What does it really mean to ‘surrender all’ to God?

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27, NASB).

One of the great hymns we sang two or three times a month in the church where I grew up was the old invitation chorus, “I Surrender All.”

But despite all the earnest intentions evoked when you’re with your congregation belting those lyrics from your heart, something’s almost deceptively easy about surrendering our “all” to Jesus. Christians are quick to sign up for the comprehensive, no-holds release of a generic, theoretical “all.” Feels good just saying it. Take it all, God, all of it. I surrender everything to You.

The problem comes when “all” becomes specific. We may be up for surrendering “all” to Him, but perhaps not surrendering . . . this.

My ministry. We’re fine with using our gifts in ways that are safe and satisfying and conducive to the rest of our schedule. But to “surrender all” is to lose the word my in front of “my ministry,” seeing it instead as God’s ministry, meaning He is in full control of it, in control of us, and of whatever this might cost and entail. Are you willing to surrender to that?

My stuff. How strong of a hold do your possessions have over you? If faced with the loss of something valuable to you, how resistant would you be to living without it?

My health. How much time do you spend fretting about how long your life is going to last or whether your health is going to hold out? While some of it can obviously be affected by lifestyle choices, many aspects of what’s to come in our medical histories are beyond our control. With how much faith, grace, and gratitude could you surrender to the ordeals of walking through a health scare or trial?

My family. We generally understand the idea that our spouse, children, and grandchildren belong to God, not to us. But what if His plan for them should conflict with our own desires and expectations for these precious individuals, or for how we wish the dynamics of our relationship to continue?

See? That’s harder . . . when the surrender is specific, when it’s not an abstract all, but a concrete this.

Like when Christ—in the days immediately preceding His arrest, torture, and eventual death on the cross—saw the sun of His suffering begin to rise above the horizon of His thoughts. In seeing it, He could feel the full weight of what His atoning death would cost. No wonder He was “troubled”—even as the Son of God. Yet what did He do with the anguish, anxiety, and horror of the situation?

He surrendered. He surrendered Himself to the Father’s will and purpose.

And in doing so, He left us an example, that we might “follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21, ESV). When everything inside you is saying you can’t do this or get through it—“Please, Lord, get me out of this!”—observe the Second Person of the Trinity silhouetted against the God-darkened sky late on a Friday afternoon, and behold what can be accomplished for God’s glory and purpose through a single individual who not only surrenders everything from a distance, but surrenders one specific thing at close range.

This post originally appeared in Dr. James Macdonald’s daily devotional and was republished with permission. 

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