Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Part 1

After hearing these stories of great hymn writers, you might think that each hymn has a great story behind it, especially the one we sang on Sunday, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Not so.

The words to this favourite hymn of mine was written by Thomas Chisholm, who referred to himself as “an old shoe”. He was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky. And he became a Christian when he was twenty seven. At the age of 36 he actually became a pastor but ministered for only year before poor health forced him to retire. He ended up taking on a typical desk job, living what we may call a typical suburban life as an insurance agent in New Jersey. Still, in his private time he was an avid poet and ended up penning over 1200 poems and published several hymns, most of which no one will ever hear.

Near the end of his life, he wrote these words: “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”

In 1923, at the age of 57 Chisholm sent a few of his poems to the Hope Publishing Company, where William Runyan noticed the poem “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. He was deeply moved and proceeded to find a melody that would match these truth filled words of God’s never changing faithfulness.
The song ended up becoming a favorite at the Moody Bible Institute. And it was picked up as a regular song to be sung at Billy Graham’s conferences. It has since reached Christians all over the world, been translated into many languages, and has encouraged millions of believers to never forget, but declare boldly how great is God’s faithfulness. I have always found these words quite moving myself, even when I first read them at a young age.

Chisolm’s life reminds us that the life of faithful obedience which the world does not recognize, is recognized by God. Radical living need not be about being a missionary or street evangelist. And we don’t have to have an outwardly spectacular life to testify of God’s faithfulness. In fact it can be said the most radical kind of Christian is the one who quietly and faithfully devotes themselves to the Lord, not seeking public recognition, but recognizing God’s faithfulness evidenced in the daily, constant, and loving ways he provides. Even “if we are faithless, he is faithful” -2Tim 2:13.

Keep singing this beautiful hymn, in the every day, routine, and ordinary things of life, and recognize what an extraordinary and faithful God we have!

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.

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!

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.


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