find.
Many times, great spiritual effort camouflages great spiritual pride, for pride never allows us to recognize our own inability to do what only God can do, and desires to do, much more than we. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble, and surrender is an expression of humility. That's why effort can become an obstacle rather than a means: because only the grace of God can take a pilgrim on into the greater realms of spiritual experience. In surrender, effort is exchanged for rest, and rest leads to reigning.
The grace of God at work in us and our obedience to Christ will, of course, produce great efforts, but effort is the expression of His passion and creativity within us, and not the means by which we know Him intimately or become like Him. Searching for God always involves effort as we grapple with our own pride, flesh, fears, and the spiritual elements that hinder, weary and test us. It involves effort to continually return to what really works. It involves effort to find at last, to find once again, the answer that we seek, and the answer most often lies hidden within surrender.
Extraordinary revelations of the person of Jesus Christ and extraordinary union with Christ come not from extraordinary effort, but extraordinary surrender, extraordinary obedience, and extraordinary breakings. It comes from an extraordinary work of God in the life of His own, and only when the sacrifice is bound to the horns of the altar, where all ability to resist the process has been surrendered, is God freed to do what only a work of grace can do. The secret is surrender.