Posted by: rcottrill | May 6, 2015

The Wonder of It All

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Words: George Beverly Shea (b. Feb. 1, 1909; d. Apr. 16, 2013)
Music: George Beverly Shea

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Bev Shea)

Note: Born in Winchester, Ontario, Bev Shea became an internationally renowned gospel singer who recorded approximately 500 vocal solos on more than seventy albums. He was nominated for ten Grammy Awards, winning on March 15, 1966. Bev could easily have had a popular music career–indeed, was offered one, early on–but turned away from that to spend his life serving the Lord. The Wonder of It All was written in 1955, and there’s an interesting story behind it.

The year 2013 saw the passing of the greatest gospel singer of the twentieth century, when he was over a century old. Not only did George Beverly Shea have an amazing voice. He had a unique ability to communicate the message of a song to the hearts of his listeners. A truly humble man, without fanfare or attention-getting gimmicks, he simply sang.

Over the past little while, I’ve written articles on a number of the songs he used, and some of the stories he told about them. It seemed fitting to end with one that Bev Shea wrote himself. The best known of his songs, one that became a kind of personal signature, was I’d Rather Have Jesus. Mr. Shea wrote the music for that one, but not the words. However, for the song we’ll look at now, Bev wrote both.

In 1955, Bev Shea was on board an ocean liner, heading for Britain. The Billy Graham team was to hold an evangelistic crusade in Glasgow. On the deck one evening, with his six-year-old son Ronnie, Bev recognized the president of a New York publishing company which also published music. Though the man wasn’t a Christian, he spoke of his enjoyment of the hymns of the church. He asked what went on in their crusade meetings, and Bev shared a bit about that, exclaiming, “Oh, sir, if you could see it, the wonder of it all!”

The man reached into his pocket, pulled out a envelope, and wrote something on it in big letters. When he held it up, Bev read, “The Wonder of It All,” and the gentleman said, “I challenge you to write a song with this title.” That night, Bev did so. In fact, about two in the morning his puzzled wife whispered, “What are you doing?” He replied, “Oh, just working on a little music.” The result was a simple but beautiful hymn, The Wonder of It All.

In our age of mounting superlatives, when every product on the market must be called the most stupendous, the most fabulous, the super giant edition, the ultimate, and more, “wonderful” may seem a little tame. But it’s still useful, identifying something that fills us with admiration and amazement, and perhaps with awe.

In the Bible, the word is frequently (though not always) used to describe a miracle, a supernatural work of God. When the Lord told Moses He wanted him to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, God promised, “I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he [Pharaoh] will let you go” (Exod. 3:20). And after Christ’s ascension, Peter said to the people, “Jesus of Nazareth [was] a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs” (Acts 2:22).

However, there are many wonders that fall short of contravening the regular functioning of nature. They are not miracles, in that stricter sense, but they are still wonderful, and often we can see the imprint of the hand of our Creator on them. “He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number” (Job 9:10). Sailors at sea have witnessed many of these. “They see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep” (Ps. 107:24).

Then, there are wonderful things that happen in the spiritual realm. Bev Shea saw it, over and over, in the evangelistic meetings he shared with the Billy Graham team. Through faith in Christ, individuals were made new, and despair turned to joy, with the understanding that God loved them enough to send His Son to die for their sins (Jn. 3:16).

1) There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

O the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all–
Just to think that God loves me!
O the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all–
Just to think God loves me!

1) What is it about the Christian life that most fills you with “wonder”?

2) If you own recordings of Mr. Shea’s, which song stands out as your favourite?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Bev Shea)


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