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Words: Lucy Jane Rider Meyer (b. Sept. 9, 1849; d. Mar. 16, 1922)
Music: Lucy Jane Rider Meyer
Note: The Cyber Hymnal gives the date of September 9th for Mrs. Meyer’s birth. In the Wordwise Hymns Almanac I have it a day earlier. So far, I’ve been unable to get solid confirmation for either date.
We’ve invented many ways for saying no. Suppose a person is asked to do something he’s not willing to do. The most direct response is to say he doesn’t want to, or that he’d rather not. But perhaps he sees the need to state his position more strongly.
Dating back many years, we have other colourful phrases used to emphasize the point: wild horses couldn’t drag me to it; I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole; not for all the money in the world; not for all the tea in China. Even stronger is: I’d rather die! The more heated our response, the more it seems to contain a veiled insult–how could you be so dumb as to think I’d do such a thing!
But let’s suppose the one asking is a good friend, and we’d really like to do what he asks. It’s just that, for some reason, we’re not able to do so. Perhaps he’s going to put new shingles on his roof this Saturday, but we have a previous commitment then. If we’re able to reschedule what we had intended to do, perhaps we could help our friend.
Willingness and unwillingness come up quite often in the Bible. A number of times we see people in trouble, but they’re unwilling to come to the Lord in their need.
The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day were not ignorant of the Old Testament. Many of them were fine scholars. But they read the Scriptures with such a preconceived bias that they found there only what they wanted to, and they willingly distorted, or added to the Word of God, to suit their own purposes (cf. Mk. 7:6-13). The Lord said to them:
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (Jn. 5:39-40).
As He neared the time when He would die, the Lord Jesus gazed over the city of Jerusalem and lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Lk. 13:34). In anguished grief over their blindness and unbelief, He wept over the city (Lk. 19:41).
The Lord was willing to aid them, and abundantly able to do so, but they rebuffed Him. Another passage addresses the willingness of God to rescue sinners from eternal destruction.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise [i.e. of coming judgment], as some count slackness, but is longsuffering [patient] toward us, not willing [or wishing] that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).
“Not willing.” There are three aspects of the will of God.
¤ In some things, His sovereign will is exercised, and what He commands is done, without fail.
¤ Then, there is His moral will, which sinners can rebel against. We see that, for example, in the commandment, “You shall not steal” (Exod. 20:15)–yet some choose to do so.
¤ Finally, there are His heart’s desires, the good that He wishes and longs to do us, if individuals will accept it.
That is what’s in view in the Second Peter text above. That sinners will perish in their sins is not what God wishes. He has provided a remedy, through Christ (Jn. 3:16). Yet we know that many will reject Christ and be eternally lost (Rev. 20:11-15).
The assurance that God doesn’t want sinners to perish, and has provided a means of deliverance, is what’s behind the directive to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mk. 16:15). And it is the basis for a passionate missionary hymn by American educator Lucy Meyer. The words of this hymn certainly stir the conscience! Check out the full hymn on the Cyber Hymnal.
CH-1) He was not willing that any should perish;
Jesus enthroned in the glory above,
Saw our poor fallen world, pitied our sorrows,
Poured out His life for us, wonderful love!
Perishing, perishing! Thronging our pathway,
Hearts break with burdens too heavy to bear:
Jesus would save, but there’s no one to tell them,
No one to lift them from sin and despair.
CH-3) Plenty for pleasure, but little for Jesus;
Time for the world with its troubles and toys,
No time for Jesus’ work, feeding the hungry,
Lifting lost souls to eternity’s joys.
Perishing, perishing! Hark, how they call us;
Bring us your Saviour, oh, tell us of Him!
We are so weary, so heavily laden,
And with long weeping our eyes have grown dim.
CH-4) He was not willing that any should perish;
Am I His follower, and can I live
Longer at ease with a soul going downward,
Lost for the lack of the help I might give!
Perishing, perishing! Thou wast not willing;
Master, forgive, and inspire us anew;
Banish our worldliness, help us to ever
Live with eternity’s values in view.
1) What are the reasons (or excuses) we give for not being involved in supporting world evangelism?
2) What can you do today, or this week, to further the cause of reaching others for Christ?