Posted by: rcottrill | August 21, 2017

Rise, My Soul, and Stretch Thy Wings

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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: Robert Seagrave (b. Nov. 22, 1693; d. circa 1759)
Music: Amsterdam, by James Nares (b. Apr. 19, 1715; d. Feb. 10, 1783)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Robert Seagrave was an English clergyman who was appointed Sunday Evening Lecturer at Lorimers’ Hall, a Baptist meeting house in London. He also worked with John and Charles Wesley, and evangelist George Whitefield. In 1742, Seagrave published a book with the lengthy title, Hymns for Christian Worship, Partly Composed and Partly Collected from Various Authors. Included in it was this hymn about longing for heaven.

What is time? The Oxford Dictionary tells us:

“Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.”

As creatures of time, we remember yesterday, we live today, and we anticipate tomorrow. The present moment is our God-given currency, to invest or to waste, to spend helpfully or harmfully. But what of the past and the future?

It’s best not to dwell too much on personal memories of days gone by. Either we become discouraged, and flooded with regrets about past failures. Or we are inflated with pride over our perceived successes. Neither is particularly helpful. Like a runner in a race, constantly looking back may cause us to stumble and lose ground.

As to the future, it’s a wise thing to plan and prepare for it. As the Lord put it:

“Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Lk. 14:28-30).

But having planned and prepared, we mustn’t assume a kind of divine sovereignty over tomorrow. We are not God. In this mortal life, there is no guarantee we’ll be able to do what we hoped to do. So many unexpected things can intervene–both pleasant things and ones not so pleasant. Perhaps we have a surprise visit from a good friend we haven’t seen in years, or maybe illness keeps us home when we intended to go to a concert.

The Bible says:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (Jas. 4:13-15).

Though we must live out our mortal span of years, and are responsible to use them well, God’s Word encourages Christians to see the present as transitory, while comforting ourselves with the future the Lord has in store for us. Unlike our own plans, God’s designs will always be fulfilled.

“Let not your heart be troubled….I [Jesus] go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:1-3).

Later, from a prison cell, Paul wrote that he had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23; cf. II Cor. 4:17-18). And he said this to the Thessalonian believers: “Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:17-18).

CH-1) Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings,
Thy better portion trace;
Rise from transitory things,
Towards heav’n, thy native place:
Sun and moon and stars decay,
Time shall soon this earth remove;
Rise, my soul, and haste away
To seats prepared above.

CH-4) Cease, ye pilgrims, cease to mourn,
Press onward to the prize;
Soon our Saviour will return,
Triumphant in the skies:
Yet a season, and you know
Happy entrance will be giv’n
All our sorrows left below,
And earth exchanged for heav’n.

Questions:
1) How can confidence about our heavenly home affect our lives here and now?

2) Is it possible to focus too much on heaven and our future there? (Why? Or why not?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


Responses

  1. Thank you for the reminder to set our minds on things above where Christ is seated. I am convinced that we don’t think of heaven as often as we ought, not nearly as much as believers in the past who faced more serious illnesses and witnessed death more frequently. Too often modern believers focus on health and fitness more than heaven. Yet how fleeting is this life compared with our eternal life with Christ. What comfort to know that there is more than this life to look forward to. Just as the anticipation of some earthly enjoyment excite us, how much more should the hope we have in Christ give us a deep abiding joy and anticipation to see the One who has saved us. Just as a bride longs for her wedding day, how much should Christ’s church long for her Bridegroom and the wedding feast promised her. I don’t think it is possible to think too much of heaven. For the scripture says it is a pujanrifying hope. 1 John 3:3

    • Excellent comments, beautifully stated. I agree 100%. Friends visited us yesterday whom we haven’t seen for twenty years or so. And over some great Chinese food, we got discussing this very thing. It’s almost as though, with the relative affluence of North America, many folks are saying, “Who needs heaven; I’m happy with this.” But back in the nineteenth century, and earlier, death was a common reality, and many more hymns and gospel songs about heaven were written to provide hope and comfort. Thanks for your input. And God bless.


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