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Great Is Thy Faithfulness

from the January 22, 2013 eNews issue

"It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is thy faithfulness." - Lamentations 3:22-23
His Eye Is On The Sparrow:
Mrs. Doolittle of Elmira, New York had spent twenty years of her life stuck in bed. Her husband was a bit better off, because at least Mr. Doolittle was able to get about in a wheelchair. Yet, when Civilla Martin visited the Doolittles in 1904, she was amazed to find the dear couple had joy in the midst of their very difficult day-to-day lives. When Civilla asked Mrs. Doolittle whether she ever got discouraged, the physically (but not spiritually) invalid woman said, "Mrs. Martin, how can I be discouraged when my heavenly Father watches over each little sparrow and I know He loves and cares for me."

Those few words inspired Civilla Martin to jot down the lines of what has become a very beloved and encouraging hymn.

"His Eye Is On the Sparrow"
By Civilla Martin, 1869-1948
Why should I feel discouraged, Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely and long for Heav'n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Refrain:
I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

The troubles of life often get to us.  Like Peter walking on the water toward Jesus, we can easily feel overwhelmed by the wind and waves in our lives.  We can easily turn our eyes away from our Lord and Savior and focus instead on the storm.  When we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, though, we can know that it's okay. He's strong.  He can take care of us.  And he's faithful.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Another favorite hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", has no dramatic history behind it - according to its writer, Thomas Obadiah Chisholm. However, it does have a real, down-to-earth story.

Thomas Chisholm's beginnings were humble. He was born in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1866 and suffered from physical weakness for significant parts of his adult life. Chisholm gave his life to Christ when he was 27-years-old, but his poor health made it difficult for him to stay employed, sometimes confining him to his bed. He managed to get  jobs here and there as he was able, but making ends meet must have been difficult for the fragile man.

Chisholm grew to love the third chapter of Lamentations, especially, "His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is Your faithfulness," (Lamentations 3:22-23).

In 1923, Chisholm sent a few poems to his musician friend William Runyan in Baldwin, Kansas, far away from where Chisholm was staying in Vineland, New Jersey. Runyan was deeply touched by one of the poems and prayed for God's guidance in composing music for it. The hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" was published in one of Runyan's song pamphlets.

There the song stayed until Dr. Will Houghton of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago found it and decided to have the students sing it in chapel on a regular basis. "Well," Dr. Houghton would say, "I think we shall have to sing ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.'"

We all know the need for God's faithfulness.  We all can recognize its precious value in this rugged, often confusing and unpredictable existence of ours.  Thomas Chisholm lived every day dependent on God to be trustworthy, believing that God's compassions would not fail him.  It's worth noting, by the way, that ill health didn't end things for Chisholm. Despite those years of poor health, Thomas Chisholm lived until 1960, finally going Home at the ripe age of 94.  He wrote 1,200 poems and hymns during his 94 years.

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness" rightfully remains a favorite hymn sung by multitudes.

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.

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.

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.

Refrain:
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.


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