I’ll Fly Away - Hymns 4 Him - Part 8
Today I want to talk to you about the very popular hymn, “I’ll Fly Away.” Some of you may argue that this gospel song shouldn’t be classified as a hymn. I don’t want to argue about genres. I would simply rely on the the fact that “I’ll Fly Away” is included in a whole bunch of hymnals!
Here’s another fascinating statistic - “I’ll Fly Away” is said to be THE most recorded gospel song of all time with more than 5,000 versions sung by artists all over the world and sold millions of copies! There’s even an “I’ll Fly Away” FOUNDATION, that keeps track of these things!
“I’ll Fly Away” has a very personal history for me as well. When I was in 4th grade (9 years old) my family of 5 moved from Barberton to Norton, Ohio. At the time I had been taking trombone lessons because Barberton offered this to 4th-graders. Sadly Norton did not. My dad had been paying monthly for my trombone, of which I now had no need. When Dad took the trombone back to the music store, he asked what he might be able to exchange it for and the man behind the counter pointed to a used banjo back in the corner. Dad made the trade and began taking banjo lessons. One of his first songs he learned was “I’ll Fly Away.” The only challenge was that he couldn’t sing, so he would always come get me whenever he wanted to practice and we would play and sing “I’ll Fly Away” for hours!
Let’s sing the 1st verse!
#1 - I’ll fly away from ___DRUDGERY___.
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us - yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17
The Bible has a lot to tell us about work, including that our work should be an (1) act of worship to the Lord (Col. 3:23), (2) that we should work so that we can share (Eph. 4:28), (3) that even our Christian faith should include work (John 6:27), (4) that each person should carry their own load (Gal. 6:5), and (5) that our work provides for our needs (Proverbs 12:11, 24; 13:4; 14:23). We learn that even from the beginning, when the newly created Adam was in Eden, that there was work for him to do.
However, when man sinned, the goodness and reward of work took on a negative hardship. We call that drudgery. Much of our labor is hard and monotonous. Work became a necessary burden and sacrifice in order to provide for our families, rather than the joy and purpose that God originally intended.
Albert Edward Brumley was 24 years old when he wrote “I’ll Fly Away.” He recalls that he was picking cotton for his dad in 1929. He was singing a popular song, “If I Had the Wings of an Angel,” wishing he could fly away. Wishing he could be anywhere else other than where he was, he fantasized about being able to fly away from the work of the cotton fields. He had no idea how many would identify with that song!
How about you? Are there times in your life so filled with drudgery that you wish you could just fly away? Does this earth somehow not really seem like “home” to you? That surely God has something better in mind? Well He does! This place is not our home!
“For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven.” Hebrews 13:14 (Living Bible)
That is exactly what this song is getting at. We can all identify (1) that we live here as foreigners and exiles (1 Peter 2), (2) that this world is not our world (1 John 2), (3) that our citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3).
Sing Verse 2 & Chorus.
#2 - I’ll fly away from ___DEPRESSION___.
“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18
Because this world is not our home, it’s easy to understand how we could become homesick for our own world… how we could want to live where right and just living are the order of the day… where the LORD God is worshipped by everyone and everything. If you are a Christ-follower, that is your home, not here. And to be honest, living here can be depressing! Here we have lots of troubles. Here we are crushed in spirit. There are lots of depression we want to fly away from. Here are 2:
Economic Depression. These are not the best of times for us economically. Inflation is at a 40-year high and appears to be going higher. Many believe we are already in an economic recession or soon will be. The stock market seems to have fallen off a cliff. I talked to a retiree this past week who was very worried about her retirement fund. It was causing her fear and some sleepless nights. She wondered if she should just get out. In the lingo of this sermon, should she just “fly away?” The Bible is filled with advice. God is our strength. God is our provider. For many of us, we thought He was providing for us in our retirement accounts. Now perhaps we need to look elsewhere. It’s easy to see how we might look forward to a city where the pavement is made of gold and the only light switch needed is the light of the Lord God!
Emotional Depression. This kind of depression is even worse because it can affect anyone. No one is immune. For some of us, depression is a matter of being down sometimes - from sad times or disappointments. But for some of us, depression is a matter of dire, physical and permanent depression. Fortunately, we here at Church Requel have someone among us with good advice about depression.
Video - Mary Kay on topic of depression. [3:00]
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and you want help, call the HELPLINE 419-522-HELP (4357) or Mary Kay at NAMI 419-522-NAMI (6264). Help is available and we should seek it!
We all need help sometimes. We all need encouragement sometimes.
Here’s a little known fact about Albert Brumley and his song “I’ll Fly Away.” When he wrote it in 1929 - at the beginning of the Great Depression - he didn’t have any confidence in the song at all. He had no confidence in himself at all. In 1931, Brumley met Goldie Edith Schell and they were married soon after. Goldie thought the song was really good and encouraged him to publish it. The rest is history. Brumley (and the rest of the world in the middle of a Great Depression) just needed the spark of encouragement. Who might you encourage today?
Sing Verse 3 and Chorus.
#3 - I’ll fly away from ___LONELINESS___.
How appropriate that the very next verse connects the dots from depression, to “glad and happy when we meet.” When we fly away from this world, will we be alone or will be gather together in community?
“You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children; whose names are written in heaven … You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect.” Hebrews 12:23 NLT
There will be a rich community life in Heaven. There will be no more loneliness. The Bible talks about “the assembly” of God’s children. Our names are written down! Do you understand what that means? You know what it’s like when you show up at a hotel where you have made reservations. There’s always that moment when you wonder, do they really remember I’m coming? Has anything gotten screwed up and my name has been forgotten? The Bible tells us that if we are a Christ-follower, that our names have been written down in the only reservation book that will ever matter - the book of life! (Rev. 3:5 - Jesus promises our names will never be blotted out!)
It’s easy to feel like we are all alone here on Planet Earth. It’s easy to feel lonely. It’s easy to be isolated. Maybe even when we are loved by people and by God, it’s still easy to feel alone. Because we are broken. Because of the sin in this world. Hebrews 12:23 tells us something else very important - we will be made perfect! The brokenness that we live with here and now will be gone forever. We will become the perfect creatures that God originally intended. We will be able to experience and feel the forever love of God and all the assembly of those who love God!
Sing Verse 4 and Chorus twice.
#4 - I’ll fly away from ___ENTROPY___.
What is “entropy?” It is the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Everything about our universe is in the process of decline and collapse. Ever notice how things become corroded? Eroded? Decayed? Rusted? How everything just eventually wears out? This isn’t just true about your life. This is true about all of life! About all of God’s creation! But a change is coming!
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” Romans 8:18-21
One day - just as the song promises - we will “fly away” from this weary land to a place of glory, to a land where joys shall never end. There’s nothing at all wrong with borrowing a little of that future “joy” and experiencing it now. This is what happens when we sing, “I’ll Fly Away.”
Some naysayers accuse Christians who think about this future glory in Heaven as always having their heads in the clouds… that they are so full of heaven that they are of no earthly good. I completely disagree. I believe it is these Christians who are so focused on the good news to come that they can weather the drudgery of today. These are the Christians who can face depression and loneliness and know that this is not how it will always be. That indeed there is a day promised:
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
Conclusion: I told you at the beginning how this particular gospel song, this hymn, is so very personal to me. I told you the story of how my dad would ask me to sing it with him as he learned to play the song on his banjo. There is another reason why it is so special. Dad has also asked me to sing this song for him at his funeral. As many of you know, that day is not far away. Honestly I don’t know if I will be able to do it or not. But one thing I have no doubt of whatsoever - Dad will fly away to heaven. They won’t be handing him a harp. No sir. He will be getting himself a new banjo, a heavenly banjo. Some day I hope to join him with my heavenly issued ukulele. And together we will be singing “I’ll Fly Away!”