Great Is Thy Faithfulness
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS
Today we're wrapping up our series in which we're looking at the stories behind some of our best loved hymns.
One of my favorite hymns is also one my favorite hymn stories, because it is almost a non-story.
Many hymns were written in response to a dramatic turning point in the composer's life, as we've seen previously in this series.
Today's hymn was not the result of a turning point as much it is the result of a lifelong reflection. While many hymns are born out of a dramatic experience, this hymn was simply the result of the author's morning by morning recognition of God's faithfulness.
This is a 20th century hymn, but the story begins in the 19th century, in the southern state of Kentucky. The year was 1893, and a young newspaper editor named Thomas Obadiah Chisholm surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. He was 27 at the time, and his dream became that someday he would serve God full time in the ministry.
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.
Over the years he wrote well over a thousand hymns and sacred poems, and he often submitted them to various periodicals for publication. A few of them made their way into print, though he himself never became well-known.
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. He spent his last years in a retirement home. In 1960, at the age of 94, he went home to be with the Lord.
It was a song that he wrote years earlier, in 1923, at the age of 57, 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. But he did 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 of how the God we serve is faithful in every way — even when we things don't work out exactly as we would like, we can see his 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.
And this is the chorus...
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!
Thomas Obadiah Chisholm never achieved fame or fortune in this life. As a musician, you might call him a late-comer and one-hit-wonder. But he lived a great life because he experienced, and he understood, and he recognized, and he appreciated the morning-by-morning faithfulness of God in his life.
Today, as we reflect on this hymn, I'm going to challenge you to develop a Great Is Thy Faithfulnessperspective, a Great Is Thy Faithfulness world-view. I'm going to challenge you to see everything about your life in terms of the faithfulness of God.
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. And sometimes that's all we can see. And we ask ourselves, "God, why does it have to be this way?"
We have a tendency, all too much and all too often, to focus on our own struggles with faithfulness. The desire within is to be holy, but holy we are not. The desire within us is to do good, but like Paul we can say...
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. ()
It's a well-established fact that none of us here will ever be able to write the hymn Great Is MyFaithfulness, because we all stumble and fall.
Today I will challenge you to 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.
Our text for today is . We read these verses earlier; we'll look at them again throughout this message, as well as a few other verses.
Now, if you're feeling as if the world is much too unstable and your life is much too unstable to bring you any level of happiness or contentment ... then I invite you, I exhort you, I challenge you to turn your eyes toward the faithfulness of God.
Today we'll look at three things you can do to move in God's direction — three ways you can learn to recognize and appreciate God's faithfulness.
1. Focus on the Truth of God's Faithfulness, as Revealed in Scripture.
When you read the Bible, you encounter again and again examples of God's faithfulness to his people. He makes his promises, and he keeps his promises.
13 The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.
This doesn't mean that his people never have problems, or never face hard times. It does that mean that we can be sure that no matter what we face, God will see us through.
When you face a problem or an obstacle or a disappointment, when you struggle with besetting sin — and you lose the battle — your mind will begin to access its dominant content. Whatever you fill your mind with, that's what it will begin to replay.
If you fill your mind all day with the miserable content you find online — "What a mess the world is in and it's only getting worse; this country is headed toward the 'bad place' on a bobsled; you can't trust anyone because everyone's out to get you; people are rotten to the core," and so on — if this is what you fill your mind with day-in and day-out, it will begin to shape your world-view, and it will dictate how you respond to difficult situations.
It's like the old computer axiom: G I G O — Garbage In Garbage Out. For this reason, you need to make a concerted effort to fill your mind with the truth of God's Word, so that you can meditate on his attributes — his goodness, his mercy, his love, his faithfulness.
This way, instead of G I G O, Garbage In Garbage Out, it becomes TIVO: Truth In, Victory Out.
When you look at the first verse of this great hymn, you see it's nothing but Scripture, one verse after another.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not...
Thy compassions, they fail not. again.
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
And this is the chorus...
Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness, Morning by morning new mercies I see. That's again.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. ; today's text.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! .
When he sat down to write this hymn, the Word of God just flowed out of his heart on to the page, because the Word was so deeply ingrained in his spirit that he could not see his life from any other perspective — even though his life hadn't always been a bed of roses.
Here's what I'm challenging you to do. If you don't already, make it your priority to spend time in the Word every day — first thing each morning, if possible — meditating 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. When you look to the Word for signs of his faithfulness, you'll find it on every page.
This is why David wrote...
2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.
If you want to develop a Great Is Thy Faithfulness perspective on life, spend time every day in the Word.
Here's a second way you can learn to recognize and appreciate God's faithfulness.
2. Focus on the Witness of God's Faithfulness as Observed in Nature.
5 I will meditate on your wonderful works...
This includes the work of God's creation. In another Psalm, David wrote...
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. ()
Your love, O Lord reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. ()
When David looked at creation, he didn't just see the deep blue sky. He looked to the sky and thought: This reminds me of God's great love and faithfulness. He didn't just see a mountain. He looked to the mountains and thought: This reminds me of God's righteousness, and the mighty sea reminds me of his justice. As he looked around, he saw reminders of God's goodness everywhere.
When you look at people, you'll find nothing but a fallen mess, a world gone wrong. But in God's creation we see signs of his faithfulness everywhere.
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.
Just like the light of dawn follows the darkest hour of the night, God is faithful to lead you out of your darkness into his marvelous light.
Here's what I challenge you to do. As you look at the world around you, as you observe God's creation, look for the signs, and the evidence, and the symbols, and the illustrations of his character.
I'm challenging you to make it your habit to focus on goodness where goodness exists, to focus on beauty where beauty exists, to look for any reason — any excuse — to celebrate God's faithfulness. The signs are around you.
Here's a third way to learn to appreciate God's faithfulness in your life.
3. Focus on the Reality of God's Faithfulness as Revealed in his Daily Presence.
King David wrote...
8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
9 The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
When Thomas Chisholm wrote "morning by morning new mercies I see," he's referencing . This is how it reads in the English Standard Version.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ()
If you want to learn to appreciate the faithfulness of God, you need to experience the reality of his mercy first hand.
We're all in the same boat. We've all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  There is none righteous, not even one of us.  We are all in desperate need of his mercy.
There are some who are not yet willing to recognize this. They don't see themselves as part of the sin problem; they see themselves as the innocent victim of everyone else. If they believe in God at all, they resent him for all that's wrong with the world, all the evil that people do, yet themselves are not willing to come to grips with their own fallenness, and their own brokenness.
More than one person has said to me: I don't need a savior; I haven't done anything that needs to be forgiven. And yet, their lives are kind of a mess.
Just like an alcoholic cannot begin the road to recovery until he's willing to say, "I admit that I'm powerless over alcohol and my life is out of control," none of us can begin the road to a life of victory until we're ready to admit to our own brokenness, our own sinfulness.
These verses in are among my favorites for a very good reason. I need them. I need new mercy every day. And so do you. And the good news is that we can count on it.
I can't sing the song Great Is My Faithfulness, because I still stumble and fall, even after all these years. But every morning God presents you and me with an amazing gift — the opportunity to begin each day brand new, filled with his mercy.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. ()
His mercy never comes to an end. It is new every morning. This means that you can begin every day in a right relationship with him, in fellowship with him.
In the third verse of this great hymn, Thomas Chisholm wrote...
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 having your sins washed away. 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."
King David wrote...
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him.
When you call on him, he will hear. When you ask for mercy, he will extend his mercy. When you need his strength, he will give you strength. Because his steadfast love never ceases.
It's a fact of life that every item on your personal wish list will not be checked off when it comes time for you to check out. There are some things in life that we may never experience.
Thomas Chisholm had hoped to be 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. Most of the multiplied hundreds of hymns and sacred poems that he wrote remain unpublished.
But this seemingly unremarkable life that he lived became truly remarkable for one reason. Through it all, he never lost sight of the faithfulness of God: the wonder of mercy, the beauty of creation, the truth of God's Word.
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 in reflection of a life spent in appreciation of God's unfailing faithfulness.
I want us all to learn to live with a Great Is Thy Faithfulness perspective on life.
How do we get there?
You find it by looking for it. Each and every morning his mercies are made new. Each and every day he extends this promise once again: I am near to all who call on me. When you make it your habit to seek God's presence every day, you begin to see evidence of his faithfulness all around you.