For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
We’ve all been there. It’s sad when it’s a friendship; tragic in a marriage. Interest wanes. Character flaws that we never saw before, become pesky annoyances. We were passionately in love or felt so very close, and now we are indifferent at best. We talked all the time and now we can’t think of anything to say. We planned things; now it’s too much trouble. It didn’t happen all at once. It happened slowly and subtly. All because of one thing. One or both of the partners failed to expend the time and effort required in keeping the relationship alive. It most likely wasn’t intentional, malicious or spiteful. It was a gradual death through neglect.
I recently heard a beautiful arrangement of an old hymn that I didn’t know well. When I looked up the lyrics, I was convicted by the words and curious to learn about the story behind it.
William Dunn Longstaff was not a music minister, or pastor, or Christian worker; and yet his words live after him in hymnbooks everywhere. Longstaff was a dedicated English businessman, the son of a successful ship owner. He was generous with his resources, and thus, was influential in evangelical circles. He befriended the great William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army; and when the financial sponsor of one of D. L. Moody’s British campaigns died, Longstaff came to the rescue and became well acquainted with both Moody, as well as Ira Sankey, his song leader.
“Be ye holy, for I am holy,” was the text of a sermon by Griffith John, missionary to China, given at Keswick, which greatly impacted Longstaff. He mulled over the truth he had heard, went home and wrote a poem. His practical mind listed some ways that Christians could live holy. His poem was published in the Salvation Army’s paper, War Cry. Longthoughts staff showed his poem to Ira Sankey, Moody’s song leader, who passed it on to his friend George Stebbins, the Christian musician. Stebbins took the poem and filed it away. At some later point, he needed a song on the subject of holiness; remembered the little poem, pulled it out and added musicto it. Stebbins sent the new song to a publisher, who included it in the hymnal, New Songs and Sacred Solos, in 1888. It has been included in hymnals since.
Holiness is not some state of super-sanctity reserved for older saints. Its not only the name of a church or lifestyle. It is not even just the moment of full consecration. It is a life to be lived out. Mistakes are made, and corrected. In a relationship as real as any human one, love is communicated, and we, as the Bride, learn how to more fully please the Bridegroom. Unfortunately, people in churches that emphasize holiness doctrine sometimes have the tendency to become comfortable with two trips to the altar, and then settle back with “blessed assurance,” in our own unique brand of eternal security. True holiness is an increasing state of Christlikeness. It is dynamic. It involves change; even suffering. Refining is a grueling process at times. And all of this takes time together with the Holy One. It is so easy to be influenced by the world’s philosophy, which encourages us to do everything the easy way. That’s why there is so little emphasis on holy living in the greater church world. Discipline is not fun or popular. Even those of us who recognize that we will have to fight for our connection with God, still face the incredible outward pressures of busy schedules and endless activity; as well as the inward tensions, fighting those quiet battles in the mind. Yet, those who would be holy must develop some habits that nourish the most important relationship of our lives.
Its not new information that relationships take work, including our relationship with the Lord. But we all need times of evaluating what our lives really look like. The smallest things can become idols. May you be as challenged by Longstaff’s words as I was, and may this spring offer a new opportunity to order our lives to truly reflect our priorities.
1.Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide with Him always and feed on His Word.
Make friends with God’s children, Help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be:
Thy friends in thy conduct, His likeness shall see.
3. Take time to be holy; let Him be thy Guide.
And run not before Him whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow still follow the Lord.
And looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Resources: www.bereanbibleheritage.org - Hymn Stories. www.christianitytoday.com -
“Take Time to be What?” - Gordon MacDonald. www.lectionary.org - Hymn Stories - Take
Time to be Holy - Richard Neill Donovan. www.umcdiscipleship.org - History of Hymns -
Take Time to be Holy - C. Michael Hawn.