The Surrender of 2023

2023 centered around the word "surrender" for me. What does it mean to fully and completely surrender? How can we trust God without being passive?


2/2/20248 min read


Since 2021, I have replaced New Year's resolutions with personal and spiritual health goals. I started off by giving myself an extensive list of things to change but now I just focus on a select few. There are always things to change and ways we can grow more fully into the child of God we are, but we are foolish to think we can make ten different life changes at once. Our ultimate goal is fixing our eyes on Him and asking, "Lord, how can I better reflect you today? What can I do to take the next right step." I have found it helpful to know and experience that I cannot change 180 degrees overnight but that I can move 1 degree closer. Change is also not linear. I may move three steps closer in my prayer life but in my physical wellness, I may move one step backwards. How can I take the next right step in alignment to God? In addition to a few guiding goals or focal points for growth for the year, I also choose a word that will guide my spiritual formation and how I see the Lord at work. I don't really have a special recipe for how I come up with these words. The first two years I just looked up some words online and landed on Intentionality in 2021 and Consistency in 2022.

2023 was my year of surrender- surrendering my parents' health, my friends' faith, the results of my ministry, my personal difficulties, and what my future holds. For 2024 my word is Sabbath. The Lord has been teaching me a lot about biblical rest and slowing down lately, so I want to center my year around that. And what better time than the end of my college years as life externally begins to speed up!


Each semester at Lee, we have a week of evening services (called convocation week) to prepare our hearts for the semester ahead. Last spring this took place January 29-February 2. Not one week later, the Asbury Revival began at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY following a regularly scheduled chapel service similar to ours at Lee. A handful of students from Lee made the drive to Asbury to catch a glimpse of what was happening. After these students arrived back on Lee's campus, the Spirit was stirring their hearts for ways that the Lord was moving in and guiding our campus. A few days later this revival-outpouring made its way to Lee University in Cleveland, TN. I kept seeing videos of this on social media and hearing stories of the mighty ways the Lord was working. Community members and alumni were on campus to try to just get a glimpse and a taste of the Spirit's transformative power on campus. I hadn't been all week but after my Friday afternoon classes were done I decided to check out what was going on. I went over to the stone chapel around 3 o'clock and it was pretty silent. People were silently praying and every so often someone would share a scripture or a story of how God was moving. I spent a few hours in prayer over all the things going on in my life and the people who were facing trials. A lot of prayer went to my mom and her cancer. At this point it had only been about a month and a half since we heard the diagnosis of her returned cancer. I was really concerned for her and the difficulties that awaited her. I had my journal, so I wrote a prayer to God to get all of my thoughts onto paper about where I saw God at work. Here is an excerpt:

"Great is your faithfulness to me and in my life. You take my brokenness and turn it into new life to glorify you! May my worship reflect your love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness to me! Lord, you have sprung about a generation who is choosing to listen to you. Revival has arrived! May we foster well what you have provided in this time and let our influence spread like a wildfire through this country and to the nations around the globe. We need more worship! We need more praise! We need more prayer! We need more interceding! We need more of you God!" (2-17-2023)

Once it got around dinner time, community members and students started to flood into the chapel. Pews filled up and the walls were lined with people. Individuals would start to sing a chorus from a hymn or contemporary song and then the student-led worship team would help to lead the Body in the song. I was only planning on staying for a few hours, but I didn't leave until 11 o'clock which was nearly eight hours of prayer, praise, and worship. This outpouring was unlike anything I have ever experienced before and I am so grateful I had the chance to get a small glimpse into this moment. This experience really opened my eyes to surrendering it all to God. I have always been close with my mom, but once I got to Lee in 2022 I wanted to separate myself a bit from my life at home to develop myself individually and build a community. After coming back with that difficult news in January 2023, I found this extremely difficult to do. I was calling my mom every day to check in on her and just talk about my day. This revival experience helped me to surrender all that God would have in store for me throughout the rest of that semester. He was my comforter and provider. He would be the One to heal my mom, so I had to put my complete trust in him. No amount of anxiety or worrying would change her circumstance. I have always been an optimistic person, so I never had a super difficult time in giving trials over to God. I was not in a passive state of mind, but I knew that his timing was the right one and that he would hold, comfort, protect, heal, carry, and love my mom through it all.


God is at work in every aspect of your life. Throughout this past year, my friends have all been on a journey that has had its ups and downs. A variety of so many trials: loneliness, health issues, addictions, insecurities, mental health struggles, and many more. I have truly felt a burden for my friends. I wish I could just bring them out of their bad situations, but only God has that power. I have learned to stop and say a prayer for them that ultimately hands their situation to the Lord. I am a friend who is simply present and ready to be a listening ear if that's what is needed. I am so blessed for all of my friends. I try to show them Jesus in all that I do and say. 2023 has been a year of surrendering my friends to God and interceding on their behalf.


Ministry in 2023 was a major area of surrender and was one of the most tangible ways I saw the Lord at work. In the spring I was still fairly new to being a Young Life leader. I had high expectations for our area in Cleveland because of the growth I had seen elsewhere and the depth of relationship I knew other leaders had with students. I had been given the opportunity to become our team leader for Cleveland ministry which really excited me. I was tasked with organizing the administrative side of our ministry as well as being a leader among leaders as we pursued friendship with high school kids. I led all of our team meetings in planning and thinking biblically about how we can be better leaders reaching the furthest out kids in a way that reflected Jesus to kids and the community well.

Knowing the biblical truths about ministry in your mind is vastly different than knowing and believing them in your heart when ministry gets tough. With these expectations I set for myself, I became very disappointed and discouraged each time I left the high school when they weren't met. I had this idea that I would automatically have a deep friendship with kids from the first time or two I met them. But that's not how relationships work. Relationships are intricate and take a lot of intentional time showing up, getting to know their name, and doing life alongside of them. This truth was first revealed to me in such a clear way after a basketball game at the high school. I left discouraged because most of my conversations with kids were super shallow or just included being hype with school spirit alongside of them. My expectation in my head looked like the relationship I had with my Young Life leader. Except there was only one issue: I had known my Young Life leader for four years and we had spent hours upon hours in relationship with one another. The kids I was hanging out with at the game I had only known for a few weeks or maybe a month. I had a very heartfelt conversation with Flippo and he explained that relationships take time: intentionality and consistency. I had to give myself grace and a lot of time!

This past fall, I joined student staff here in Cleveland. We once again had ideas and expectations of how we thought ministry was going to go and the growth that was going to happen, but the Lord doesn't work on our timeline or in our expectations. He is outside and above all of that! Ministry is slow in Cleveland and has faced its share of difficulties and frustrations. Despite all of this though, the Lord has worked far beyond what we could imagine. That is not to say that we don't have hard days or weeks, we definitely do! We lose leaders, we lack community support, and we feel like what we do in the lives of students isn't making an impact. But oh, how we are wrong! There are so many stories of surrender from Cleveland Young Life ministry in 2023, but let me share one of my favorite and most recent ones.

I have a student that I have been pursuing since my first day as a Young Life leader in October 2022. This kid loves music and is quite a goofball, especially around friends. It was my last day doing contact work in December 2023. I wanted to get my group of students together one last time before heading back home for Christmas. Unfortunately, all the other kids were busy except for this one. I picked my friend up and we went to get some coffee and Taco Bell. I was not prepared for what the Holy Spirit had in store that night. Our conversation was so rich and deep. Things like abandonment and feeling like an outsider, and bullying, and hope for the future. This kid noticed that I had a lot of Christian music on my phone, so that opened the conversation even more. My friend talked about how Christians have been mean and judgmental. The thing that stood out the most was this: my friend said, "Jacob- you are different and so much more loving and accepting than any other Christian I have ever met." Wow! That is why I go. That is why I show up to Cleveland High School week after week. That is why I get up after five hours of sleep to learn kids' names while handing out donuts. That is why I spend my weekends driving around town picking up my high school friends to hangout and get a bite to eat. That is why I fight for the community to see the need of going after lost and broken kids. That is why I will devote my life to building relationships with adolescents. That is why I go.

John 4 has been a crucial text for me in my ministry this year and has shaped my theology of incarnational ministry. I will do a separate post on that later this semester, but knowing that I will probably not see the fruit of my labor this side of heaven is humbling. In our culture, everything is instant gratification. Surrendering every part of my ministry has been hard because I want to know what I do will make a difference. But do I want what I do to make a difference or to just look like what other leaders have? Read that again. This has been super convicting. The Lord promises us that nothing we do will be done in vain. He uses it all; all for the greater Story. These conversations and meals shared with my rascal high school friends will all be used to bring them closer to the Lord.

I appreciate you reading along and praying for me and my ministry. I look forward to sharing the ways the Lord is continuing to show up, work, and transform my life and the lives of those around me. I pray that surrender continues to be a major part of my everyday life.

Your friend,


And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. -Luke 9:23