This beloved hymn was written in 1896 by Judson W. Van De Venter, who was an art teacher as well as supervisor of art in the public schools of Sharon, Pennsylvania. Van De Venter was also very active in his church, particularly in the church’s evangelistic meetings. Friends saw in him the potential for ministry and urged him to give up his teaching career and pursue ministry as an evangelist. For five years, Van De Venter struggled between developing his talents in art and pursuing the call that God had on his life to become a full-time evangelist. When his struggle ended, Van De Venter made the decision to surrender all to Christ. It was in memory of that surrender that he wrote this song, which we sing to this day.
God may not call all of us to leave a career to go into full-time ministry, but He may call us to surrender things in our lives that we hold dear. He may call us to give of our finances, beyond our tithes, to support mission work. He may call us to go on a missions trip rather than a vacation that we had been planning. He may want us to give up some of our time in order to volunteer for work in a particular ministry. Everything that we have comes from God. We should be willing to surrender it to Him in order to answer His call on our lives.
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is a story of a rich young man who asks Jesus what he must do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells the young man that he should obey God’s commandments. The young man responds that he does do these things, then asks what else he must do. Jesus then tells the young man to sell all that he has, distribute the proceeds to the poor, and then follow Him. The young man walks away sad because he was very rich and did not wish to surrender all that he had to follow Jesus.
When we are called by God to give up our finances, our pleasures, or our time in order to follow Jesus and answer the call on our lives, will we be like the rich young man and walk away in sadness, unwilling to surrender it all, or will we be like Judson Van De Venter and willingly surrender it all to Jesus, our blessed Savior?