I Surrender All – Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896
Van DeVenter beautifully describes the process of absolute surrender in his timeless hymn I Surrender All. If I may impose my perception of this hymn, I would suggest that He reveals the struggle involved in surrendering all that he is to the Lord. And with each progressive step, the refrain embraces a more heart-felt and deep-seated passion to give himself totally to the Savior.
All to Jesus I surrender; All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
· He begins where most of us begin, with a willing heart that desires to abide in the presence of the loving Savior. But all he offers at this point is a feeble promise. His attitude is almost flippant as he arrogantly proclaims what he is going to do. His commitment consists of empty words derived from an idealistic faith. He wants to give all to the Lord, but his thoughts are too self-centered to allow him to make the commitment the Lord demands. He offers all that he has on his own terms, expecting the Lord to bless him for his magnanimity.
All to Jesus I surrender; Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken; Take me, Jesus, take me now.
· His progress has brought him to a more meaningful place of worship, and he bows at the feet of Jesus in mock humility. No longer do the attractions of the world have the appeal they once had. But his ego is yet manifest as he cries out, “Look, I’ve forsaken worldly pleasures so that I may worship You.” He senses that his relationship with Jesus Christ is still incomplete, but he cannot fathom what he still lacks. He knows he is closer to the Lord than before. But in spite of the progress he has made, he can only stand before the Master simultaneously begging and demanding, “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.
· Now his soul is in anguish, and he is not even sure of his own salvation. The emotional impact of his regeneration has deserted him, and he can no longer sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. He cannot reconcile what he knows to be true with what he thinks he should feel. So he demands of the Lord, “You do it! You make me what I’m supposed to be!” He rebukes the Lord for His lack of decisive action, blaming Him for the void in his spiritual life. All the while, the Lord patiently waits for him to come to his senses.
All to Jesus I surrender; Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power; Let Thy blessing fall on me.
· He has now reached the moment of truth, and he understands fully that his only enemy in this process has been himself. He sees how foolish he was to think that the Lord would make him surrender against his own will. What he wanted Jesus to take by force, he now willingly gives as a living sacrifice, surrendering himself, and holding nothing back. Where he previously demanded of the Lord, “Take me,” he now pleads in utter desperation, “Fill me.” He has finally emptied himself of every selfish, worldly desire, and prostrates himself before the Lord; an empty vessel to be filled by the Savior.
All to Jesus I surrender; Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory, to His Name!
· Filled with the love and power of Jesus Christ, he rejoices in the fullness of his newly discovered relationship with his Savior. Only now does he realize the vivid contrast between the life he wanted to live and the life the Master wanted to give him. The abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit overwhelms him. The enormity of the Savior’s love overpowers him. His cry of “I surrender all” is more than just a statement of his broken will, it is an urgent plea that the Lord never allow him to return to the life he left behind.