The song I Surrender All by Clay Cross was one of the most
popular Christian songs back in the day. This was one of the first cassettes I personally owned as a young adult. I would pop it in my cassette player as I would be getting ready before church on Sunday mornings. I absolutely loved this song, and the words would just jump out at me and grip my heart every single time I played it. It's a beautiful depiction of those who have totally left and laid aside all life's worldly pleasures and false hopes, promises, and dreams to follow the one true and only God. The Lyrics to this song are not just powerful, but they are so true, relevant, and real to so many who have found themselves in a struggle to relinquish every aspect of there life into the hands of the one who ultimately gave them life.
I have wrestled in the darkness of this lonely pilgrim land
Raising strong and mighty fortresses that I alone command but
these castles I've constructed by the strength of my own hand
Are just temporary kingdoms on foundations made of sand
In the middle of the battle I believe I've finally found
I'll never know the thrill of victory to I'm willing to lay down
All my weapons of defense and earthly strategies of war
So I'm laying down my arms and running helplessly to yours
I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams
though the price to follow cost me everything
I surrender all my human soul desires if sacrifice requires
That all my kingdom fall I surrender all
If the source of my ambition is the treasure I obtain
If I measure my successes on a scale of earthly gain
If the focus of my vision is the status I attain
My accomplishments are worthless and my efforts are in vain
So I lay aside these trophies to pursue a higher crown and
Should you choose somehow to use the life I willingly lay down
I surrender all the triumph for it's only by your grace
I relinquish all the glory, I surrender all the praise
Everything I am, all I've done, and all I've known
now belongs to you, the life I live is not my own
Just as Abraham laid Isaac on the sacrificial fire
If all I have is all that you desire I surrender all.
It was one of the most coldest days of the year, on the 18th of January in 1997 that would have forever changed two young lives. With Snow on the ground, and the blast of the bitterly cold frigid air upon us, two young lives were becoming as one that day. All the planning and preparation for so many months prior had finally come to an end and we were now ready to begin our new chapter together as husband and wife. The anticipation of what life God had planned for us could not have been more exciting. The thoughts, and dreams of a future together, our children, our home, and what ministry the Lord would be leading us into in the future were constantly running through both our minds, as we were finally stepping into a life that we would be finally having together.
We found that our dreams of a beautiful home, and family for both my husband Nick and I were finally coming into fruition, and we were just starting to live out that long awaited dream. Nick and I were very hard workers who were more savers then spenders. Before I left my career to stay home and be with my children, I worked at a Full line Insurance Agency in Manhattan and was an Account Executive in the Malpractice Department there. I commuted back and forth from Long Island to Manhattan each day for many years. Nick at that time was working with his family doing Landscaping before he launched out and started his own business. We knew the value of money, and what kind of life we wanted to have for ourselves, our future, and family. All our hard work, and savings paid off when it came time for our custom home to be built after we had our first child, and pregnant with our second. We hired an architect to draw and sketch us up plans for the perfect home that would suit our growing family perfectly. We found that our dreams of a beautiful home, and family for both my husband Nick, and I was finally our reality, Or So We Thought. !!!
In the Autumn of 2002 we were living an enormously busy life with two toddlers, and an infant, and we were involved with multiple ministries at our local church. Even with all the hustle and bustle in our every day life we couldn't have been more happier, and content at that point. After all we were living that white picket fence life so many have always dreamed of right ? Until one day everything came to a screeching halt.
In the midst of cleaning my home one morning, I had the most profound experience with the Lord I had not experienced ever in my life up until that point. As I was literally wiping my counters tops, the lord spoke to me words that were so powerful I never forgot them. The Lord pressed upon me "It's time you will be headed into ministry. " My first reaction was "What Lord are you kidding me right now ?" "NO I said, like No, No way, No how, I'm not leaving my family, we just moved into this new house we just built, we did't even finish painting all the rooms yet". I argued with God for a while that day, and quickly found out that arguing with God never works. I obviously did not win that argument. That experience was so overwhelming, and so amazingly undeniable, that I had to drop everything I was in the middle of doing to call my husband. I could have easily ignored it, and not called my husband that day and went about my business as usual, but I just could not escape that powerful experience, and I had no choice, I was compelled to call him. As I began to share my experience of what just occurred, on the other end of the phone I heard words come out of my husband mouth that I was truly not prepared to hear. "What are you kidding me right now ,and are you serious?" "I've been dealing with the lord impressing on me the exact same thing, but I've been ignoring it and trying to brush it away". We spoke a little more about the shock an awe of what was actually happening in the both of us at that very moment, and what God was about to do. As I hung up the phone that day, so many things were just rushing through my mind as I was still in disbelief.
You see we were a couple who had been on the run from a clear call from God for a few years, and were set on trying to do life, family, and ministry our own way by any means possible. We knew we had a calling years prior, and we did make a faint attempt to see what that Ministry life would mean for us when our first child was a year old. So with our child being watched by our family, and our bags packed in the family van, we headed cross country for a time of seeking God's face and will for our life in Ministry, and what that would entail for us as our family would grow. We made certain to pack light because we wanted it to be a quick weekend trip so we can get back as soon as possible. We didn't want to be away from our daughter more than we had to, and my husband Nick at that time had a Landscaping business he was running that was just starting to bloom, so we had to get back quickly. The both of us had made every excuse anyone could think of on that long ride home from our trip. In fact, by the time we pulled in the driveway from our exhausting 23 hour trip back, we had already talked ourselves out of Bible College, or ever even going into any full time Ministry outside of State. The online Berean study courses, and ministering in our local church seemed perfect for us. Honestly we were just not ready, or willing to let go, and give up our ways, our comfort, our family, friends, our newly built home, or business for the Lord at that time.
But a thriving business later, a brand new home just built, and three children , we knew The Gig Is Up. God had finally broken through our thick skin, and exhausted us to a point of full surrender, and submission. But this time we had no choice to but to surrender fully . We did it, we finally made that hard decision. This time we did not plan on turning back. We sold the business, our home, said good bye to family and friends, had a good cry, and with trucks packed with all our possessions, and our three children loaded in our family van, we once again headed cross country for the Ministry and life God called us to. You do not want to be one of those who had to learn the hard way, that running away from the Lord just is not worth it. Running the opposite direction of God, or from a clear call or leading on ones life can surely lead to pure exhaustion, as my husband Nick, myself, and others have experienced. As we have seen in the life of Jonah he experienced that running from God is never the option to choose.
Jonah 1:1-2 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come before me." Jonah was the son of Amittai, and came from the town called gath-hepher, near Nazareth in the area that later came to be know as Galilee, he was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam 11. Nineveh was the capital of the largest most affluent cities of the ancient Assyrian empire and is at this present- day Mosul, Iraq. (modern day Iraq). This city said to have had about 15 massive gates that penetrated its walls. They were known for their tremendous wealth, power, and their worshiping of idols, along with there horrific cruelty, and wickedness. But despite the fact that Nineveh was known for their wickedness, and their dislike of the Israelites, and was often at war with them, Jonah had many other reasons to run from God's call. Jonah was enraged because he knew what kind of people the Assyrians were, and hated them. Jonah knowing Almighty God is full of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and abounding in love, thought that if he went to warn them, they may just actually repent and God may forgive them and he didn't think they were worthy of it.
Jonah 1: 3-4 Jonah ran from the LORD and headed to Tarshish. He went down Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the Sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to breakup. Do to Jonah's disobedience, and fleeing from the Lord he was then forced to face a tumultuous chain of events before he finally surrendered in full submission to God's will. Jonah 1:7-9 Then the sailors said to each other, "Come , let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, "tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?" He answered I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Jonah he was the cause of it compelled the men on the ship that day to toss him over board. After trying to do their best to row back to land and couldn't they came to the conclusion that it may just be there only way of survival and did as Jonah asked and tossed him over board. Isn't it funny how we can be running from the same God we are claiming to serve and many of us have found ourselves in similar situations.
In the middle of the sea God provided a whale to save the prophet Jonah. Jonah 1:17 And a "great fish," appointed by God, swallowed him and Jonah was in the belly of that whale for three days, and nights until he prayed and pleaded to the Lord for help. Finally In the belly of a whale, and in a pit of despair Jonah surrendered and called out to God. Jonah 2 :1-9 From the inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. "In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.' The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever, But you, Lord my God, bought my life up from the pit. " when my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. "those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, 'Salvation comes from the LORD.' " Jonah 2:10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. The lord spoke to Jonah Again to go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." The result of Jonah's obedience then led to the salvation and repentance of the city of Nineveh.
As Jonah and many have found out, there is no where you can run to that sovereign Lord is not. Psalm 145:18 The Lord is near to all who call on him. Psalm 65:24 Before they call I will answer: while they are still speaking I will hear. We serve a Mighty God who is Omnipotent and Omnipresent. Jeremiah 23:24 Can a man hide in secret places where I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Psalm 139:7-10 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence ? If I go up to the heavens, you re there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Instead of running away from God we need to run to him.
Because of a heart of disobedience, selfishness, anger, hurt, fear,or simply the vein pleasures of this world, you could find yourself running in the opposite direction of what God was actually leading you into. You could be like a Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles who found himself denying the same Jesus he professed to go to prison and death for. It wasn't until after the death and resurrection, and before he ascended into heaven that the Lord met with Peter on the Sea of Galilee and called and restored him him back into ministry. Or a David who was a man after God's own heart, and close to the Lord had found himself in a situation of adultery and murder. Not until the Prophet Nathan who was sent by the Lord confronted him regarding his falling away from God by his adultery, and murder, did David break down and confess. Though he had consequences for his sin, he was forgiven and restored. You may be like so many others who have found themselves struggling to laying aside their possessions, and desires.
Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with having money or obtaining great wealth, it should never take priority in our life over God's will for us, and should never stop you from stepping forward into what God's planned for your life. Mathew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. We must guard our hearts because our hearts are such a central core of who we are. Mathew 15:18 But the things that come out of a person's mouth comes from the heart, and these defile them. And in 1 Tim 6:10 it says For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for the money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. Let's remember that the pleasures and all the treasures of this world we accumulate are all fleeting.
Ecclesiastes 1: 3 What do you gain from all the toil under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. 8 All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing. 9 what has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 2:4 I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 8 I gathered for myself silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and of the provinces. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after the wind and their was nothing to be gained under the sun. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes some who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. Ecclesiates 5:10 The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth , with gain. This also is vanity. 19 Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil-this is the gift of God.
Let's not let the pleasures, the vanity of this world, or your own greed, or selfish desires,or fear hold you back from walking fully in the path God is calling you into. You cannot take any of it with you into eternity. Being obedient, and having a heart after God's own heart is so precious to him. Instead of running from God we should be running right into the arms of a God who holds our future and every step we take in his hands. Who knows but that due to your willing heart of obedience, full surrender, and sacrifice to what God could be calling you to do, you very well could just save a Nation !!!