Tag Archives: Tim Keller

Oh What Peace We Often Forfeit (The Tragedy of the Beloved Hymn)

Joseph Scriven grew up on the Emerald Isle that is Ireland, having been born there in 1820. When he was 20 years of age, he was engaged to be married to a young lady. Sadly, the night before their wedding his fiancée drowned. Scriven was absolutely heart-broken and soon made plans to leave everything behind and set sail to Canada–Port Hope, Ontario. Such an appropriate name for one who lost much and gave everything up. While there, Scriven began to work among the poor and the widows–chopping wood and doing odd jobs that needed to be done. He even preached on occasion.

Some time later, he received word from back home. His mother was going through a very difficult time; a time of extreme heartache. Though he could not be with her, he knew One who was. In response to the letter he received, Joseph Scriven penned a poem to his mother. She was both comforted and impressed with the poem and handed it a friend of hers stating an anonymous authorship. Soon one thing led to another, and it became one of the most famous hymns in history.

Not too long after that, Scriven found love again. And once again, he was engaged to be married. However, this engagement would also end tragically; his soon-to-be wife came down with tuberculosis and died before they could marry. Heart-broken, the unknown poet threw himself into his work among the poor and needy and preaching of God’s Word. At the age of 66, Scriven became ill and in a delirium wandered outside, and having fallen into a creek, he drowned. A couple of years before his death, Joseph Scriven admitted to a friend that it was he who composed the poem that became a hymn.

My favorite line, but most indicting line for me as well, is that which say “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Tim Keller wrote in his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, “Prayer is the way to sense and appropriate this access and fatherly love, and to experience the calm and strength in one’s life that results from such assurance of being cared for,” (New York: Penguin Books, 2014; p. 70).  He is right; there is no other way on earth that we can experience such calm, strength, assurance, or as Scriven wrote: peace.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

(Public Domain)

Confidence Sharing Your Faith

John Robinson faced a dilemma. He had constructed a bridge across the Mississippi to connect two cities. It was the first of its kind (at least the first large bridge of its kind). It was made of steel girders and a cantilever form. It looked beautiful. So what was the problem? No one would use it. They didn’t believe that the bridge would be able to withstand the weight of heavy traffic, and who wants to be the one that causes the bridge to collapse? Robinson was incredulous. It was made of steel! However, being the creative man that he is, he went to the manager of a circus that was traveling through and asked to borrow an elephant. It was believed that elephants could “smell danger.” If the elephant found the bridge safe, so would the people. On June 14, 1874, he threw together a make-shift parade as the elephant made its way to Eads Bridge in St. Louis. Sure enough, the elephant crossed the bridge to East St. Louis, as the people followed suit. The bridge was strong enough–powerful enough–to withstand them all.

Why do I tell you this story? Because that’s the way it is with the gospel message. It is like Eads Bridge. As believers, we look at the gospel and see it as beautiful, graceful, and magnificent. We are indeed proud of the gospel. But what we doubt is its strength. So when we have the opportunity to share the gospel with someone else, we tend not to. We tend to shy away from it because we somehow believe that we are going to be the ones to make it crumble. In other words, we’re going to mess things up. We won’t have all the answers. We’re going to stumble our way through. We’re going to offend or mix up terminology. The whole thing is just going to collapse and we made it happen. So rather than fail, and fall with the collapsed bridge, we’d rather just not go there in the first place. This shows a misunderstanding of the weight of our abilities. At the same time, it reveals our distrust in the firmness and strength of the gospel. Thus, we waver.

Read the words that Paul wrote; read them carefully: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is the power. It is the strength. It is the ability. I am sure that Eads Bridge had its weight limit, but it has been 145 years and it has not collapsed yet. There is no weight limit to the gospel message. It can hold us all (even if we get our words mixed up, don’t have the answers, don’t come off as the brightest bulb in the box). Remember these words: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lets the cross of Christ be emptied of its power,” (1 Corinthians 1:17). Christ has not called us to be the brightest bulb in the box. He hasn’t called us to use perfect words or memorize some gospel presentation. The power is not in the presentation. The power is not in the person’s knowledge. The power is in the gospel. It can and will hold us up. We need not fear our inabilities, but believe in the power of the cross, the power of the gospel.

That being said. . . if you have about 6 minutes, I would encourage you to watch this video from Tim Keller on boasting in the blood. I promise it will be worth your time.