Blessed Assurance - Hymns 4 Him - Part 1
I LOVE hymns. I grew up singing hymns in the church. When I was a kid we would go to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night, and each time we would sing 4 or 5 hymns. I especially loved it when we had “Pick a hymn” night where the congregation members could shout out their favorite hymn and we would sing just one verse from that hymn. Singing hymns in the church is where I learned to read music. I would try to sing a different part on each verse - Soprano on verse one, Alto on verse two, Tenor on verse 3 and Bass on verse 4. Apparently I sang louder than I should have, because I remember when I was a kid Dad sat me down one time and explained that it wasn’t how loud I sang that mattered, but how well I sang. Huh. Not much has changed. I still like to sing loudly!
Apparently I’m not the only one who loves hymns. God loves hymns too! Much of the Bible is written about the different songs of praise and hymns that God loves to hear us sing.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Col. 3:16
There is great encouragement to our souls when we sing together. There is wisdom, there is teaching, there is even admonishing! We also note here that there are all kinds of songs that God loves to hear: “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
One of the things I have grown to love about Church Requel is just how much we love to sing and make music together. For such a small church, we sure do sing a lot of songs! Did you know that our praise band has been leading worship for 4 years now?! Since April 2018 we have sung 149 times and sang together 155 different songs! Wow!!! I love the job Brandi has done leading us!
This summer we are going to talk about some of the famous hymns of the church and along the way we will discover what we can learn about God and our Christian faith. I’m calling this summer series, Hymns 4 Him. Each week we will pick a different historical hymn. We’ll talk about the story behind the hymn and the person who wrote the hymn. We’ll focus our attention on 4 different lessons we can learn from each one.
Our first hymn we want to talk about is Blessed Assurance by Fannie Crosby. Fannie is a rock star in the hymn genre. She was born in 1820. In her almost 95-year lifetime, she wrote over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs with more than 100 million copies printed. This was all before the era of the Internet!
Perhaps her most famous hymn is Blessed Assurance. Certainly our first lesson from this song would be that…
#1 - God gives us ASSURANCE when we are ANXIOUS.
“Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil. 6:7
These are anxiety-ridden times we live within. We have never been more divided. Our news every day is filled with school shootings, bad economic news, and character failures in our leaders at every level. It’s easy to read this verse: “Do not be anxious about anything…” and feel like we are failures because of our anxiety. But honestly, I don’t see how anyone with an understanding of how things are going could NOT be anxious. So I read it this way: “WHEN I’m anxious in every situation,” because anxiety is part of who we are today. We just don’t have to STAY ANXIOUS. We can go to God and receive “Blessed Assurance.”
Sing 1st Verse & Chorus
I don’t know about you, but I find Philippians 6:7 one of those Bible verses that is so much easier to talk about than to actually do. When I am truly anxious, I find it really hard to actually go to God in prayer and in petition. I find it SUPER HARD to be THANKFUL! This is one of the reasons I am so grateful for our hymns, because when I can’t pray I can usually remember to sing… and make my singing of hymns into prayers. I think this is why God loves hymns too. He created us to be able to praise Him, to thank Him no matter what we are going through.
This is especially true when we know the story behind the hymn. In Fannie Crosby’s case, when she wrote “Blessed Assurance,” I think she might have known a thing or two about being anxious. When Fannie was six weeks old she caught a cold. Her baby eyes crusted over with the crud so her parents took her to a medical doctor who recommended mustard poultices be applied to her eyes. This was the wrong thing to do. The mustard damaged her optical nerves and she was blinded for the rest of her life! Then, by the time she was 6 months old, her dad died and her mom had to go to work - no social services back then! Her grandmother raised her. Do you think Fannie knew about anxiety?
One of the common themes we will learn over the course of this summer is that God accomplishes extraordinary things through our most extraordinary challenges.
#2 - God accomplishes EXTRAORDINARY things though our EXTRAORDINARY challenges.
“Each time [God] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT
When I hear about Fannie’s blindness, two things happen. First I think, Wow! She wrote all those songs - more than anyone else - and yet she was blind! Incredible! Extraordinary! Powerful stuff! The second thing I think is that she figured out how to NOT feel sorry for herself. She never played the part of the victim. She learned how to make God’s power work in her weakness. God’s power “was made perfect in [her] weakness.” (NIV)
One time she was asked about her blindness and if she could, would she ask God to take away her blindness. She answered, “no - I’d ask that I would always have been blind so the first face I would ever see would be Jesus in Heaven!”
Sing 2nd Verse & Chorus.
Consider the discipline and the peace (non-anxiousness) and the insight it would take for her to begin that second verse with “Perfect submission, perfect delight” or the third verse with “Perfect submission, all is at rest.” Each and every day she submitted her blindness to the Lord. Each and every day, her weakness became Christ’s power displayed in her life. She came to discover this as an advantage. How else could she have written “visions of rapture now burst on my sight?” This is written by someone who could not see! Or the 3rd verse: “Watching and waiting, looking above?” She may have been blind but she was watching! She was looking! (I bet you never sing those lines the same again!)
Let me switch gears and tell you a little about the writing of this particular song, “Blessed Assurance.” Fanny wrote the words. Phoebe Knapp wrote the music. Phoebe Knapp was Fanny’s good friend. Phoebe was also the wife of Joe Knapp, one of the founders of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Fanny was invited to the Knapp’s home to see and hear the brand new pipe organ being installed, one of the few privately owned pipe organs in existence. The workman were still finishing up so the two women went to another room where there was a piano. Phoebe asked Fanny to listen to a melody she had created and she proceeded to play the now famous melody we have been singing.
But at the time, nothing would have been obvious. For those with a musical background, this song is written in a complex 9/8 time signature - each beat an eighth note and 9 beats to the measure. If I were Fanny, I would have thought, what do I do with this? How do I write lyrics to a song with 9 beats to a measure. 99% of the songs we sing today are either 4/4 (most of them) or 3/4 or 6/8 time. Here’s what we are told Fanny did. She got down on her knees and prayed for God’s help. When she got back to her feet she said, “This is what I hear: (count out with fingers) ‘Bless-ed a-sure-ance Je-sus is mine.’ (9 syllables) / ‘This is my stor-y, this is my song (9 syllables).
#3 - God uses those who MARCH TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER.
“God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies.’” 1 Corinthians 1:27 MSG
We think sometimes that people have to be a certain way, have to measure up, have to fit in. Often we think they have to be “like us.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The people of God are as diverse as is the Creator Who made them. We may like our 4/4 time signatures, but God is just fine with the 9/8 time signature kind of people! They play their melodies of life a little differently than we do, and that is A-ok! It may not fit to our ears. But it doesn’t have to! It’s God’s ears that matter not ours.
And like Fanny, we are only really going to be tuned in to God’s way of hearing… when we hear from God. When we make talking to God each and every day a regular part of our life, then we’ll be able to hear other people speak so much more clearly.
Sing Verse 3 and chorus.
Don’t you just love that chorus, repeated 3 times. “This is my story, this is my song.” 9 syllables of a 1/8th beat living in a 4/4 time signature world. A different beat. A different drummer. A different story! God doesn’t want us to live anyone else’s life! He wants us to live out the life He has designed for us! To live it to the full! To live it to the max!
#4 - Live my life TO THE FULL, singing ALL THE WAY!
Jesus:“I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” John 10:10b AMP
What does your Christian look like to you? Is is one that has you singing praises to your Savior all the day long? This was the life envisioned for you by your Creator and Savior - Jesus Christ. He says He came that you might have abundant life! And He’s not talking about the quantity of your stuff! He’s talking about the quality of your life!
Do you realize that - like Fanny Crosby - you have a story. Your story is unique to you! No one else can tell your story. No one else can live your story! Only you can use your story to give praise up to Jesus, your Savior and your Creator!
Fanny used her whole story - the bad as well as the good - the weak as well as the strong - the blindness of her eyesight combined with the insight of a daughter of God - to live out her story and to sing her story - to praise her Savior - all the day long! And because she did, we still praise God for her story now - two centuries after she was born.
What about you today? Is your story - good or bad - strong or weak - maybe out of step with everyone around you - is your story a story that brings praise to God for the work He is accomplishing in your life?
When Fanny Crosby - the author of over 8,000 hymns and spiritual songs - wrote that chorus, she doubled up the lines. “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.” Then she wrote it again - THE EXACT SAME THING!
Here’s my question to you. Do you think that a woman so eloquent, so verbose, so talented with words, couldn’t have come up with a different second line? Of course she could have! (And probably did!) But then she thought to herself, nothing will be as good as repeating this again:
“This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”
Again I ask you, What about you today? Are you telling your story? Are you living your story? Are you singing about your story? Are you using your story, your song, your life - each and every day - to praise your Savior all the day long?