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CHRISTIAN LIFE: “I Surrender All”

The importance of yielding to the Lord

Judson W. Van De Venter was born into a Christian home in 1855 and at the age of seventeen accepted Christ as his own Saviour. After graduating from university with a degree in art, he became an art teacher in a high school. He was also an accomplished musician and could play some 13 different instruments as well as sing and compose music. While he was in his thirties he found himself facing a dilemma and for almost five years struggled over what to do. Should he abandon his teaching career and concentrate on evangelistic work? While involved in a church event in 1896 the Lord challenged him, and Judson Van De Venter yielded to the Lord’s will and gave up his secular employment. The experience caused him to write a devotional hymn that has found its way into many hymn books – All to Jesus I surrender. The beautiful tune to which the hymn is sung was composed by Winfield S. Weeden. He loved the words of the hymn so much that after his death the three words “I surrender all” were engraved on his tombstone.

 

The experience of Judson W. Van De Venter is one that many others have had. A decision has confronted the individual about what should be done. Something inescapable has had to be faced squarely – and it has not been easy. However, this is not the prerogative of a select group. Rather, it is something that every true Christian believer should come to terms with. “Lord” is not a word to use glibly; using it implies owning the authority of the one who is so addressed. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “Why call ye me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things which I say?” (Lk.6:46). Similarly, it is easy to sing the moving words of Judson Van De Venter’s evocative hymn when emotions are stirred and not genuinely mean them.

 

Of course, this does not mean that the hymn is unsuitable and ought not to be used. The New Testament makes it plain that every child of God should be able to say “I surrender all” in truth and from the heart. Three examples and three exhortations make this fact self-evident.

 

THREE EXAMPLES

1.  The finest and yet the most humbling example must be that of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. As He reached the climax of His earthly ministry, He entered into the darkness of Gethsemane one unforgettable night. Under the shadow of the olive trees, and away from His beloved disciples, the Son of God knelt in prayer before His Father. The agony of the cross lay before Him. He, the Sinless One, was to be “made sin” in those hours of impenetrable darkness (2 Cor.5:21). His holy soul was “exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death” as He “fell on His face” in prayer (Mt.26:38-39). Yet, the request that the bitter cup might pass from Him was regulated by the words that followed, “Not My will, but Thine, be done” (Lk.22:42). He submitted to the Father’s will.

 

How amazing this is! His love for us is beyond compare, yet it was also love and devotion to His Father that caused Him to pray like this. There was no other way in which guilty sinners might be saved, and so He arose from prayer to face the enemies who had come to apprehend Him. His Father’s will was paramount. If His followers are to be like Him, the words “Not my will, but Thine, be done,” must be uttered by them too.

 

2.  For the second example, we can consider one of the most devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul. Once a hateful persecutor of Christ, and on a diabolical mission to destroy His followers, Saul of Tarsus (as he was then called) was blinded by a dazzling light which caused him to fall to the dust. Confronted by the Lord in all His glory on the road to Damascus, and realizing how wicked and helpless he was, Saul uttered those memorable words, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). It was truly a moment of crisis. For too long Saul had gone his own way and done what he thought was right. Challenged by the Risen Christ, he had been humbled and stopped in his tracks. He was now a man who was genuinely ready to submit to another.

 

3.  A third example comes from the last book in the Bible. This time we are not looking at someone young and enthusiastic but at one who was an aged follower of Christ. The apostle John had been banished by the Roman authorities to the island of Patmos for his loyalty to the cause of Christ. But although banished, John was not left alone. Having seen a vision of the Son of Man in all His glory – Jesus whom he had known so well during His earthly ministry – John “fell at His feet as dead” (Rev.1:17). What else could he do? Like Saul, he yielded to the Heavenly Master and surrendered everything as he lay prostrate at His feet.

 

Both of these men, along with the Lord Jesus, teach us something important by example. Like the two apostles we must humble ourselves before the Lord of Glory, placing ourselves at His disposal and at His feet. By their attitude each of them was saying, in effect, “Not my will but Thine be done”. However, not only do we find examples in Scripture; there are also exhortations encouraging us to surrender our lives to the Lord.

 

 

THREE EXHORTATIONS

1.  Our first exhortation must come from the Lord Jesus Christ. He who demonstrated such submission to the purposes of God throughout His earthly life but especially in Gethsemane called men and women to surrender everything to Him. Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk.9:23). Following Christ is not an easy-going option that can occupy some secondary place in our lives. If we would follow Him, we must renounce all personal interests and actually deny ourselves. Our own desires must count for nothing! Taking up the cross daily implies a recognition that self is, in effect, dead. Following Christ means that He must lead the way and that we follow Him – going where He leads and not where we might choose to go.

 

“That is rather demanding,” someone might object. Yes, it is! In fact, it demands everything! If we think too much is being asked of us, it only shows how far we have moved from the terms of New Testament Christianity. We ought not to question these things. Jesus Christ must not be considered simply as Saviour; He is to be Lord of our lives!  A little later in Luke 9 we read of some individuals who expressed an interest in following Jesus but said, “Lord, I will follow Thee… but let me first…” (v.57-61). If Christ is Lord of our lives we dare not say “me first”! The rich young ruler wanted to follow Christ but turned away with a sad expression because he loved his possessions more than he loved the Lord Jesus (Mk.10:17-22). Yes, a disciple is called to surrender all to Christ.

 

2. The apostle Paul who had been dramatically humbled to the dust on the Damascus road never forgot that life-changing experience. A study of his life as recorded for us in Holy Scripture reveals one who was entirely sold-out to Christ. He knew what the Lord expected of him. In his letter to the Romans Paul explained the amazing truth of the Gospel and the impact that it should have upon our lives in practical terms. He wrote: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom.12:1).

 

God has shown tremendous mercy to us in saving us from the eternal punishment that we deserved. In view of what He has done for us through Christ who gave Himself willingly to suffer at the cross, it is only “reasonable” that we should respond by yielding ourselves to Him. Those lives that have been redeemed are no longer ours! They belong to Him and ought to be presented willingly for Him to use. In fact, as we have already seen, He wants us to die to self but also to present our bodies as “living” sacrifices to Him. He has a work for each one of us to do.

 

3.  A third exhortation (many more could be considered) comes from the writings of Peter. Like John, Peter at one time had forsaken all to follow Jesus (Mk.1:16-20). Many years later, as a much older man, Peter wrote of the need for younger people to “submit” and for all of God’s children to be “clothed with humility” (1 Pet.5:5). He then wrote these challenging words: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet.5:6). The hand of God is a loving hand that has been extended in mercy towards us, but let us not forget that it is also a mighty hand. How weak and insignificant we are before the Almighty! Like John on Patmos we must humble ourselves at the feet of the Lord to whom we belong.

 

 

A GREAT CHALLENGE

In the late 1800s C.T. Studd gave up a professional career as a cricket player and became a missionary to China. At the age of 25 he also gave away a family fortune to support the evangelistic work of Hudson Taylor, George Mueller and others. Some words that he wrote have inspired many to surrender their lives to Christ. He wrote:

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

Really, nothing more needs to be said. If we know anything about the mercy and love of God we should gladly surrender our lives to Him. To do anything less is to be dishonest. 

 

 

All to Jesus I surrender,

All to Him I freely give; 

I will ever love and trust Him,

In His presence daily live. 

I surrender all,   I surrender all; 

All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,

 I surrender all. 

 

J.W. Van de Venter