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!

God’s Conditions for Healing the Land

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall
humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn
from their wicked ways, then will l hear from heaven
and will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.
– 2 Chronicles 7:14.

This morning I have looked at this scripture in a new light. It was always my assumption that forgiveness of sins was connected to repentance or confession, and that still remains the case. The scripture above seems to go a little further than that and I shall attempt to connect the revelation that actions lead to results, not just prayer.

The problem with revival today is that most people believe it is born out of fervent prayer and so they continue praying and fasting endlessly without achieving results (Isaiah 1: 58).  In a past article on why transformation is hindered, I talked about how God shows us in Isaiah 26 that our prayers can ‘birth wind’ and not salvation. One of the key purposes of prevailing prayer is to ‘give birth’. In the event of results not being achieved, one has to either persevere until the breakthrough occurs or pause for reflection to understand the hindrances and deal with them, because we cannot call our Lord a liar if His promises are not fulfilled in our eyes. This somewhat radical assertion is birthed in the premise that God WILL HEAL THE LAND. Anything less is not acceptable, and neither should it be.

As a background to the revelation, let’s look at Acts 2:37 – 38. Here we see three things that are required for salvation mentioned by Peter, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture says..” When the people heard this, they were CUT TO THE HEART and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter replied, ” REPENT and be BAPTISED, EVERY ONE OF YOU, in the name of Jesus Christ for the FORGIVENESS of your sins. And you will receive the GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT...”.

Compare this with 2 Chronicles 7:14. The verses prior to 2 Chronicles show that whenever God was abandoned or ignored by His people he warned them that He would send natural disasters to the land that was supposed to sustain them so as to get their attention. He however says that if they repent and turn from their ways and restore their relationship with Him, He would then restore the land, made sick by the sins of the people. Notice the following requirements in that portion of scripture:

3.Seeking His Face
4.Turning from wicked ways.

Item 1 is self evident. This is the biggest hindrance to the journey, and often calamities bring us to this point, which does not always have to be so. Our pride keeps us stuck to our old ways and the self satisfaction that comes from not seeing our true state.
Item 2 involves re-establishing broken lines of communication and expressing our desire to reconnect the lines. Most people usually get to this stage frequently.
Item 3 is where the problem lies. How do you seek God’s face? What does it look like. Can we actually see it? We often skip this portion of the journey when He does not appear to us.
Item 4 is the final stumbling block. Turning from our wicked ways is usually a problem if one has not gone through all the previous steps. If you do not pray enough, you cannot begin to seek God and He then cannot ‘convict you of sin’ to the point of desiring to let go completely. It took a coal of fire to make Isaiah’s lips clean. Only the Holy Spirit can convict the world of sin, and hence the need to seek God’s face. Only the Holy Spirit can empower us to repent, walk in holiness, seek forgiveness and give forgiveness and make restitution, and thus transform us.

The people listening to Peter or John the Baptist when asked to repent did not hesitate as they were cut to the heart and filled with the remorse that only the Holy Spirit’s presence can bring. Often we confess sins but do not act on the issues involved. This produces a constant cycle of repentance that does not bear fruit as the accuser reminds us of the past that we have not resolved. Turning from wicked ways is not just stopping sinful actions alone, but making amends, seeking people we have wronged even years ago, when asked to by the Holy Spirit. This is often hard to do by one’s strength. It also means doing things God asked us to do that we have delayed, some of them seeming very trivial. Thus our prayers are then heard and God’s principles spring into action for our benefit and for the benefit of the land. This is why baptism in Jesus name is important. We must be immersed in His name for the Holy Spirit to come and dwell in us and empower us to shake away sin and be like Him. Whatever symbolism we attach to the baptism of water and fire, we see that these are impossible to remove from the Christian experience and we also cannot afford to miss out on either, as the water impresses on us the need to ‘die’ to sin and be cleansed, and the fire is a constant companion and counsellor on our walk towards restoration, deliverance, healing and thus prosperity.

It is our Heavenly father’s desire to heal, but we often tie His hands by our insistence on doing things our way, and so miss out on Kingdom benefits, including favour, authority and dominion. We are called to take territory, dominate and rule. This is not for our own gain, but to further His reign in a world ruled by principalities and powers. We cannot take back the land without being restored to righteousness. The Scripture says ‘..Then you light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness (or the righteous one) will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rearguard..’ (Isaiah 58:8 NIV).
The Lord puts it well in this portion of scripture, by showing that revival is not about fasting and praying, but of visible action as well, to restore righteousness. In this chapter a lot of praying and seeking are noted by God, even repentance, but no turning from the wicked ways.

The promise is clear: ‘..and if you honour it by not GOING YOUR OWN WAY (Our own programs and plans not led by the Spirit but by tradition and experience) and NOT DOING AS YOU PLEASE (Often we do what pleases the crowd in worship and ministry and are afraid to do the unpleasant or uncomfortable) or SPEAKING IDLE WORDS (Prayers, promises and plans that we do not fulfil and later make excuses about), then you will find JOY IN THE LORD (His joy is our strength), and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to FEAST on the inheritance of your father Jacob” (Isaiah 58:13-14 NIV).
Let us continue to pray for a humble heart to be doers of the Word and usher in this great move of God.

John Kagaruki
Wed 4 JAN 2006, 6:00am (repost of an article I wrote 6 years ago)