I Surrender All
While this week’s anthem is entitled, “I Surrender All,” for most of us, the reality is more like Pastor Doug’s quip, “I Surrender Some.” Sadly, Doug’s take on the title is probably closer to the truth for us. We have hearts like Peter and the disciples, who claimed to be all in for Jesus but were heedless of His warning, “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I surrender all is easier to desire than to do, and yet it is God’s calling on each of our lives.
This “all” is what God has summoned His people to give Him from the beginning. The children of Israel were told, “You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). And when Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, He pointed to this very one (Matthew 22:37). Allness was also prominent in the Ten Commandments, where we were told that God was supposed to get all our worship. We are to have no other gods before Him; He is to be our all.
This was a stumbling block from the beginning. Not only did Israel wrestle with the temptation to worship idols throughout her history (leading to God’s judgment), but we see that even Abraham was tested in regard to idolatry. His potential idol was Isaac—the very child, the very blessing God had promised. God wanted all of Abraham’s heart and would not share that allness, even with the long-awaited son. Even good things, the blessings God has given us Himself, can become threats to giving Him our whole hearts. What is the thing you fear losing the most, the possession or person or position that causes the catch in your throat, or tightness in your chest when you try to make I surrender all more than just words? That thing or person is in danger of being an idol. It is at risk of being not just God’s gift to you, but a rival for the allness you owe to God alone.
This is no small issue. It is not something that only fringe Christians, babes in Christ, or the ungodly wrestle with. Allness to God is the supreme struggle of every believer’s life. It is the battle we will fight at one level or another until our last breath, with varying degrees of success. The Deuteronomy verse mentioned above was a part of the Shema, Israel’s form of a mission statement. It was their daily call to allness, often repeated twice a day—morning and night.
Jesus is our living example of a life dedicated to the allness of the Father. There is no one who walked the earth who surrendered all to the degree He did: completely. In the temptation in the desert, we see how Jesus rebuked the devil’s offer to make things easier for Him if He’d just worship him. Jesus said that all worship was for God alone.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus said time and time again that all His timing, all His power, all His glory were surrendered to the Father. But notice, as we see in Gethsemane, even for Jesus there was struggle in the surrender of the will. It is important that we understand this struggle. Here was Someone who was in perfect accord with the will of the Father at all times, and yet at this dark hour, He allowed us to see what it cost Him. This, in part, is for our encouragement, so we can see that He understands the extent of our battle to surrender all. We witness not only His battle, but His victory as He did, indeed, surrender His all.
Hebrews tells us that Jesus was made like us in every way. This is what makes Him our perfect High Priest, the perfect intercessor for us, because He knows our struggles intimately. He is able to help us in our time of weakness. Because He “suffered when being tempted,” He is able to help us in our temptation. There is no One better to understand us, to help us, to intercede for us than our High Priest, Jesus.
His help is essential because, as He has told us, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” most especially give God our all. If we try to do it on our own, we will only become frustrated and defeated. While we may succeed here or there for a moment or two, we don’t have it in us for the long haul, no matter how much we want it.
The wonderful truth is that those of us who are “in Christ” have His allness applied—credited to our account. It is His righteousness, His obedience, His willingness that God sees when He looks at us. And as we abide in Him, as He says in John 15, we are sanctified and grow in our desire and ability to surrender more and more to the Father. We will look to Jesus, who surrendered all to the Father, and increasingly long to do the same in response to His love.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries