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Words: Thomas Obediah Chisholm (b. July 29, 1866; d. Feb. 29, 1960)
Music: David Livingstone Ives (b. _____, 1921; d. _____, 1987)
Note: Though Chisholm’s death occurred on February 29th, the year I created the almanac was not a leap year. I put information on Chisholm at the bottom of the page on February 28th.
Thomas Obediah Chisholm, an American hymn writer, got his early education at a small country school in Kentucky and, at the age of sixteen, began teaching at the school himself. At twenty-one he became the associate editor of the local newspaper. Chisholm put his faith in Christ six years after, and trained to become a pastor.
When ill health later led to his retirement from active pastoral work, he turned to writing devotional verse. A number of his poems were set to music, and found their way into our hymn books. Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and Trust in the Lord are two of these. In the providence of God, Mr. Chisholm likely has blessed many thousands more as a hymn writer than he could ever have reached as a pastor. The present hymn was published in 1945.
Hero worship, or the desire to be like one’s hero, is a fairly common phenomenon. If the object of adulation is a person of good character, the aspiration may have some benefit. But it can take a darker turn, if the one being emulated is morally corrupt.
Police have long been wary of what’s termed copycat crime. A crime is committed and receives sensational publicity. Then, after the sordid details are described in the media, other similar crimes may crop up. There are also examples of fictional crimes being enacted by copycats. Mystery writer Agatha Christie was appalled when her book, The Pale Horse, was found in the possession of a killer. He had copied her villain’s use of an almost untraceable poison named in the book.
It’s not uncommon for young people to try to dress like and act like popular movie or rock stars. Sadly, some of these individuals are not worthy examples to follow. They glory in rebelling against moral standards, and ridicule those who hold to them. In time, their wayward lives will reap what they have sowed. But by then the damage may have been done to a host of adoring fans.
If we’re looking for someone to imitate, we need a better example than that. The Bible presents the supreme pattern for us in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul repeatedly told others to do what he (Paul) was doing, but only insofar as he was acting in a Christlike way. He says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). On that basis he could exhort the Philippian Christians to “join in following my example” (Phil. 3:17).
Not only are we responsible to choose the best pattern to follow–that of the Lord Jesus. We ourselves are to then be an example to others, that they too will be drawn to reproduce the kind of conduct that’s pleasing to God. Paul told Timothy to “be an example to the believers” (I Tim. 4:12), and told Titus likewise “to be a pattern of good works” (Tit. 2:7).
But it all comes back to our ultimate exemplar, Christ. We are to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Eph. 5:2). In the same chapter in Ephesians, this is applied to a husband’s behaviour toward his wife. We are told, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). What a high standard that is! With Paul, we cry, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (II Cor. 2:16), and we answer with him, “Our sufficiency is from God” (II Cor. 3:5).
Pursuing the goal of Christlikeness requires passionate commitment and the sacrifice of selfish ambition. That is not natural for us, it’s supernatural, a work of the Spirit of God within us. Our natural tendency, rooted in our old sin nature, is to want what pleases us and satisfies our fleshly cravings. Those motives are born in us.
I recall standing near the entrance of a large department store one day. Right near the entrance was a colourful display of children’s videos. Just then, a family came in, mom and dad, with a toddler. She spotted the display instantly and quickly trotted toward it. Arm outstretched, finger pointing, she said, in a demanding voice, “I want that!”
It seemed to me at the time that we too often respond to our world in much the same way, “I want that…and that…and that!” Samson wanted a Philistine wife, even though his parents tried to dissuade him from marrying one of their heathen enemies. His reply says a lot about his character, and about the moral weakness that plagued his career as a judge in Israel. He simply said, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well” (Jud. 14:3).
If we are to become more and more like Christ, we will consistently need to say “No” to the flesh, and “Yes” to God. What pleases us above all else must be pleasing the Lord. That is the theme of Mr. Chisholm’s wonderful hymn.
1) I have one deep supreme desire,
That I may be like Jesus.
To this I fervently aspire,
That I may be like Jesus.
I want my heart His throne to be,
So that a watching world may see
His likeness shining forth in me.
I want to be like Jesus.
1) What are the qualities that in particular make up the Christlike character and life?
2) What is the means by which these are attained and maintained?