Review: Surrender All by Joni Lamb

In this 200 page Christian living title from waterbrook press, Joni Lamb, Vice President of Christian television’s Daystar Network, takes a half a cup of scripture, a tablespoon of a classic hymn, and three cups of anecdotes, bakes it at 350 degrees, and produces Surrender All: Your Answer to Living with Peace, Power, and Purpose

Seriously, quick, concise and thought provoking, Surrender All conveys a central point of the Christian faith that is often missed by Christians engulfed in a self-worshiping culture that demands we be independent and in control at all times rather than God-dependent followers of Christ who take up the cross and die to self. And let me be honest: I live here, too. I can personally attest there’s plenty here to challenge as well as inspire, though Lamb would have been wise to acknowledge more that she also lives here. But our culture comes with a pressure for would-be role models to pretend perfection, so that much is to be expected.

Speaking of which, my usual concerns. I would have liked to see this totally biblical concept grounded more in scripture. Meaning, she missed an opportunity to build a case for surrender from the scriptures. We do get taken to the garden of Gethsemane, but very late in the book. It is there, I just would have liked to see a deeper exploration of the words of scripture on this subject. This may shock some, but there’s no anecdote as powerful as the living word. At least I don’t think any of us would claim to have a story we could tell that’s as sharp as a two edged sword to divide bone and marrow.

Likewise, she pulled her punches a tad too much on issues like divorce and homosexuality  and, in an attempt to be compassionate, sent what to me sounded like mixed messages. On women’s roles, especially in terms of career, she clearly sees the pain and confusion we all suffer from in our culture, but like most of us, in unguarded moments, doesn’t appear to realize what most women really want–and if you’d like to know what I think it is, feel free to ask.

Finally, I’m concerned about at least one of the anecdotes being dangerous if misunderstood. She’s clear earlier being surrendered means following the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such situations, but there’s a reason counselors are loathe to tell abuse victims to actually reconcile with the perpetrator and even discourage it. In my opinion, only God has the right to tell someone to put themselves back in a situation where they are almost certainly going to be in physical, spiritual, and/or psychological peril, which the Lord did in one anecdote in the book, which could be taken as an example for all to follow rather than an example of being obedient even when the Lord’s instructions defy all common sense, as they often do.

So in terms of dealing with “hard cases” the book suffers somewhat from disorganization, the rather common lack of a “been there” feel that makes it sound like the authors don’t know what they’re talking about even if they objectively do, and the even more common lack of the ink space the subject really requires. So, if you’re seriously wounded and hurting, I’d address that before tackling this book.

However, save for the last group, who may ironically feel a little like Job did when his friends offered their well-meaning advice if they read this, none of the human flaws takes away from the divine wisdom she does convey and well. Surrender, taking up our cross and following Him, dying to self, being obedient, whatever one calls it, bowing to Christ’s lordship is a critical area most Christians are struggling in today and it’s one that separates us from the Lord–and sadly this could be a permanent condition if never mastered. A chilling thought as we all have times we struggle there, but scripture doesn’t leave much wiggle room. We can’t serve two masters. A routine habit of living for self, of being the one calling the shots of our lives, is a soul killer.

We all want Heaven.  Upwards of 80% of Americans in particular want Jesus as our Savior. But do we really want him as Lord? That’s the question that matters for eternity.

Too many in church on Sundays are just trying to use the Lord:  happy to accept his sacrifice, eager to embrace him as a friend and a brother even, but reluctant, or outright refusing, to accept Him as Lord. When we reconcile without repentance, we perpetuate the lie they can get away with it, too. We’re the bible they believe, and the way we forgive is the way they expect God forgives–with deadly pathologies on both sides of the coin, for certain. Only the Lord can balance us properly.

Regardless, Joni Lamb’s handling of this issue makes this a good book to give to that someone we all know who hasn’t made the all-important decision to Surrender All yet. Or if we’re needing a refresher.


  1. I fail to see how you can tackle issues such as homosexuality & not be seen as a bit “rough”… Ever read what God feels about it? Like “Thou shalt not lie down with man as with woman, it’s an abomination”. Or the fact that in Revelation, effiminate people will “have their part” in the lake of fire? YIKES! How’s THAT for “a bit hard”?

  2. Author

    Yes, it is difficult, if not impossible, to take a biblical stand on such issues and not be accused of hate, etc. The world doesn’t know what true love is, or want anything to do with it.

    But that unfortunately doesn’t stop Christian pastors and authors from trying to be seen as loving and compassionate by the world. If they try to hold to biblical truth simultaneously, they send mixed messages to say the least. It’s contradictory to say out of one side of your mouth, “homosexuality/divorce/abortion/etc. is wrong” and out of the other side, “Come as you are, stay as you are. God will love and forgive you, and you don’t need to change because God accepts you just as you are.”

    Okay, they rarely are that blatant, but that is how what they do say is understood by those whose bible is the popular sayings of God’s people.

    Don’t get me wrong now. It doesn’t matter what we used to be when we turn from sin, whatever it is, and allow Christ’s grace to change and transform us back into the individuals He created us to be. And when we stumble and fall down, His grace is there to pick us back up. Nor should we treat one sinner differently than we would any other sinner.

    But that’s not good enough for the habitually unrepentant post-modernist. The world doesn’t want the compassion and mercy Christ offers and that Christians should be offering. It wants told it can live however it pleases without any consequences. We cannot be faithful to Christ and “love” habitually unrepentant post-modernists as they desire. We cannot please God and the world both and, despite the popular “Christian” belief today, we are not supposed to please or be loved by the world, either.

    But Lamb didn’t go so far over that edge to render the book useless; not at all. The references that concerned me were brief and the overall emphasis of the book will nonetheless point those with ears to hear down the road home, or into more intimate fellowship with the Lord if already a believer.

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