Jesus I Come – Devotional for June 26, 2021

JESUS, I COME – 1887

I will exalt you, o Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths . . . Psalm 30:1

One of the best histories of the gospel song era is George Stebbins’ autobiography, Reminiscences and Gospel Hymn Stories.  Stebbins was born in the mid-1800s in New York and showed early musical prowess.  At age twenty-three he moved to Chicago where he worked in churches and became acquainted with some of the “greats” of gospel music, such as Sankey and Bliss.  In the late 1870s, D. L. Moody got hold of him, sending him into a lifetime of music evangelism.

Stebbins’ first impressions of Moody are fascinating.   Major Daniel Whittle had invited him to Northfield, Massachusetts, to meet Moody.  That Sunday Moody preached at the village church, asking Stebbins to lead the singing.  Stebbins, a bit nervous, sat at the little organ in front of the pulpit.

As he played the organ and led the congregation, he was distracted by a terrible wheezing noise.  He described it as “. . .a discordant sound I kept hearing during the singing, which I at first thought was caused by something wrong with the organ.  I determined to ascertain if my suspicions were well founded, so when there was an interval between verses,  I listened to see if there might be one of the notes of the organ sounding when it ought to be silent and found the discords were not from that source.”

“I was not long in doubt, however, for I soon heard the voice of Mr. Moody singing away as heartily as you please, with no more idea of tune or time than a child.  I then learned for the first time that he was one of the unfortunates who have no sense of pitch or harmony.”

Stebbins went on to work for years alongside Moody, in the process composing several of our favorite hymn tunes.  Included among them are the invitation hymns “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home,” “What Will Ye Do with Jesus?” and this one, “Jesus, I Come.”

Stebbins’ friend, William Sleeper, a New England home missionary and pastor, wrote the words to “Jesus, I Come.”  The two had previously collaborated on the hymn, “Ye Must Be Born Again.”  Sleeper developed the words to “Jesus, I Come” and sent them to Stebbins who put them to music.  It first appeared in 1887 in Gospel Hymns, No. 5, with this Bible verse as a subtitle: “Deliver me, O my God” (Psalm 71:4).

This story reminds me that we all need to learn to laugh at ourselves and our own shortcomings.  The fact that Moody was tone deaf did not hinder his ability to deliver the spoken word in an effective and inspiring way; yet he loved to sing—and so he did, smiling all the way.   He always surrounded himself with and lifted up those more gifted with the talent of singing than he.  In turn, his willingness to share the services with insired musicians emphasized the message and helped him bring more souls to God.  I’m sure he learned to laugh at himself.

When we don’t take ourselves or our circumstances so seriously we can relax and know that He is God with us. When we desire His will above all else life becomes much less threatening.  As we learn to stop trying to monitor His responsibilities—things that are beyond our control.  We find freedom by accepting the boundaries of our domain.

Laughter lightens our load and lifts our hearts into heavenly places.  Our laughter rises to heaven and blends with angelic melodies of praise.  Just as parents delight in the laughter of their children, so He delights in hearing His children laugh.  God rejoices when we trust Him enough to enjoy our lives lightheartedly.

Do not miss the Joy of His Presence by carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Rather, take my yoke upon you and learn from Me.  My yoke is comfortable and pleasant.  My burden is light and easily borne.  Matthew ll:29

The listening link provided today features Steve Sleeper who is related to the William Sleep who wrote the words to this hymn.  William was his great, great, great, great uncle.

Steve Sleeper:

Grace, Peace and Joy to you as you listen!