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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.
Words: Alfred Henry Ackley (b. Jan. 21, 1887; d. July 3, 1960)
Music: Alfred Henry Ackley
Note: Alfred Ackley was a pastor, as his father before him had been. He also worked for a number of years with evangelist Billy Sunday, and over his lifetime wrote some 1,500 songs. His older brother, Bentley DeForest Ackley (1872-1958) served as a pianist in Billy Sunday’s campaigns. He also wrote the tunes for some 3,000 gospel songs.
During the Second World War, Britain was in a titanic struggle against Nazi Germany. Time after time, Winston Churchill rallied the nation with stirring speeches.
One day in early February of 1941, a letter of encouragement came to the British Prime Minister from American president Franklin Roosevelt. Churchill went on the radio, and quoted from the letter. Then he said, ending his address to the nation, “Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt…Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.”
Finishing. Whether battling a cruel and relentless foe, building a house, or running a race, it’s the same. Not every contest is a matter of life or death, but when work is begun, when we tackle a challenge of some kind, we determine to reach our goal. And we hope to finish well.
Go back a few years before that day in 1941, to the time of the First World War. Scottish singer and comedian Harry Lauder was inspiring Britain with laughter and song, and he raised a great deal of money for the war effort. Then, the pain of the conflict touched his own home. His son was killed in action. What would he do about his own grief, and to comfort others? Lauder sat down and wrote a song. It says:
Keep right on to the end of the road,
Keep right on to the end;
Though the way be long, let your heart be strong,
Keep right on ‘round the bend.
In other words, let’s not be deterred by the personal cost and sacrifice. Let’s finish well. And the same can be said of our lives, as a whole.
The Lord Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (Jn. 4:34). Then, as He hung on the cross, taking there the punishment for our sins, He was able to cry at the point of death, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).
When faced with dangerous opposition to his ministry, the Apostle Paul said, “None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24). Later, as he neared death, in a Roman prison, he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7).
In 1930, Alfred Henry Ackley was wrestling with a time of discouragement. In his years of Christian ministry he had been a successful pastor, and a skilled musician with some fifteen hundred songs to his credit. Perhaps he was feeling underappreciated for all he’d accomplished, or maybe it had been a time of exhausting stress. He doesn’t say. But he determined to take some time off.
He returned to the scenes of his boyhood, around the country village of Springhill, in Pennsylvania. Things hadn’t changed much in four decades. The beautiful farms, and even the little white church where his father had been the pastor seemed much the same. Mr. Ackley decided to go fishing in the nearby creek, where he and his dad had spent many hours casting for brook trout.
He didn’t catch many fish that day, but he did a lot of thinking. And he recalled something his father had told him about serving the Lord. The elder Ackley said:
“Remember, you won’t always see your reward here. But don’t forget, God keeps the accounts, and at the end of the road He won’t forget you.”
The reminder encouraged him greatly with the need to take the long range view of things, and to finish well. It also led Alfred Ackley to create a song called At the End of the Road. It’s a help to realize that death may be the end of this earthly life, but life goes on into an eternal day. We need to live with an eternal perspective in view.
1) There’ll be light in the sky, from the palace on high,
When I come to the end of the road;
Sweet relief from all care will be waiting me there,
When I come to the end of the road.
When the long day is ended, the journey is o’er,
I shall enter that blessed abode;
For the Saviour I love will be waiting for me
When I come to the end of the road.
1) Why is it encouraging to know that the Lord keeps accurate records of our service for Him?
2) What are some kinds of service for the Lord that are more public? What are some that others (or only a few) may even know about?