Finding a “Faithfulness” Perspective
As a young newspaper editor, Thomas Obadiah Chisholm surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. He was 27 at the time, and dreamed he would one day become a pastor. But it didn’t happen. He would have liked to have made more money, I’m sure, but that didn’t happen either.
As a writer, he loved to write scared poems and hymns. Over the years he wrote well over a thousand hymns and sacred poems. He often submitted them to various periodicals for publication but only a few of them made their way into print. Thomas never really became well-known.
Eventually he was able to serve as a pastor in the Methodist Church, but his appointment lasted only a year. He was forced to resign due to poor health. He then moved to New Jersey and began selling life insurance, while remaining active in his local church.
Later in life, at the age of 75, he wrote… “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me until now, although I must not fail to record the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”
Thomas Chisholm finally retired at the age of 87 and spent his last years in a retirement home. In 1960, at the age of 94, he died.
At the age of 57, he wrote a hymn for which he is known today. If you’ve been in church very long, you no doubt know it. It was written by a man who lived, by and large, an unremarkable life — knowing neither fame nor fortune. He did, however, know something about the day-by-day, morning-by-morning goodness of God in every area of life. And that’s what makes this hymn great.
Virtually every line of this great hymn is pulled from the Scripture, and it reminds us even when things don’t work out exactly as we would like, we can see God’s hand at work in every moment of every day.
These are the words that Thomas Obadiah Chisholm wrote…
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not:
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided —
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
And so the story behind this hymn is almost a non-story. It wasn’t written in response to a climactic life-changing event. It was written by a man who did not realize his personal dream. It was written in reflection of a life spent in appreciation of God’s unfailing faithfulness.
How do you live with a Great Is Thy Faithfulness perspective on life?
1. Look for it in the Scriptures.
We have a tendency to focus, all too much and all too often, on the unfaithfulness of the world. There is so much wrong in the world around us, so much heartbreak, so much hate, so much violence and deceit. Take your eyes off the world, and take your eyes off yourself, and take your eyes off your problems and your failed expectations, and learn to look at life through the faithfulness of God.
When you read God’s Word with the intent to encounter Him, again and again you find examples of God’s faithfulness. He makes his promises, and he keeps his promises.
Read the words of King David in Psalm 145:13-16 (NLT) 13 For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The LORD always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. 14 The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. 15 The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. 16 When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
If you don’t already, make it your priority to spend time in the Scriptures every day. Meditate on the goodness of God, rather than the badness of the world or the business of everyone else or the bigness of your problems. Focus on the goodness of God as it is revealed to us in Scripture.
2. Look for it in nature.
Thomas Chisholm wrote…
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Just like spring is faithful to follow winter, and summer is faithful to follow spring, God is faithful to his Word, faithful to his promise, faithful to his people.
The Psalmist King David once observed God’s faithful in nature.
5 Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. 6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD. 7 How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. 8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. Psalm 36:5-8 (NLT)
3. Look for it in His daily presence.
If you want to learn to appreciate the faithfulness of God, you need to experience the reality of his mercy first hand.
The third verse of this cherished hymn gives each of us great hope.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow —
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
This is about so much more than just being forgiven of sin. It’s about living each day in his presence, experiencing his peace, his power, his victory, his hope — in spite of the circumstances.
It begins with a willingness to say, each and every day, “God, I need you. I need your help. I need your mercy. I need your presence in my life.”
Let’s learn to live with a Great Is Thy Faithfulness perspective on life.
Each and every day he extends this promise once again: I am near to all who call on me…(Psalms 145:18). When you make it your habit to seek God’s presence every day, you begin to see evidence of his faithfulness all around you.