Posted by: rcottrill | July 8, 2019

Lord, It Belongs Not to My Care

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Words: Richard Baxter (b. Nov. 12, 1615; d. Dec. 8, 1691)
Music: Evan, by William Henry Havergal (b. Jan. 18, 1793; d. Apr. 19, 1870)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (nothing in the Almanac for this hymn, but for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Richard Baxter was a clergyman in England during a time of great upheaval. There was the removal and execution of King Charles, under Oliver Cromwell. Baxter served as chaplain of one of Cromwell’s regiments. Later, after the Restoration, there was a new king, Charles II, whom Baxter served as chaplain. William Havergal, also an English clergyman, was the father of hymn writer Frances Havergal.

It’s likely an expression we’ve heard–maybe even used ourselves. One person will ask another, “What time have you got?” Meaning, what does your watch say the time is?

But there’s another, and much more sobering, way to read that question. What time have you got left of your mortal life? Medical discoveries seem to be pushing the limits of the average life span on a little. But that’s just it. It’s an average, not an individual guarantee. Yes, there seem to be more people living into their nineties and beyond. But not all do. Maladies, mishaps and malice can bring someone’s life to a sudden and unexpected end.

As Ecclesiastes puts it, there’s “a time to be born, and a time to die” (Ecc. 3:2). But did those on September 11th of 2001, going to work as usual at the World Trade Centre, know that would be their time to die? No. Nor, in Christ’s day, did those “eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them” (Lk. 13:1-5). The Lord doesn’t give each of us a guarantee that we’ll have a long pilgrimage on this earth.

It’s no good being anxious and worried about that. In truth, chronic worry may itself shorten our lives. The Bible says, “Do not fret–it only causes harm” (Ps. 37:8). “Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27, NASB). Even so, there are some things we need to do.

First, be ready.
“Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Lk. 12:40). However long we live, it’s less than the blink of an eye in comparison to eternity. Each of us needs to be ready for that by claiming God’s remedy for sin. We do that by putting our faith in the Saviour, who died on the cross to bear sin’s punishment for us (Jn. 3:16; I Cor. 15:3). It’s also important after that to deepen our fellowship with the Lord by spending regular time in His Word and in prayer.

Second, be busy.
We ought to use the gifts an opportunities the Lord gives us to serve Him. And a related point: We need to plan for the future to some degree (Lk. 14:28), but we must not become possessive of our plans, demanding that God has to do things our way. “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” (Jas. 4:13-14).

Third, be far-sighted.
As Christians we can look beyond the uncertainties and the trials of this life to the eternal future God has prepared for the saints. It’s said of the patriarch Abraham, “He waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). The Lord Jesus promised, “ I 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. 14:2-3). Christians have that to look forward to which is “far better” (Phil. 1:23).

This relates to a touching and insightful hymn by English clergyman Richard Baxter. His hymn wrestles with the issue of time discussed above.

CH-1) Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.

CH-2) If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day?

CH-5) Then I shall end my sad complaints
And weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Saviour’s praise.

CH-6) My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.

Questions:
1) What are some common worries about the future?

2) Why do you think God does not commonly reveal to us how much time of life we have left?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (nothing in the Almanac for this hymn, but for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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