Weekly Devotions

Hymns

May 25-29, 2020

Day 1

Day 1: 

Amazing Grace

lyrics by John Newton (1773) (original tune unknown)

SING:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,

  That saved a wretch; like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

  Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

  And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

  The hour I first believed!

The Lord hath promised good to me,

  His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

  As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

  Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

  Than when we first begun.

—Public domain

READ: 1 Timothy 1:15–16 and Ephesians 2:8–10

“Amazing Grace” may well be the most well-known hymn in America. It was included in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It has been recorded by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Elvis, among others. It inspired a movie about the abolition of slavery in England and a Broadway musical about its author, John Newton.

John Newton was a British former slave trader turned Anglican priest. He wrote the hymn out of his own conversion experience after a near-death experience when his slave ship was hit with a violent storm. Newton was, by his own admission, “a wretch.” He lived an extremely immoral lifestyle and even tortured slaves. He wrote, “I sinned with a high hand, and I made it my study to tempt and seduce others upon every occasion.” When the storm arose and he feared he might die, Newton cried out to God even though he felt too sinful for God to save. God saved him, and yet he continued as a slave trader for several more years until he became violently ill on another sea voyage and almost died again. This time, Newton finally abandoned his former life and became a priest. About twenty years later, in 1773, he wrote “Amazing Grace” for a New Year’s Day service, expressing how he felt he was the last person who deserved God’s grace. 

Newton became known for his pastoral care and the grace he showed to others. Eventually, he began writing and speaking out against slavery in England. He wrote, “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me . . . that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” 

Newton’s describing himself as a “wretch” is similar to Paul describing himself as the “chief of all sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Like Newton was converted from an abusive slave trader into a man who spoke out against slavery, Paul’s life was changed. God took the very man who was killing Christians and converted him into the man who expanded His church over all the known world and wrote most of the New Testament! Paul said God chose him for this mission precisely because he was the absolute worst sinner—to show just how amazing His grace is. That God could love, forgive, and use even Paul means He can love, forgive, and use anyone! 

There is nothing you could ever do that God would not forgive, nothing that could ever separate you from His love (Romans 8:38). That is the incredible news about God’s amazing grace. But on the flip side, it means there is nothing we can boast about either. In Ephesians, Paul explains that we aren’t saved by anything we have done, but only by God’s grace. Even our faith is a gift from Him! (Ephesians 2:8–10). We cannot boast in anything but Jesus (Galatians 6:14). 

The news of God’s amazing grace is wonderful to those who have a past like Newton’s or Paul’s. But it is also a reminder to those of us who may not have had such a dramatic conversion. We are saved only by grace too. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). Though the change in our lives may not look as drastic as Newton’s, our sin made us “wretches” too. God’s grace to us is also amazing. 

Remember the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet at the house of Simon the Pharisee? Simon was mortified that Jesus would let such a sinner touch Him. But Jesus said she loved Him more than Simon did because of her great sin, because she realized what a huge debt He had paid for her. Then He said to Simon, “But whoever has been forgiven loves little” (Luke 7:47). Jesus wasn’t saying Simon’s sin wasn’t as big a deal as the woman’s; He was saying that Simon didn’t get how big a deal his sin was. There is no one righteous. Whether we realize it or not, we are all wretches. It’s just that people like that woman and John Newton and Paul can sometimes see that more easily. 

Whether your past is more like John Newton’s or more like Simon’s, when you really understand the reality of your own sin, you will be able to sing the words of “Amazing Grace” with the same depth of feeling John Newton, the apostle Paul, and the sinful woman all felt. When you sing the words, “How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” your heart will join in deep gratitude for a God whose love and grace know no limits. 

Q: Describe in your own words the way God’s grace makes you feel.

Q: How can understanding the depth of God’s grace to us make us more gracious to others, like it did for John Newton? What would that look like practically in your life right now? 

Modern Worship Song: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, Stuart Townend

Spiritual Discipline: Reflection

Spend some time reflecting on your own sin. You can journal about it or just meditate and pray. Don’t wallow in it or shame yourself, but take time to reflect on just how great your sin really is so that you can appreciate how amazing God’s grace really is. How impossible it is for you to save yourself. How much you need God’s grace not just to save you but to sustain you in walking with Him every day. Too often in the American church, we tend to gloss over our sin. But as Derek Webb said in his album, House Show, “If your sin is small, then your Savior will be small. But if your sin is great then your Savior must be great. And our Savior is great. So what does that tell us about our great sin?”

Day 1 (Family): 

Amazing Grace

lyrics by John Newton (1773) (original tune unknown)

SING:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch; like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

The Lord hath promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.

—Public domain

Q: What is your favorite church song and why? How does it make you feel about God or what does it make you think about God? 

READ: 1 Timothy 1:15–16 and Ephesians 2:8–10

Q: Why would the apostle Paul say he was the worst of all sinners when he was the one who grew the early church so much and wrote most of the New Testament?

Q: Why is it important to know that we are only saved through God’s grace, not by our works? 

Probably the most well-known hymn in America is “Amazing Grace.” Pretty much everyone knows it, even if they don’t go to church because it’s been in so many movies and TV shows. Even a lot of famous secular musicians have sung it on their albums. It was one of the songs people sang often during the fight against slavery and during the Civil Rights movement, which is really fascinating because the song was written by an Anglican priest who used to be a slave trader!

John Newton lived in England in the 1700s, when slavery was still very normal. From the time he was a child, he dreamed of adventures on the high seas. He worked for a slave trader when he was young and then became a slave trader himself. He brought slaves to England on huge ships and sold them to people for money. At this time he lived a very sinful lifestyle, he said, doing all kinds of terrible things, including torturing the slaves! He had no interest in God or even in living a good life. 

But one day, a terrible storm came over his ship and he thought he was going to die. Newton cried out to God to save him, even though he thought he was too sinful for God to save. God did save him, but he broke his promise to God and went right back to his old lifestyle! A few years later, he was on another sea voyage when he became deathly sick and thought he was going to die again. Again, he cried out to God. Again, God saved him. This time, as soon as he got back to England, he started studying to become a priest and changed his whole life. Later in his life, John Newton became very active in speaking out against slavery in England. God took the man who had once been a violent slave trader and changed him into one of the biggest advocates in the fight against slavery! 

About twenty years later, he wrote “Amazing Grace” for a service his church was having to celebrate the New Year of 1773. In the song, he wrote that God’s grace was so amazing that He even saved “a wretch like me.” Newton said he wrote that line because he felt he was the last person who deserved God’s grace. He had lived a terrible life, completely for himself, and done terrible things to people. But God saved even him. That meant God could save anyone! 

The apostle Paul described himself in a very similar way. He also described God’s grace to him as amazing. Paul said he was the worst sinner of all time because of the things he had done before he gave his life to Jesus! Before he became the apostle Paul, he was Saul, the persecutor (Acts 7:58). In the very beginning of the church, when the religious leaders in Jerusalem thought the Christians were dangerous rebels, Paul’s job was to find people who had become Christians and kill them! That was exactly what he was on his way to do when Jesus appeared to Him on the road to Damascus and struck him blind (Acts 9). But Jesus spoke to him supernaturally and then healed him from blindness, and he turned his life completely around. God took the very man who was killing Christians and converted him into the church leader who expanded His church all over the known world and wrote most of the books of the New Testament!

Paul wrote that God chose Him for this mission on purpose, because he was the absolute worst sinner! To show the world just how amazing His grace is. That God could love, forgive, and use even Paul means He can love, forgive, and use anyone! There is nothing you could ever do that God would not forgive, nothing that could ever separate you from His love (Romans 8:38)! That is the incredible news about God’s amazing grace!

Even if we never do things that are as “bad” as what John Newton or the apostle Paul did, the Bible says we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). None of us is good enough to deserve God’s amazing grace (Ephesians 2:8–9)! The Bible says that even if you break just one little rule, you are a sinner and need God’s grace (James 2:10). It doesn’t say that to make us feel guilty, but so that we won’t think that we are better than anyone else. And so we will show that same kind of grace to each other. When we sing “Amazing Grace,” we join John Newton, the apostle Paul, and every believer of all time in saying thank you to God for His amazing grace that saves us, no matter what we have done!

Modern Worship Song: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, Stuart Townend

OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Describe how God’s amazing grace makes you feel. What personal experiences make you know just how big and deep and wide God’s grace is? 

ACTIVITY: Watch this video about what grace is: https://youtu.be/EXCBHK6FPEw 

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you so much for your amazing grace that can save anyone! Help us to show grace to other people too. In Jesus’s name, amen.

MEMORY VERSE: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst!” (1 Timothy 1:15b). 

Day 2

Day 2: 

Blessed Assurance

lyrics by Fanny Crosby, music by Phoebe Knapp (1873)

SING:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. 

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

—Public domain

READ: Hebrews 10:19–23 and Romans 5:1–2

On the surface, the story behind “Blessed Assurance” seems relatively simple and straightforward. Well-known hymn writer Fanny Crosby was visiting her friend, Phoebe Knapp, who had become a well-known composer. Knapp had just bought a new organ and written a new tune, and she asked Crosby what she might write to go with it. The first time through, she knelt in prayer. After a second time, Crosby said, “That says, ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.’” And the rest of the song flowed from there. 

But in order to understand the significance of those words, we need to know some of the backstory of both of these women. Phoebe Knapp was married to a wealthy businessman in New York City. She was known for her charitable giving, but she also enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in a large mansion and loved to entertain as a prominent member of high society. The Knapps directed the Sunday school program at the John Street Methodist Episcopal Church, where she met Fanny Crosby, a hymn writer, theologian, and teacher. Crosby was a simple woman who lived in a small flat and donated most of her writing royalties to rescue missions. The two women could not be more different, yet they were joined by their love of music and their relentless pursuit of Jesus. 

Their childhoods could also not have been more different. Fanny had been blind since infancy and was raised in a modest home by her mother and grandmother, who taught her diligently in the Scriptures. Crosby wrote that she was thankful for the gift of blindness. “If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” 

Knapp’s parents were leaders of the Holiness Movement in the Methodist Church. Her mother, Phoebe Palmer, was an influential evangelist who promoted the doctrine of Christian perfection, the belief that a Christian can reach a point of spiritual maturity where they live free from sin. In much of Palmer’s writings, she describes her deep thirst for assurance that she was really saved. This was a hot-button issue that many theologians of their day wrestled with. The Holiness Movement had its roots in the desire to have an experience that would give them absolute assurance of their salvation.

Crosby’s hymn focuses on the assurance we can have in our salvation, not by our own works but by Christ’s work. It is His blood that washes us clean (1 Corinthians 6:11) and paid our debt (1 Peter 1:18–19). We are born of His Spirit as a new creation (John 3:5–8) and have become co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Our life with Jesus now is just a foretaste of the future glory of heaven. 

Hebrews tells us that because of the blood of Jesus, we can have confidence to draw near to God. Hebrews promises us “full assurance” in Christ (Hebrews 10:22). There is no need to worry. We are justified by God’s grace through faith in Christ from the moment we accept Christ as our Savior (Romans 5:1–2; Ephesians 2:8–9). The rest of our Christian life is a journey of sanctification—growing more and more like Jesus. But we don’t have to worry whether we are far enough along in that process. Our hope in Christ is secure from day one (Hebrews 6:19–20). Though true believers will want to pursue holiness, our life with Christ shouldn’t be one of stress about “attaining perfection” but of freedom and abundant life in Christ (Colossians 2:16–23). Even the apostle Paul said he had not reached the goal of full spiritual maturity but would be pursuing it the rest of his life (Philippians 3:12–14). 

Our journey of growing in sanctification isn’t something we need to worry about, it’s something we can pursue with joy. As we grow in sanctification, we will grow in love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23–25). Our faith will become strong and our love for Jesus will grow deeper. But even now, wherever you are in your faith journey, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can be “at rest” and “happy and blest” in your Savior (Matthew 11:28–30). 

Whether you have been walking with Jesus for five days or five decades, you can sing “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!” as a song of praise and thanks to God that your salvation is secure in Him. You can look forward in expectant hope to that future glory and enjoy your life with Christ now as a foretaste of all that is to come in heaven. 

Q: Why does it matter that our assurance is found in Christ’s work, not our own? 

Q: How can having full assurance of your salvation in Christ affect the way you live today? 

Modern Worship Song: Who You Say I Am, by Hillsong Worship

Spiritual Discipline: Body Prayer

Inspired by the Hebrews passage above, which says we can stand confidently before God, practice this modern variation on the ancient discipline of body prayer. This prayer goes through each of these different prayer postures in order:

  • Kneel: Kneel before God to show allegiance and loyalty to God as your king.
  • Prostrate: Bow down before God (bowing or lying completely face down on the ground if you can) to show worship of God and submission to His will in your life.  As you are bowed down, confess your sins before the Lord.
  • Stand: After confessing, stand confidently before the Lord in His presence.
  • Raise Arms: Raise your arms above your head to receive His Spirit, His presence, and His blessing.
  • Dance: Rejoice in God’s presence and blessing in your life.
  • Arms Out: Lower your arms, outstretched at your sides. This is the ancient orans posture that was associated with praise. Praise God for all that He is. 
  • Hands Together: Put your hands together in a “praying hands” posture to thank God for all He has done in your life.
  • Kneel: Close your time by kneeling before God as His servant, ready to go out into the world to serve.

 

Day 2 – Family: 

Blessed Assurance

lyrics by Fanny Crosby, music by Phoebe Knapp (1873)

SING:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. 

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

—Public domain

Q: What do you think holiness means? How do you think we become holy?

READ: Hebrews 10:19–23 and Romans 5:1–2

Q: Why is it important that we have confidence that we are forgiven and justified and can draw near to God in relationship?

Q:  How does knowing we are forgiven give us hope for the future? 

Phoebe Knapp and Fanny Crosby were really good friends, but they came from completely different worlds. They went to the same church in New York City in the late 1800s, where they both were very active teaching Sunday school, but their lifestyles were very different. 

Phoebe was very wealthy and lived in a mansion where she had a lot of expensive things and hosted big parties for all the wealthiest and most famous people in the city. She did give a lot of money to charity and volunteered a lot of her time, but she still enjoyed her home and lifestyle. 

Fanny grew up in a more modest family and was blind from the time she was a baby. She said she was thankful to God for her blindness, because if she could see, she might be distracted from her calling of writing music for God. Fanny was very successful in her music career but chose to live a very simple life in a small apartment and donated most of her money to missions and the poor. 

Even though they were very different, they both devoted their lives to teaching people about Jesus and writing music for the church. It doesn’t seem like there is much of a story to this particular hymn at first. Phoebe invited Fanny over to her home to show her the new organ she was having installed in her music room. She played Fanny a tune on the piano and asked her what the tune said to her. Fanny prayed while she listened, and then after the second time, she said, “That says, ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.’” And the rest of the song flowed from there.

But the deeper story behind the hymn is what was going on in the church at that time. Phoebe Knapp’s mother, Phoebe Palmer, was a very influential evangelist and teacher in the Holiness Movement. In her writings, she talked a lot about wanting to be absolutely sure she was saved. Theologians call that “assurance.” It was something a lot of Christians were worrying about at the time. The Holiness Movement talked a lot about the process of becoming more holy as we grow further in our relationship with Jesus. But the Bible also teaches that Christians are holy from the very moment they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. So, which is it? 

The word “holiness” can be confusing. In the Bible, holiness doesn’t mean that we’re perfect. It means that we belong to Jesus. The word holy or sacred means “set apart” for a special purpose. We have sacred music like hymns and praise songs, sacred spaces like our sanctuaries or prayer rooms, sacred items like the cup used in the Lord’s Supper. You might even say that your favorite toy is “sacred” if you want it to be set apart only for you to use. When we become Christians, we are called “holy” not because we are perfect, but because we are set apart for God. We are holy from the minute we are set apart for Jesus—that’s called justification. But we also grow in holiness throughout our lives as the Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus—that’s called sanctification. 

Fanny’s lyrics describe the “blessed assurance” we can have in Jesus because our assurance is based on what Jesus has done for us, not our own works. It is the blood of Jesus that washes us clean (1 Corinthians 6:11) and paid our debt (1 Peter 1:19). Hebrews tells us that because of the blood of Jesus, we can have “full assurance” in Christ (Hebrews 10:22). So even though we will grow in holiness, we don’t have to wait to get to some special point of spiritual maturity to have “assurance” of our salvation. We don’t have to worry if we are growing “fast enough” in our faith. The important thing is just that we are growing at all! We just need to keep pursuing Jesus and asking His Holy Spirit to work in us, and we will grow deeper. Sanctification shouldn’t be something we worry about but something we enjoy!

“Blessed Assurance” promises us that we don’t have to worry. We can be “at rest” in our relationship with Jesus (Matthew 11:28–30). We can be “happy and blessed” in Jesus whether we just started following Him or have been following Him for fifty years. When we sing “Blessed Assurance,” we are joining Fanny Crosby and Phoebe Knapp in praising and thanking God that salvation is secure for everyone who trusts in Jesus. 

Modern Worship Song: Who You Say I Am, by Hillsong Worship

OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Describe how growing in sanctification is a joy for you and not something you worry about doing fast enough or well enough.

ACTIVITY: Draw a picture of the fruits of the Spirit and label each fruit God will grow in our lives as we walk with Him in sanctification.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you so much that we can be confident of our salvation in Jesus. Help us to grow in holiness as we walk with you throughout our lives. In Jesus’s name, amen. 

MEMORY VERSE: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (Hebrews 10:22a).

 

Day 3

Day 3: 

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

lyrics and music by Martin Luther, 1521—1530

A mighty Fortress is our God,

A Bulwark never failing;

Our Helper He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing:

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and power are great,

And, armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,

Our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing:

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth His Name,

From age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,

No thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through Him who with us sideth:

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also;

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still,

His Kingdom is forever.

—Public domain

READ: Romans 1:16–17 and Psalm 46

Martin Luther was another committed Christian who struggled with assurance that he could really stand justified before God. He was an impeccable monk in the 1500s and lived an almost spotless life, but he still felt he wasn’t good enough. He spent as many as six hours confessing every little sin to his spiritual advisor, Staupitz, and performed his allotted penance perfectly. And yet, he said, he never felt forgiven, always guilty. Staupitz testified that he finally told him to not come back until he had a decent sin to confess. It was Staupitz who first taught Luther about Augustine’s view of justification by grace. When Luther took over Staupitz’s role as professor of Bible at Wittenberg, he was teaching a class in Romans when God’s Word changed his heart, his mind, and his life forever. 

Luther said that Romans 1:17 kept troubling him. He had always been taught that piety and righteousness were the same thing. That if you followed all the rules as best you could and then confessed and did penance when you messed up, you could earn the status of “righteousness” before God. Yet, Luther knew that compared to the perfect righteousness of God, he would always be a wretched sinner. He said he had misunderstood what righteousness was, but this verse showed him that righteousness is revealed by God, not earned by man (Romans 1:17). Righteousness is something given by God, not earned (Romans 3:22). This is the moment Martin Luther says he was born again, his eyes were opened, and all of Scripture was changed for him. He desperately tried to convince those in authority over him in the Catholic Church to see where they had misunderstood righteousness too. His intention was always to reform the Church, not split from it. But in the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the Catholic Church. This was the starting point of Protestant denominations. 

Throughout the course of his life, Luther wrote at least thirty-seven hymns, but none is more closely associated with the Protestant Reformation than “A Mighty Fortress.” Some scholars believe Luther wrote it to sing while marching into the Diet of Worms; others think he wrote it later for other significant occasions of the Reformation. Whenever he originally wrote it, the hymn was used as the “battle hymn of the Reformation” and was sung by reformers in the streets and at significant events. It was even sung by martyrs as they marched to their deaths. The hymn became closely associated with Luther himself, as it embodied so much of his character—boldness, confidence, and defiance in the face of opposition, standing on the Word of God alone. 

The words are a paraphrase of Psalm 46, with Christ-centered images woven into it. Luther found comfort in the idea of God as our refuge and strength no matter what battles we face. Just as his argument at the Diet of Worms was salvation through Christ alone, this hymn describes how Jesus Himself wins the battle. The Holy Spirit and His gifts are ours. He has given us all we need to fight the spiritual battles that will come in this life (Ephesians 6:10–18). 

The hymn ends with a difficult statement that was a very present reality for the reformers who sang it—“the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.” The Protestant Reformers faced a real threat of death. Many of the early reformers in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain were martyred. More than 300 reformers were martyred in England and more than 2,000 in France. Those who sang this hymn found their strength in God and His Spirit. They were ready and willing to die for their faith because they were so confident in their belief of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. Winning the battle for them wasn’t about “winning” by the world’s standards. Even if they died, they still won through salvation in Jesus. 

When we sing this hymn together today, we may not be facing the threat of martyrdom for our faith. We may not be marching in protest against a church that is abusing its power. Yet we are all fighting a spiritual battle against a world filled with devils that “threaten to undo us.” Against the “Prince of Darkness grim.” The spiritual forces behind the evil in this world are the same (Ephesians 6:10–18). Like those early reformers, we can face our battles with confidence and strength in the Lord and in His Spirit, trusting fully in the saving work of Christ. We can sing with them, “We tremble not for him, his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him.” Whatever battles we face, we know that victory belongs to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). His kingdom will endure forever (2 Samuel 7:16). We can stand firmly on the promises of His Word. 

Q: What kind of spiritual battles are you facing today? How does it help you to know that God is your refuge and your strength? 

Q: Why is it important to realize that our salvation is found in grace alone, through faith in Christ alone? How does that affect the way we live? How does it affect our assurance of salvation? How does it affect the way we fight our spiritual battles?

Modern Worship Song: In Christ Alone, by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Spiritual Discipline: Armor of God

Imagine yourself putting on the armor of God to go into spiritual battle. You may want to do this by finding actual clothing to represent each piece of the armor. You may draw out the pieces of the armor and imagine putting on each piece. You may simply conceptualize it. The more tangible your actions are, the more real this discipline will make spiritual warfare feel for you. 

Meditate on the spiritual battles you are facing right now and imagine how each piece of the armor of God can help you fight your battles, either as defense or offense. For example, the belt of truth holds up your armor. The breastplate of righteousness protects your heart, the shield of faith extinguishes the flaming arrows of the evil one . . . Read Ephesians 6:10–18, slowly, praying as you “put on” each piece of armor. Now you are ready to stand firm, to march through your spiritual battles with confidence in the strength of the Lord, not your own strength. 

Day 3 – Family: 

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

lyrics and music by Martin Luther, 1521–1530

SING:

A mighty Fortress is our God,

A Bulwark never failing;

Our Helper He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing:

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and power are great,

And, armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,

Our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing:

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth His Name,

From age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,

No thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through Him who with us sideth:

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also;

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still,

His Kingdom is forever.

Q: What kinds of things are you afraid of? How can God give you strength when you are afraid? 

READ: Romans 1:16–17 and Psalm 46

Q: Why is it important to remember that righteousness comes from God, not from ourselves? 

Q: How is God our refuge and strength? Does that mean we will never have any struggles in life because He will fight all our battles? 

Martin Luther was another committed follower of Jesus who struggled with “assurance.” Luther was a monk in the 1500s, when the only churches were the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, not all the different denominations we have now. Everyone in the monastery said Luther was a wonderful monk and a really good person, but he still always felt like he wasn’t good enough. When Luther went to confession, he spent hours confessing every little thing, and his priest kept telling him he was a good person and he just needed to relax. Luther told him that no matter how hard he tried, he never felt forgiven. Always guilty. His priest was the first one to talk to him about justification by God’s grace, not our own works, but he still didn’t really get it until he was teaching a college Bible class years later.

Luther said he was studying Romans and this one verse, Romans 1:17, kept bothering him. He finally figured out it was because he had been taught the wrong thing about what “righteousness” meant. He had been taught that if you followed all of the rules as best you could and then confessed and did penance when you messed up, you could earn the status of “righteousness” before God. But Romans showed him that righteousness is something given by God, not earned (Romans 1:17; 3:22). Luther said from that moment on, his whole understanding of God, the Bible, and salvation completely changed. He didn’t feel guilty anymore. He felt thankful to God for giving us Jesus to save us from our sins!

Martin Luther tried really hard to convince the leaders in authority over him in the Catholic Church to see how they had misunderstood righteousness too. He never wanted to cause a split in the Church. He wanted to help change things. The Catholic Church at the time was not only telling people they could earn forgiveness, they were even telling people they could buy forgiveness! When Luther tried to show them from the Bible that this was wrong, they told him that the Church rules they had made up were more important than the Bible! He could not agree with them, so they put him on trial, declared him a heretic, and kicked him out of the Church. That is how we got all these other church denominations. This movement was called the Protestant Reformation, and any new denomination that started from it was called a Protestant denomination. 

Martin Luther wrote almost forty hymns in his life, but they called this one “The Battle Hymn of the Reformation.” Reformers would sing it whenever they did anything in the fight against the Catholic Church—at significant events and just out in the streets. Many of the reformers were even killed when they refused to deny what they believed, and they sang this song as they marched to their deaths. 

“A Mighty Fortress” talks about God being the source of our strength and power. God is the one who fights our battles for us. Though we may lose some of our physical battles in life, we can have victory in all our spiritual battles because God has given us the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. 

This hymn even talks about how many of these people would have to die for their faith—“the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.” This was a hard truth for a lot of people in that time period and for a lot of Christians around the world today. Here in America, we have the freedom to worship whoever we want, but in some countries, it is illegal to follow Jesus. People can be thrown in jail, beaten, and even killed just for being a Christian. But what this hymn says, and what the Bible says, is that even if we die for our faith, we will still “win the battle” in the long run if we have Jesus. Because even though we may die in this world, we will go to heaven and be with God in His perfect kingdom. And that is truly winning. 

When we sing this hymn together today, we may not be worried about dying for our faith, but we all have spiritual battles we are fighting. We can trust God to be our refuge and our strength no matter what we are facing. We may not win every physical battle, but we can always have spiritual victory in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Modern Worship Song: In Christ Alone, by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: How have you seen Jesus fight your spiritual battles for you in the past? How have you experienced Him as your refuge and strength?

ACTIVITY: Build a fort together out of blocks or Legos or cardboard boxes or even your couch cushions and talk about how God is our fortress. 

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for being our refuge and our strength, that you can be our safe place to run when life gets scary. Help us to trust in you to fight our spiritual battles. In Jesus’s name, amen. 

MEMORY VERSE: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

 

Day 4

Day 4: 

It is Well with My Soul

lyrics by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873, music by Philip Bliss, 1876

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,

The sky, not the grave, is our goal;

Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!

Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

—Public domain

READ: 2 Kings 4:11–37 and Job 1:13–21

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago. He and his wife were also prominent supporters and close friends of the famous preacher, D. L. Moody. The couple had five children—four daughters and one young son. But in 1871, tragedy struck their family. Their four-year-old son died of scarlet fever, and then all their real estate investments were wiped out by the Great Chicago Fire. Aware of the toll these disasters had taken on the family, Moody invited them to accompany him on one of his great evangelistic campaigns in England and also take some time for a holiday while they were abroad. The Spaffords traveled to New York City, where they were to catch the steamer, Ville de Havre, across the Atlantic. But just before they set sail, a last-minute business development forced Horatio to return to Chicago. He sent his wife and four daughters ahead, promising to follow soon. Nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read, “Saved alone.”

On November 2, 1873, the Ville de Havre had collided with another ship and sank in just twelve minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory was of her baby being torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved by a piece of the wreckage that floated beneath her unconscious body. A sailor saw her floating and pulled her into his boat. When she regained consciousness and realized what had happened, Mrs. Spafford’s first reaction was naturally one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her, “You were spared for a purpose,” and she immediately recalled the words of a friend from years before, “It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”

Upon hearing the horrible news, Horatio boarded the next ship out of New York City to join his grieving wife. During the voyage, the captain of the ship called him to the bridge when they passed the place where his family’s ship had sunk. Horatio returned to his cabin and wrote the lyrics of this great hymn, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” 

The words come from 2 Kings 4:26, echoing the response of the Shunammite woman to the sudden death of her only son, the son born to her in her old age by a miracle from the prophet Elisha. She had waited so long for a son that when Elisha promised her a son, she struggled to believe it, saying, “Please don’t lie to me” (2 Kings 4:11–17). But when he died suddenly, she did not doubt. She went immediately to see Elisha. And even though “her soul was troubled within her,” she answered Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, “It is well” (2 Kings 4:26–27, NASB). 

Spafford didn’t expect God to do a miracle and bring his children back from the dead like he did the Shunammite woman’s son, but he echoed her response, “It is well.” Even when my soul is consumed with despair and distress, it is well. Because I trust in the Lord, that He is in control and that He is good. I trust that even if I am in pain to the depths of my soul, God is with me, and He can take all the suffering of my life and work it for my good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

Job, who also lost all of his children and his wealth, said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). It takes an incredible amount of faith to respond with praise when everything is taken away from you. Job’s wife didn’t respond that way. She was so bitter and angry that she told Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9)! But Horatio’s wife, Anna, responded in faith. She would not be a fair-weather friend to God. She would walk in trust, even when her heart was breaking and she couldn’t imagine why God would allow this to happen. Horatio followed suit. Even when his sorrow felt like a great wave crashing over him, he chose to say, “It is well with my soul.” Because he had this “blest assurance” that his soul was redeemed in Christ. No matter what happened in this life, it was well with his soul because his soul was secure in Christ (Matthew 16:25–26). This world will bring sorrow, death, and pain, but Christ has overcome death (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). Our hope is not in this world or the things of this world. Our hope is in heaven (1 Peter 1:3–4).

When we sing this hymn, it is a confession of hope and trust in Christ, no matter what happens to us on this earth, in this life. Like the psalms of lament, this hymn is honest about our sorrows and our pain, but it doesn’t end in despair. It turns to God in hope and praise. When we are struggling, suffering, or even just uncertain of how our lives will go, we can join Horatio and Anna Spafford in choosing to sing, “Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Q: How have you seen God use times of suffering and pain in your life and turn them to good?

Q:  What difference would it make in your life and your heart if you chose to say, “It is well with my soul” even in the midst of suffering?

Modern Worship Song: Blessed Be Your Name, by Beth and Matt Redman

Spiritual Discipline: Lament

As we talked a few weeks ago about the psalms of lament, take some time today to share any struggles, doubts, or other “negative” emotions or thoughts before the Lord. Don’t hold back, don’t be afraid to be honest with God. Pour it all out. Then close your time by saying or singing, “Even so, it is well with my soul.” Turn your heart to God in trust and hope. No matter what happens in this life, it is well with your soul because your soul is secure in heaven.

 

Day 4 – Family: 

It is Well with My Soul

lyrics by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873, music by Philip Bliss, 1876

SING:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,

The sky, not the grave, is our goal;

Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!

Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

Q: What is the hardest thing you’ve experienced in your life so far? How did you get through it? 

READ: 2 Kings 4:11–37 and Job 1:13–21

Q: How did the Shunammite woman show trust in God and His prophet Elisha even when her world had fallen apart because her only son died? 

Q: Why did Job still praise God even when he lost all his children and everything he owned? 

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago in the late 1800s. He and his wife, Anna were also close friends with the famous preacher D. L. Moody. The Spaffords had five children—four daughters and one young son. But in 1871, their four-year-old son died of scarlet fever. Then, the same year, all the property they owned was destroyed by a huge city-wide fire. So they lost most of their money and their only son in one year! 

Their friend, D. L. Moody, was going on a preaching trip to England and invited them to come along and help him share the good news about Jesus. He thought the trip would give them a break from everything and help them focus on serving others, which usually helps when you are suffering. They also planned to spend some time just on vacation while they were there. Back then you couldn’t fly overseas, so they were going on a boat. They traveled to New York City to catch their boat, but just before it left, a last-minute business deal came up and Horatio decided to go back to Chicago. He told Anna and their four daughters to go ahead, and he would meet them there soon. Nine days later, he got a telegram from Anna that said, “Saved alone.” 

On their way across the ocean, their ship had crashed into another ship and sank in just twelve minutes. Over 200 people died. Only a few were saved. Anna was only saved because a piece of the wreckage happened to float up under her while she was unconscious. A sailor later pulled her out of the water into his boat. The last thing she remembered was standing on the deck of the ship with three of her daughters clinging to her as she held the baby in her arms. They were all washed away by the waves. 

When Anna woke up in the sailor’s boat, she was devastated at first. But then she heard a voice from God that said, “You were spared for a purpose.” She immediately remembered something a friend had told her several years before—“It’s easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.” A fair-weather friend is someone who stops being your friend when times get hard. In sports, it means someone who is only a fan of a team when they’re winning. When the team starts losing, they switch to a different team. Too many people treat God the same way. They’re only happy with Him when things are going well in their lives, but when things are hard, they blame Him.

Horatio took the next boat to England to be with Anna. During the voyage, the captain told him when they were crossing over the place his family’s ship had sunk. That’s when Horatio wrote this hymn. The words, “It is well,” come from 2 Kings 4:26, from the response of the Shunammite woman to the death of her only son. A son God had given to her by a miracle through Elisha. When Elisha first promised her the miracle, she struggled to believe it, because she was so old it seemed impossible. But when he died suddenly, she didn’t doubt at all. She went straight to Elisha for help. Even though the Bible says “her soul was troubled within her,” she said, “It is well” (2 Kings 4:26–27, NASB).

Horatio didn’t expect God to do a miracle and bring his children back from the dead like He did with the Shunammite woman’s son, but he had the same trust in God. He said even when his soul was consumed with despair and distress, it is well. Because he trusted in the Lord—that He is in control and that He is good. Even when he was in pain to the very deepest parts of his soul, he knew God was with him and could take our suffering and work it out for good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

Job, who also lost all of his children and his wealth said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Even though he lost everything, he responded with praise! His own wife didn’t. She was so bitter and angry that she told Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9)! But both Horatio and Anna responded with faith and praise. They both decided not to be fair-weather friends of God. They would continue to trust Him, even when their hearts were breaking and they couldn’t imagine why God would allow this to happen. When we sing “It is Well,” we are committing to God that no matter what happens, we will trust Him. Even if it seems like our whole world is falling apart or we have no idea what is going on, we will put our hope in Him. 

Modern Worship Song: Blessed Be Your Name, by Beth and Matt Redman

OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Tell about a time in your life when you felt deep despair and pain and how God was with you and was able to use it for good. 

ACTIVITY: Draw or paint or write a poem about how you feel when life is really hard and you don’t know what to do. Talk about how you can go to God when you feel that way. Or even draw what you think it looks like when God comforts you in those times.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for giving us comfort and peace when life feels out of control or painful or scary. Help us to trust you and choose to say “it is well” when times get hard. in Jesus’s name, amen.

MEMORY VERSE: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). 

Day 5

Day 5: 

Take My Life and Let It Be

lyrics and music by Frances R. Havergal, 1874

SING:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

—Public domain

READ: Romans 12:1–2 and Colossians 3:15–17

Frances Ridley Havergal was an English poet and hymn writer who also wrote religious tracts and works for children. Her father was an Anglican priest and hymn writer, and her brother also became a priest and hymn writer. She was raised in a Christian home but describes the significance of a specific moment of committing her life to Christ at the age of fifteen, after the influence of her teacher, Mrs. Teed. She wrote, “I committed my soul to the Savior and earth and heaven seemed brighter from that moment.” Later she described reading J. T. Renford’s booklet, All for Jesus, which “lifted her whole life into sunshine, of which all she had previously experienced was but as pale and passing April gleams, compared with the fullness of summer glory.”

Frances, a talented singer and brilliant pianist, was in high demand as a concert soloist, but she was firmly committed to her faith and focused her musical pursuits solely on religious writing. Extremely intelligent and well educated, she began reading and memorizing the Bible at age four, eventually memorizing all of the Psalms, Isaiah, and most of the New Testament. Her hymn lyrics and poetry reflect her deep knowledge of Scripture. 

Even with all her education and talent, Havergal maintained a simple lifestyle, a simple faith, and a simple confidence in the Lord. She never wrote a line of poetry without praying over it. She committed everything she had to the Lord’s service. She lived a quiet life and generously gave anything of value she had to the Church Missionary Society. Though she was in frail health most of her life, she was actively involved in evangelism and missions. 

Havergal wrote “Take My Life and Let It Be” on one of her missionary journeys to Switzerland, a short visit of only five days. She wrote, 

There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for; some converted, but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer: “Lord, give me all in this house.” And He just DID! Before I left the house, everyone had got a blessing. The last night of my visit, after I had retired, the governess asked me to go to the two daughters. They were crying. Then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced. It was nearly midnight. I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration; and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with “ever, only, all for Thee.”

Like Paul encourages us to do in Romans 12, Havergal had offered her whole life to Jesus as a living sacrifice. She gave everything she had—time, talent, and resources—to Him and watched Him do mighty things with it. Like Isaiah, she said, “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8) and followed wherever He led. She understood what it meant to live a life consecrated to God. Paul’s passage in Colossians 3 describes her life perfectly. Letting the peace Christ rule in your hearts, being thankful, letting the Word of God well in you richly. Encouraging and teaching each other with hymns from the Spirit. Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. She lived a life fully committed to Jesus, offering all she had and all she was to Him.

Havergal had already been generous with what she had, giving time and resources to missions, but a few years after she wrote this hymn, she was inspired even further by her own line, “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold,” letting the words of her own hymn teach and exhort her (Colossians 3:16). She wrote to a friend, “The Lord has shown me another little step and, of course, I have taken it with extreme delight. ‘Take my silver and my gold’ now means shipping off all my ornaments to the Church Missionary House, including a jewel cabinet that is really fit for a countess, where all will be accepted and disposed of for me . . . nearly fifty articles are being packed up.” And then she said, “I don’t think I ever packed a box with such pleasure.” Havergal wasn’t’ motivated to give by any sense of obligation or guilt. She was motivated completely by love (2 Corinthians 9:6–7). There was no sense of loss or sadness about giving up these treasures, only joy at the good it would be able to do. This is true generosity of spirit. Someone who honestly believed her life was not her own (1 Corinthians 6:19–20) and was overjoyed to give what she could to help those in need and build Christ’s kingdom in any way she could (Acts 20:35).

When we sing this hymn, it is nothing less than a heartfelt prayer, offering all we are and all we have to God. Our life, our time, our hands, our feet, our voices, our lips, our wealth, our intellect, our resources, our hearts, our love, our selves, even our wills. Perhaps this is the most meaningful line—“Take my will and make it Thine.” When we offer our wills to God, all else will change with it. Our desires will become His desires. Like Frances Havergal, we will find our utmost joy in doing His will, in offering all we have and all we are to Him.

Q: Are there any parts of your life that you have been reluctant to offer to God? If so, why? 

Q: What difference would it make in your life to offer everything to Jesus? What difference might it make in your family? In your community? 

Modern Worship Song: I Offer My Life, by Don Moen

Spiritual Discipline: Offering Ourselves

Write a letter to God naming and describing all the ways you can offer your life to Him. You can use the hymn as your guide—your hands, your feet, etc. Be as detailed as you can, with specific ideas for how you can use your life to serve God. Sign the letter like you would a covenant. Then simulate putting the letter in the “offering plate” by placing it in a special plate at home, inside your Bible, or even on a paper plate decorated to look like an offering plate. As you place it on the plate, say a prayer to consecrate your life to Him. You may even sing the hymn over your offering if you like. 

 

Day 5 – Family: 

Take My Life and Let It Be

lyrics and music by Frances R. Havergal, 1874

SING:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

—Public domain

https://youtu.be/lQ93HVuYd5Y

Q: What special talents do you have that you could offer to God? 

READ: Romans 12:1–2 and Colossians 3:15–17

Q: What does it mean to offer your life as a living sacrifice? Give some examples.

Q: Summarize the attitude described in Colossians 3:15–17. Do you know anyone who lives their life this way? What impact do they have on their community? 

Frances Ridley Havergal was an English poet and hymn writer in the late 1800s who also wrote religious books for adults and kids. Both her father and her brother were Anglican priests and hymn writers, too. She was raised in a Christian home, but she said her faith really became her own when she was a teenager, because of the influence of her teacher, Mrs. Teed. When she was fifteen, she committed her life to Jesus. She said that immediately everything in the world seemed brighter to her as soon as she made that decision. Her whole life felt full of sunshine. 

Frances was a very talented singer and pianist, and lots of people wanted to pay her to perform concerts. But she chose to focus all her musical talent on writing hymns and singing in church. She was so committed to her faith that she never wrote a line of poetry or of a song without praying over it. She was also very smart and did well in school. She memorized a huge chunk of the Bible—all of the Psalms, Isaiah, and most of the New Testament. In her song lyrics, you can tell how well she knew God’s Word. 

Even though she was famous and talented, Frances lived a very simple, quiet life. She generously gave all her extra income to the Church Missionary Society. Even though she was in frail health, she often traveled on evangelical mission trips, traveling to different places to share the gospel, the good news about Jesus. She wrote this hymn on one of her missionary trips to Switzerland. 

It was a short trip, just five days, and she stayed with a family of ten people living in one house. She said some of the people in the house didn’t believe in Jesus at all. Others said they believed in Jesus, but they didn’t have the joy Frances had in her relationship with God. She prayed very passionately for the people and asked God to send His Spirit to everyone in the house. And He did! Every single person in that house experienced the Holy Spirit moving in their hearts in a supernatural way, and they all accepted Jesus with joy and excitement! They all said they experienced the same kind of happiness Frances had had since she accepted Jesus and felt like her whole life was filled with sunshine!

The last night she was there, she was so excited about all God was doing that she couldn’t sleep and spent the whole night praising and thanking God. She also reflected on her own faith and made a re-commitment to Jesus herself. As she was praying, the lines of this hymn just came to her, one after another. She wrote it all in one shot!

Then, some years later, God used this song again in her life. Frances felt God calling her to be even more generous than she already was. The line in her song that says, “Take my silver and my gold,” inspired her to take all her jewelry and donate it to a ministry that helped the poor and told them about Jesus. She said giving it all away made her the happiest she had ever been.  

Like Paul’s words in Romans 12, Frances’s hymn describes offering our whole life to Jesus as a living sacrifice. The word “consecrated” is like the word “holy” or “sacred” that we talked about earlier this week.  It means to be set apart for God. Frances wanted to be set apart for God to use for His purposes. She offered every part of her life. “Take my hands, take my feet, take my voice . . .” She wanted her whole life to belong to God. She knew life with Jesus is so much happier and full of joy and life that she wanted to give everything to Him. She offered to go wherever He told her to go and do whatever He told her to do because she knew it was what would bring her the most joy and make her feel the most alive. And it would help other people come to know Jesus too. Because Frances had experienced the joy that comes from Jesus, she wanted everyone in the world to experience it.

Frances lived the kind of life Paul described in Colossians 3—letting peace rule your hearts, being thankful, letting God’s Word dwell in you richly. Encouraging and teaching others with hymns from the Spirit. Doing everything in the name of Jesus. We can see from Frances’s life that when we live that way, we will experience a life filled with supernatural joy and happiness. And we will be able to bring that joy to other people. Doesn’t that sound amazing!? That’s what can happen when we commit our life to Jesus, offering our whole life to Him. When we sing this hymn, we are joining Frances in telling God that we want to give everything we have to Him, our whole lives. We want God to use our lives to help other people and bring His joy to their lives. That is how we find the most joy in our own lives. 

Modern Worship Song: I Offer My Life, by Don Moen

OPTIONAL PARENT STORY: Describe how you are offering your life to Jesus. How are you using your time, talents, and resources for the kingdom of God?

ACTIVITY: Think of some way you can share the joy of Jesus with someone else as a family today. Maybe you can write an encouraging note or draw pictures or make cookies and write a Scripture verse on the box or just call someone and talk. How can you share the joy in your heart with another person or family?  

PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for giving us abundant joy in life through Jesus. Help us to see all the ways we can offer our lives to be used by you. Help us to spread your love and joy to everyone we meet. In Jesus’s name, amen.

BIBLE MEMORY VERSE: “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1b).