28 Jan I Surrender All
“I Surrender All” is a hymn written by a man who had a decision to make. Judson Van DeVenter was an art teacher and musician struggling to determine God’s will for his life. Should he pursue a career in the arts or full-time mission work?
As followers of Christ, it’s clear that we’re all called to make disciples – but how? Where? Through a career here in America? By moving my life overseas? Why don’t I have complete peace about either option? How can I know that I’m making the right decision? What is the right decision, anyway?
These questions as just as relevant for many of us today as they were for Van DeVenter. Whether you’re about to graduate, considering what to do with your summer, or deciding what to major in, these are the concerns plaguing your mind as you contemplate how to go about making your decision.
I’m guessing at this point you might be skimming this post to find out which decision the hymnist made…well, slow down, because the answer you’re looking for isn’t here. I’m not going to tell you what he chose. Here’s why: I don’t think that’s the heart behind this hymn.
I don’t think he wrote it to give us a simple “how to” of surrender. I think he wrote it in celebration of surrender.
He surrendered – that’s the whole point.
This is our calling – to surrender. So often, we overcomplicate this by attempting to impose our demands and expectations on Jesus’ simple call to surrender everything to him. We want to figure out a full plan, preferably God’s plan, and then we’ll make a move. Surrender becomes this extra step we force ourselves to make before moving any further. We’ll figure out what exactly surrender looks like, then we’ll act.
Inevitably, this leads to us sitting and waiting for the Lord to tell us what to do. “Ok, God, I’m fully surrendered…I just need some specific orders before I can do something.” Essentially, we’re paralyzed by this idea of surrender.
But this is not true surrender – this is fear.
And not the “fear of the Lord” that we see in Scripture, but fear of failure, fear of not getting what we want, fear of disappointment. Ultimately, we can see that this is fear instead of surrender because it is rooted in our role in the situation. I have to make the right decision, I have to set myself up to succeed, I am responsible for the way this will turn out.
Do you see that? All of those “I’s”? That’s the opposite of surrender!
We want control so badly. We want to establish out own safety and security. So, we are dictated by fear masked as surrender, because if we truly surrendered, we would have to forfeit our attempts at control.
If we’re being honest, we don’t naturally want this. We don’t want to surrender. We hate surrender. It’s humiliating and it exposes our weakness.
But isn’t this the beauty of the gospel? We’re invited to surrender. We have been paralyzed by our self-centered fear for far too long. Paul says we were dead in it, “but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10). We now have the opportunity to surrender ourselves to him; to throw ourselves into his will for our lives.
Now many of you might be saying, ”But Robbie, what if my options aren’t necessarily wrong or disobedient? How do I know which to choose?” Some of you, especially you Summit College students, are experiencing that right now as you wrestle with whether or not to join one of our Go Now projects. So you sit there, praying, asking, waiting for God to make everything perfectly clear before you even click the link to open the application.
My advice to you is to stop trying to figure out God’s plan for your life. He knows it completely. He has called you to make disciples of all nations. He will guide you in that mission faithfully. His plan for you is good.
So take a step forward in faith. Take a risk! An application for Go Now isn’t a binding contract, it’s simply a part of the conversation between you and God about his plans for you…and, for many of you, it might also be the sign of surrender that he’s calling you to make, whether you ultimately end up committing to Go Now or not.
I think that this is surrender: not knowing, but still taking a step. With open hands, admitting you don’t know what God wants you to choose, but trusting him to show you as you go. It isn’t giving up. It’s moving forward in the freedom that he has given you. Stepping forward to share your faith with your friend, to live on campus for the gospel, to commit your summer or the first two years after graduation to the mission field – to wherever and whatever Jesus is calling you!
Surrender all…and take that first step.
Robbie Fore is on the Summit College Staff Team at North Carolina State University. Interested in leveraging your summer or your first two years after graduation for the mission of God? Check out our Go Now Initiative! Applications due February 1.