“Listen here, Alfred Ackley. It’s time you did that which you can do best. Why don’t you write a song about it and then maybe you’ll feel better.”  That statement, reported by Dr. Robert Morgan in his book Then Sings my Soul, is one of the more relatable stories I’ve read about the authors of the hymns written in the history of the Church.
I mean, some people were slave traders and then nearly died in shipwrecks, only to turn their lives around and fight for abolition. Others were blinded from early infancy and wrote thousands of Christian hymns. Still yet others wrote while in the company of the great men of the awakenings.
Alfred was just irked. A combination of bad theology and obnoxious refusal of believed truths are really what got him there. But think about it. That is when most of my best thinking happens. I don’t get creative when I’m perfectly content with the way of the world.
We don’t have race cars because everyone was happy with putting along at 20 miles an hour in 1930.
We don’t have gigantic, thin televisions because people were happy with hanging half-ton screens that stretched an impressive twelve inches across the third of the living room it took up.
Sankey was irked because the man to whom he was witnessing said he didn’t want to believe in “a dead jew.” Combine that with the morning sermon he listened to on the radio which stated it didn’t really matter if Jesus rose from the dead or not.
If he was Elvis, he would have shot his television and then written a number one hit.
But because he was married to a good woman, she told him to deal with the agony in the way in which he was created. His brother accompanied Billy Sunday, a huge deal back in that day, and wrote nearly 3,000 hymns. Alfred put all of his annoyance at the lazy way in which people then, and people even now deal with the wonder and miracle of the man Jesus who wouldn’t stay dead. 1932
“He lives!” The song insists and repeats. “Salvation to impart!” Not only have I experienced His reality, but it has a consequence outside of my experience of that reality. It creates my reality. It RE-creates my reality.
Paul goes to extraordinary lengths to explain why it is important, not just that Jesus died to pay our life-debt for sin, but that He rose again. Dying, he paid my price, but living and coming back to that life means that my freedom is aimed somewhere.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4 ESV)
It is in that assurance that Bill and Gloria Gaither penned “Because He Lives.” According to a letter she wrote to Robert Morgan, it was a song written at the crossroads of an uncertain pregnancy, an exhausting illness, and the political and social turmoil in America in the 1960s. What kind of hope could there possibly be to bring a child into that kind of world.
That God lives and that has an impact.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives 
I can get all moonlight and starshine, puppy dogs and rainbows about how awesome God is. And it’s all true and real. I also know that I share worship experiences with people who are under immense pressure and strain. I have been that person. And I do not want to give the impression that you have to walk into a worship service ready to just instantly give off the impression of a person with no troubles.
That’s a dangerous suggestion.
When Ben talked this last week about laying down all of our troubles, he sounded like it was the easiest thing in the world and a person who doesn’t know our church would assume he hadn’t ever seen anyone ever actually struggle.
Except that he has.
As a pastor, he has walked through some volcanic fires with the people of our church and not quit on them, their hope, and their relationship with God. So when he says, all calm like, lay down your troubles, it’s going to be ok, he’s saying so sincerely knowing that everything in life can blow up in a hurry.
The question, then, how to find your way back to that calm and that quiet, is important. It is real.
It’s also kind of simple.
It just takes time.
Every storm has an ending and every suffering concludes. During the hardship and during the pain, time stretches out, though, and it doesn’t feel like the time will come when we will feel well again. In those times, though, we can lean on the strength, hope, and sufficiency of God’s presence.
Peace be still, say the word and I will set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Peace be still you are here and it is well 
And the truth we rest upon, we depend upon, and plan upon is that God lives, He lives and invites us to life in Him, and that life in Him is ultimately fulfilling because He is ultimately good.
And all my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God 
So come join us this Sunday. We gather because He lives. We celebrate and live through hardship into His peace because He lives. We live in contentment because that life is filled with Him; and He is good.
And if you’re in a perturbed moment in life, bring that too… sometimes it leads to inspiration to greatness.
- Robert Morgan, Then Sings My Soul: 150 Of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003) 291.
- Bill Gaither and Gloria Gaither, “Because He Lives,” Hannah St Music, 1971. CCLI# 16880.
- Andrew Holt, Hope Darst, Mia Fieldes, “Peace Be Still,” Andrew Holt Music Publishing, Be Essential Songs, Eight26 Publishing, TBCO Music, TBCO Publishing, Upside Down Under, 2017. CCLI# 7084363.
- Ben Fielding, Brian Johnson, Ed Cash, Jason Ingram, Jenn Johnson, “Goodness of God,” SHOUT! Music Publishing, Fellow Ships Music, So Essential Tunes, Alletrop Music, Bethel Music Publishing, 2018. CCLI# 7117726.