Trust And Obey
Lyrics: John H. Sammis, 1846-1919
Music: Daniel B. Towner, 1850-1919
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
“Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You.” (Psalm 84:11-12)
1 Samuel 15:22: “And Samuel said, ‘Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken better than the fat of rams.’” Perhaps this is the best we can do in this case.
I have grown up singing this song but it was not until recently that the lyrics really caught my attention. The words to this hymn, especially the chorus, are rather simple words, and to some may even seem trite. However, they are much more difficult to put into practice in your everyday life. What is more striking is the history of how this song was written. Once appreciated, it gives the meaning and context to the words that we have got so accustomed to singing.
This hymn was inspired in 1886 when the composer of the music, Daniel B. Towner (1850-1919), was the music leader during one of Dwight L. Moody’s famous revivals. Mr. Moody was conducting a series of meetings in Brockton, Massachusetts, and Ira D. Sankey, had the pleasure of singing for him there. One night a young man rose in a testimony meeting and struggled to give a testimony of how he came to know the Lord in a manner that older Christians would appreciate. It is said the young man ‘testimony was a little embarrassing as he could not clearly state whether he really was a Christian or not. As the young man spoke Sankey, and the others realized how theologically wrong the young man was in several points. He stumbled and stammered along clearly not making sense. He ended up concluding his testimony with the words I am not quite sure, but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey. He then sat down but t unknown to everyone around, Mr. Towner, fidgeted around for a pencil, and quickly jots down those words. I am not quite sure, but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey. These words were sent with a little story to the Rev. J. H. Sammis, a Presbyterian minister who wrote the hymn, and the tune was born.” Sammis is said to have composed the lines of the refrain upon receiving the letter:
“Trust and obey—for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
You may be familiar with such kind of testimonies where you are left wondering what the testimony is all aboit. But God make the foolish things of this world for His own glory. What a lovely thing that this young man would testify how he came to put his trust in Christ and used the exact words that he used. Because out of them came our beloved hymn. ALL things work for good to those that love the Lord.
How often do we have contrasting ideas of what the Bible is saying and sometimes we may be lost in the wilderness of theological debate, probably even on the wrong side of the argument. Thank the Lord that there are many things in the Scriptures which are explicitly clear and our responsibility is merely to trust the unfailing and victorious Lord and obey what He has said.
It is a constant battle with me and I am sure with you as well. Let’s stand like that young man and lean not on our own understanding but on what God has said!
There are a couple of other phrases in the hymn that I wanted to comment on as well:
- Verse 1 – When we walk with the Lord. – It presupposes that we are on a journey and our path is dark and we are in need of light for us walk properly. The picture that comes to mind here is a group of people walking and among the is the Lord having a conversation with us.
- “the light of His word” – The Bible says”Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” While walking along this dark path, the Lord provides a light through his word and we can properly see. Have you ever walked in the forest at night with a touch? You will need to keep the flashlight a few meters in front of you to help you stay on the path. If you point the flashlight only at your destination, there will be times that you stumble over logs, walk into thorn bushes, or even frighten a little critter on the pathway. A wise person uses the light to keep them on the path to get to their destination. The same is true for the word in our life. If we are looking for a detailed map of where you are going in life and are making decisions based upon where you think you are going, you will probably stumble along the way. If however, we use the Word on a daily basis to govern our actions and rely on it to guide us daily, we can take comfort that He is leading us.
- What a glory he shades on our way – How lovely are the benefits of his presence with us as we walk along. The field of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets before we reach the heavenly place or walk the golden streets. There is a particular peace that accompanies those who walk daily with Christ. Hearing His voice in every line and making each faithful saying mine. Ooh more about Jesus would we know.
- Verse 2 – “our toil He doth richly repay” – Two times in the New Testament, Paul reminds us to “not grow weary in well-doing.” The work that God has for us may sometimes seem like a burden and might even cause us sorrow and heartache. Investing in people can make you weary. However, God will “richly repay” us for the work that we do in His name, and we shouldn’t grow weary in doing what is right.
- Verse 3 – “all on the altar we lay” – Another reference to total surrender. Until we give it all to Him on the alter, we have not yet begun to fully trust in Jesus. There is a phrase in another old him that says “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.” When we try and keep parts of our lives to ourselves (our spare time, our financial resources, the best that we have) and give God our “left-overs,” we will constantly be in a struggle. His will versus our will. His desires versus our desires. However, when we can lay everything we have and all that we are on the altar to be used by Him, our lives will become more meaningful and our work more satisfying.
In Hebrews chapter 11 (the Faith hall of fame), the Bible says “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.“ He trusted and obeyed, and so should we.