Carolyn Wood’s Devotional for March 20, 2021
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
My most vivid memories of this hymn involve a story that was told during my youth from the pulpit by my most beloved pastor. The story is about two churches across the road from one another in his native Tennessee mountains. The congregations had originally been one, but a split had occurred, and bad feelings lingered. One evening, a passerby paused between the churches to listen to their music. One of the churches was singing “Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown.” From across the road came the reply: “No, Not One!” My teenage sense of humor at the time found it hilarious and I, along with many others in the small congregation, laughed out loud. The pastor had intended as much as he laughed heartily along with us! I’m sure you have heard stories about similar faux pas that lighten the mood around otherwise serious situations.
I like to think of Jesus standing there in the gap between the two groups of people who had chosen Him as their Savior, but had subsequently chosen to reject each other and Jesus’ teachings of love and inclusion. It is so very easy to let personal opinions creep into our “religion”, alienating us from one another while Jesus just stands there with his arms open wide to us all.
Johnson Oatman, the author of No, Not One! Was born to Christian parents near Medford, New Jersey, on April 21, 1856. He was a child during the Civil War, and after the war he joined his father in the mercantile business. He also stood beside his father in church, for both men had good voices and enjoyed singing.
Johnson was ordained a Methodist minister as a young man but spent most of his life working in the business world rather than pastoring. After his father’s death, he moved to Mount Holly, New Jersey, where he sold insurance.
In 1892, when he was in his mid-thirties, Johnson began writing gospel songs. The next year, failing health forced him to retire from business, and he began devoting himself to full-time songwriting.
Some sources say that he wrote 3,000 hymns; other sources put the number at 5,000. The usually reliable 1992 edition of Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal claims that Oatman wrote more than 7,000 texts. He was usually only paid a dollar or so per song, but he became one of the most important gospel songwriters of the turn of the century.
This song, “No, Not One,” emphasizes friendship with Christ. The Gospels call Jesus the “Friend of Sinners” (Matt. 11:19). In John 15, he told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends. . . . I have called you friends.” Jesus is a friend who “sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
If you’re feeling lonely today, could you ever find a better, closer, wiser, stronger friend?
No, not one.