And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
In the seven-plus years during which I have been writing daily devotions, I almost always work my way incrementally through a book of Scripture. These days, as you know, I’m moving slowly through Genesis. But, every now and then, I have interrupted my standard procedure to share with my readers something of unusual interest. I’m doing this today and for a couple more days as well. We’ll get back to Genesis on Wednesday.
Why am I changing gears for three days? Because I discovered an amazing hymn I’d like to share with you as a devotional resource. Last Sunday, I preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. My sermon focused on how our daily work can honor God as part of the “good works” God has prepared for us to do in Christ (Eph 2:10). Following the sermon, we sang a marvelous hymn I had never before sung. It was called “Forth in Your Name” and attributed to the prolific 18th-century hymn writer Charles Wesley. (Many thanks to Covenant’s gifted Director of Music Ministry, Tom Brown, for choosing this hymn.)
After the service, I did a bit of research on the hymn, discovering that it was first published in 1749 with Wesley’s title, “For Believers Before Work” (Harvard University Hymn Book, p. 333). Both the original title and the striking lyrics show that Wesley meant for this hymn to inspire Christians in their daily work.
Wesley’s version of the hymn included six verses, though most later versions omit a stanza or two. As our prayer today, I will print all six verses. On Monday and Tuesday, I’ll offer a few reflections on them.
As we read and pray “For Believers Before Work,” it’s clear that Wesley has given expression to a fundamental biblical truth, namely, that we are to offer everything we do to the Lord. As it says in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” “Everything” here surely includes our daily labors, no matter what they might be, whether for compensation or not, whether glorious or humble, whether exciting or tedious. Wesley captures this truth with poetic wisdom, thus inviting us to live our whole lives, including our work lives, for the Lord.
Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go,
My daily labor to pursue;
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think, or speak, or do.
The task Thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfill;
In all my works Thy presence find,
And prove Thy good and perfect will.
Preserve me from my calling’s snare,
And hide my simple heart above,
Above the thorns of choking care,
The gilded baits of worldly love.
Thee may I set at my right hand,
Whose eyes mine inmost substance see,
And labor on at Thy command,
And offer all my works to Thee.
Give me to bear Thy easy yoke,
And every moment watch and pray,
And still to things eternal look,
And hasten to Thy glorious day.
For Thee delightfully employ
Whate’er Thy bounteous grace hath given;
And run my course with even joy,
And closely walk with Thee to Heaven. Amen.
“For Believers Before Work” by Charles Wesley (1749)
Photo credit: this hymn is in the public domain. Thanks to Hymnary.org.