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Words: Elizabeth Rundle Charles (b. Jan. 2, 1828; d. Mar. 28, 1896)
Music: Ira David Sankey (b. Aug. 28, 1840; Aug. 13, 1908)
Note: In England, Elizabeth Rundle Charles was a gifted musician, painter, and author. Checking hymn books, from over the last century or so, I discovered that the words of this song have undergone a number of changes. What the Cyber Hymnal link presents may have been the author’s own original. However, I like much better the version found in Ira Sankey’s own Sacred Songs and Solos. Sankey himself wrote the tune used there, and may have edited the words as well. It’s that rendering of the song I’m using.
The commercials on television often provide simple answers to life’s problems. Buy this gadget, and meal preparation will be easy. Take these pills, and your health problem will go away. And owning this car will make your life exciting and fun.
But a moment’s thought will show such claims are too simplistic, and usually unrealistic. Their path to a better life is strewn with problems of its own. How many gadgets have you bought that didn’t perform as advertised? Or broke after only a few uses? Cars are expensive to run. They break down, and wear out. And did you ever listen to the long list of possible side-effects that are slipped into the drug commercials? Some of them fatal!
On the other hand, there sometimes are simple answers. One time, our car broke down, and I took it in to a mechanic. He tried this and that–even replacing the car’s computer unit–without success. Hundreds of dollars were spent, and a lot of time consumed, but the problem remained. Finally, in frustration, I took the car to another mechanic–one who had actually been trained in the factory where the car was produced. He laughed, and said, “Oh, that’s easy to fix.” And he did–with a part costing one dollar and sixty-five cents!
With regard to our spiritual lives, at times evangelical Christians are accused of “easy believism.” The kind of gospel invitation that sounds too much like the commercials mentioned earlier. “Trust Jesus and your problems will be over.” But if we do give that impression, we’re not representing the message of the Bible fairly.
Look at how many godly saints suffered. Job, Moses, and David, each men of faith, endured great trials–often because of their allegiance to God. Paul, a dedicated follower of Christ, lived a life of almost constant hardship and persecution (II Cor. 11:23-28). Believers struggle with many of the same problems unbelievers do, sometimes more. But we have a resource to turn to, today, that can give strength in times of testing (Phil. 4:6-7, 19), as well as the assurance of a better tomorrow (Phil. 1:22-23; Rev. 21:4).
There is a basic principle of blessing the Bible presents, which may sound naive and simplistic, but it works. I, and countless others, have proven it to be so. The principle, in a nutshell, is that there is gain in giving. When we give of ourselves to serve others, we are blessed in a special way ourselves. “He who gives to the poor will not lack” (Prov. 28:27). “Give, and it will be given to you,” said the Lord Jesus (Lk. 6:38). While that ought not to be our motive for showing the love of Christ to others, the principle remains true.
This is illustrated by an experience of the prophet Elijah (I Kgs. 17:8-16). At God’s direction, during a time of famine, he visited a poor widow. She had only enough food left to provide one more meal for herself and her son. But the prophet asked her to feed him first, promising, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth’” (vs. 14). And so it was. In obeying the Lord, and providing for His servant, she was abundantly blessed herself.
Elizabeth Charles wrote a hymn in 1859, based on the experience of Elijah, and illustrating the giving-is-gain principle. (A “cruse” is a jar, alluding to the widow’s jar of oil.) Her hymn says:
1) Is thy cruse of comfort failing?
Rise and share it with a friend!
And through all the years of famine
It shall serve thee to the end.
Love divine will fill thy storehouse,
Or thy handful still renew;
Scanty fare for one will often
Make a royal feast for two.
2) For the heart grows rich in giving:
All its wealth is living grain;
Seeds–which mildew in the garner–
Scattered, fill with gold the plain.
Is thy burden hard and heavy?
Do thy steps drag wearily?
Help to lift thy brother’s burden–
God will bear both it and thee.
1) Have you recently experienced the giving-is-gain principle in your own life? (If so, how?)
2) What would our churches be like, if each person in the congregation regularly experienced the blessing of giving in the Lord’s name?