I Surrender All
All to Jesus, I surrender; All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
(Chorus) I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior, I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender; Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken; Take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus, I surrender; Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine.
All to Jesus, I surrender; Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power; Let Thy blessing fall on me.
All to Jesus I surrender; Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory, to His Name!
This is one of my favorites, though it’s always troubled me to just sing “I Surrender All” and not mean it. This hymn is so common even among non Christians. I remember at my workplace we decided to sing a song after a tragedy that had happened at the office and everyone just voice, I surrender All. Very beautiful words and a beautiful melody can make surrender seem easy and pleasant. Not so much. Those words are massive, mind-blowing. “I surrender all” means. Every thought, every word, every deed, EVERY – THING.
The story of Judson W. Van DeVenter who wrote this song is also quite inspiring. Here’s a simple summary in his own words:
“For many years I had been studying art. My whole life was wrapped up in its pursuit and the thing farthest from my mind was active Christian service. My dream was to become an outstanding and famous artist. After graduating from college, I studied drawing and painting under a well-known German teacher. To help me financially, I taught school and eventually I became supervisor of art in the public schools of Sharon, Pennsylvania.
It was during this period in my life that a revival was held in the First Methodist Church of which I was a member. I became very interested in these meetings as a personal worker. The Spirit of God was urging me to give up teaching and to enter the evangelistic field, but I would not yield. I still had a burning desire to be an artist. This battle raged for five years. At last the time came when I could hold out no longer and I surrendered my all-my time and my talents. It was then that a new day was ushered into my life. I wrote I Surrender All in memory of the time when, after the long struggle, I had surrendered and dedicated my life to active Christian service for the Lord.”
It’s interesting to see how the Spirit of God led Judson to his final surrender. God knows what is best for us and patient with us when we don’t trust Him right away.
It’s also humbling to partner with Judson so many years after his death to sing this beautiful song. I pray it stirs you to give your all to Jesus.
I like the background of this hymn because I think most of us, at one time or another, have struggled with surrendering our wills, our desires, our talents, and our “want to’s” to God. The author reminds us that when we do finally come to that point of surrender, God gives us a joy and satisfaction that nothing else could give.
There are three words in this song that really communicate a true attitude of surrender and submission:
- Freely – There are a couple of synonyms to this word that I believe illustrate what the author was trying to communicate here. Those synonyms are “delightfully, willingly and spontaneously.” The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that “the Lord loves a cheerful giver.” I like what the Message version says – “God loves it when the giver delights in his giving.” Have you “freely” given to the Lord your life or have you given reluctantly?
- Humbly – I like the definitions of this word too – “not proudly, not arrogantly, courteously respectful.” Often times in Scripture, there are both promises and warnings as it relates to pride and humility. The Bible says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” In Proverbs 16:5, the Bible says “The Lord detests all the proud of heart….” In Psalms, we are promised that the Lord will both guide and sustain the humble. Is your surrender one where you recognize God’s greatness and acknowledge your weakness in humility? That kind of submission is what the Lord is looking for.
- Wholly – The synonyms here include “absolutely, entirely, and completely.” I read the following Scripture as part of our church’s weekly Bible reading and I think it really fits here. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 13:3 that “The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and all your soul.” It is one thing to love something “half”-heartedly. It is entirely different to give yourself wholeheartedly and completely. This is, however, the greatest commandment.
Read of the following story and thought it was appropriate for this hymn.
There was a defiant young boy who was acting up at home. His mother told him to sit down in the chair and be still while she was doing some household chores. He looked directly at her and said, “No.” She continued her housework, and he continued to act rowdy. So his mother’s voice got a little louder, and she told him once again to sit down and be still. Once again, the boy refused. She finally had enough, walked over to her son, picked him up, and firmly sat him down in the chair, and said “Sit down and be still.” The boy’s face was all torn up. He crossed his arms, looked her square in the eyes and said, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!”
Does that story describe you sometimes? Have you reluctantly surrendered to God? Are you obeying Him on the outside while your will is far from submission? Are you compliant on the outside, but your heart is far from surrender? Or maybe a different question – Have you surrendered part of your life to God? Have you trusted God for salvation, but aren’t confident that He can provide in the area of your finances? Do you praise the Lord when all is well but when God touches those special issues that are dear to our hearts we say no?
This great hymn reminds us that we need to surrender all. Our heart, our minds, our wills, our finances, our children, and our plans. All of these must be surrendered to the Father. We have to empty ourselves so that we become vessels available for His use and His service. Many of us have seen the bumper sticker that reads – “God is my Co-Pilot.” (For those of you that might have this bumper sticker on your car, this is not a criticism of you because I think I know what you mean.) However, I don’t know if being a “Co-Pilot” is the role God really desires in our lives. There’s an old hymn that is on my “to-do” list for “Hymn Alive” that is entitled “Jesus, Savior, Pilot me.” Let’s hand over control to Him, surrender our lives to Him, and let Him “pilot” us. It is then when you can truly “enjoy your flight.”