When others helpers fail and comforts flee…Abide With Me.

At the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics the Scottish singer, Emeli Sandé , sang a song in memory of the London 7/7 bombings that has been popular at various different events throughout history having its origins in the church. The hymn, ‘Abide With Me’, is a prayer asking God to remain with the speaker throughout life, through trial and through death. The lyrics are as follows:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Still sung in the old English style that it was originally written in 1847, the song was originally a poem  written by the Scottish Anglican, Henry Francis Lyte. He finished the poem and set it to music as he lay dying from tuberculosis and managed to live on three weeks longer after its completion. As Emeli sang the song at the London Olympics I am certain that many of the listeners and those moved by its stirring lyrics and melody probably had no idea of the origin of the song. As the writer lies dying in his deathbed, he reaches out to God, obviously not in an expression of desperation, but with a conviction that he needs to be close to his maker and creator, no matter what the circumstance. He recognizes that God has given him joys on earth that are now growing dim and that change and decay are creeping in on him, but still recognizes that God ‘changes not’.

He understands that God is awesome and terrifying but is also kind and good and a friend of sinners. The amazing depth of the revelation of God’s supreme nature yet gentle loving personality is in itself a marvel. Many of us tend to only focus on our Father’s strict nature, emphasizing His holiness and pointing out each others sins as though that will make us closer to God if we somehow go on a fear-fest. The incredible balance seen in the writers poem can only be understood as a person who knew our Fathers nature in its totality. What father would not discipline his children if they went out of line? Yet a loving father will also welcome back the prodigal child! That same loving father also has healing in His wings and through the cross has a promise of eternal life.

As people sing this song at the FA cup final, at the Rugby League Challenge Cup finals and at other sporting events, the song may have different meanings to those singing it, some just grateful to be at those events and fueling their sense of nostalgia. There may be the hope that their team will win and they sing this prayer song. I hope that this song will sow the seed of the desire for Gods presence in our lives on a daily basis so that we do not wait to be on our deathbeds to seek His love and grace. He longs to abide with us through every situation, good or bad.

Be blessed! Be encouraged! Be-lieve!

Show and Tell

In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John we are given the account of the Samaritan woman at the well. We often quote verses twenty three and twenty four where Jesus talks of the time when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.  Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah to this woman who clearly understands that the Messiah (or the Christ) is coming.
As soon as this revelation hits her, something amazing happens to her. She leaves her water jar and the task at hand and immediately goes back to the town and tells the people in it to come and see this man who knew so much about her. In her excitement she leaves the task at hand as being less important than telling everyone to come and see this man whom she has discovered to be the Messiah. Many in that town came and believed because of her.
I’d like to call this the principle of ‘Show and tell’. It is something commonly found in our early school years in some schooling systems, where children are encouraged to bring something that they have from home and show it to everyone. For those of us who did this we can recall how we overcame our inhibitions as we proudly told everyone else about the item we brought. For some it would have been a favourite toy. Others would bring a pet. Some may have even brought a parent who had some exciting job.
The key thing is you did not just show; you also told. You did not just tell; you had to show. The two went hand in hand. In the book of James Chapter 2 verse 14 -20, James comes down hard on believers who claim to have faith but they show no evidence of it in their deeds. I had one of those moments today as I was coming back home here in Dar es Salaam from a quick trip to the bank. As I passed our National Service Headquarters at Mlalakuwa, on the road to Kawe, I noticed a woman with a crutch standing by the road waiting for the bus. As I drove by I looked at her face and noticed her discomfort and could not help wondering what was going on in her mind. I felt like stopping to give her a lift, if she was heading in my direction, but drove on. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit kicked in and every scripture that you and I would not want to have confront our inaction popped into my head, not least of all the story of the good Samaritan. Up ahead was the Kawe roundabout and I turned and headed back to where she still stood. I asked her where she was going and found out that she was actually waiting for public transportation heading pretty much in the opposite direction. Due to the difficulty of actually getting a seat in the mini-buses we call ‘Dala dala’s’ she was hoping to find one fairly empty that would stop and pick her up to the last three stops before they turned back to a suburb of Dar es Salaam called Tandika. I also found out that she had recently broken her leg in an accident where she slipped in her home. I offered to take her to the bus stop at the end of the route, since she was not having any luck at her stop. Once she was in I then offered to get her a three wheeler scooter taxi that would take her home and paid for it, watching her gratefully get into the ‘bajaj’.
To cut a long story short, I had to show my faith by my deeds. It is not only very gratifying to see the impact of what might be seen to be a random act of kindness, but it is also a way to show how much we are like our Father in heaven. James says in Chapter two verse 17 that ‘In the same way, faith by itself, if is not accompanied by action, is dead’. (NIV). I am no more special than any other believer, but I would hate to think that God considers that my faith is dead because of my not responding to His word.
We live in a world where we are quick to call ourselves something or the other but our actions, or lack thereof, speak louder than our words. The time has come to show and tell of our Father’s love. Let us not be quick to tell and slow to show.
Be blessed. Be-lieve! Be a blessing to someone!