“Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand”
Scriptures: Psalm. 89:13; James 1:17; Rev. 21:1; Prov. 3:5-6; 1 Tim. 6:17; Phil. 1:23
The last time that I stood before you I shared with you the song, “We’ve Come This Far By Faith” that I learned as a child. It has been three weeks since I have stood before you and during this time I have reflected on that message and what that song means to me. This led me to think of other songs that I learned as a young Christian that helped developed my faith in God. This morning I am starting a series I am titling “Songs of Our Faith” through which I will share with you some of the songs that helped develop my faith and the faith of those who have gone home before me. I will also during this series ask some of you to step up and share with the congregation a song you may have learned as a young Christian that has impacted your life. Even though many Churches do not sing the old hymns I grew up singing, there are other songs that you have heard that has had an impact on your life and this is what I will be asking you to share out with us. This will be the first step as we begin to learn to share our experiences with others. This morning we will examine the song, “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand.”
I. The Author
I grew up hearing and singing these songs without ever knowing much about the author. This particular song was written by Jennie Bain Wilson. I want to share a little with you about her so that you might understand the words of this song from her viewpoint. Jennie Bain Wilson was born in 1857 and died in 1913 at the age of 56. She was afflicted with a spinal condition at the age of four and spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. She never attended school but was educated at home. She is believed to have written over 2,200 texts including some 685 songs. I do not have to tell you about what her life could have been like in the mid 1800s. She did not have the modern conveniences that we so easily take for granted. She did not have running water; indoor plumbing; electricity; iPods; computers; cars, etc. She spent her life watching others do what she could not do – walk, run and play. Her life was spent in a wheelchair. This is the person who wrote the words telling us that we should hold to God’s unchanging hand. Instead of being bitter about her condition, she turned her focus to God. As we examine this song, think about the words coming from someone bound to a wheelchair for over 50 years and ask yourself would you have reached the same conclusion that she did.
II. The Meaning of the Title
As I thought about this song I spent some time thinking about the title, “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” and what the title means. We all understand what it means to hold on to something with our hands or with our emotions. We also know how easily and how frequently this changes as we walk through life. But focus on what the title says, hold to God’s unchanging hand. Focus on the word “unchanging.” This word means exactly what it says, that God’s hand does not change. So let me give you a natural example to help you understand a spiritual concept.
When my daughters were small and we were out in public I would often hold their hands as parents do with their kids. As a child their hand would fit totally within my hand and sometimes my hand would envelop their small hand. As they grew, their hands changed. As their hands changed it changed how I could hold them. The bigger they got the larger their hands became as you would expect. Because my hands could no longer envelop theirs I began to hold their hand like I would hold another adult’s hand. When they were small they could not shift their hands within mine because my hand was so much larger than theirs. As their hands became larger, they could shift how their hands were held and positioned in my hands. So as they changed, their hands changed with them. This is not what the title to this song implies.
Nikki and I have been together as a couple since June of 1980. When we started dating Nikki’s hands were pretty much the size they are now. I have been holding her hands for over 32 years and it has not changed. I know what her hands feel like and no other hand feels the same in my hand as hers do. When we hold hands we do it a certain way and we do it without thinking. This is what this title implies when it says hold to God’s unchanging hand. It is holding to a hand (and therefore a person) that is not changing. The grip you have will be the grip you always have. As you hold to His hand He will likewise hold to yours. In the prophecy found in Malachi 3:6a, God says the following, “For I the Lord do not change….” James, the brother of Jesus, made the following statement in James 1:17: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James is confirming that God does not change. There is only light within Him and no darkness. If you recall, when we move our shadow follows us and moves when we move. This is symbolic of what does not happen with God. He does not move from His promises to us. He does not move from His love for us. He does not move from His grace towards us. Because He does not move, we can hold to His unchanging hand. His hand is unchanging because His desires and purposes for us do not change. When we get mad at each other we do not want to hold hands and in that action we change towards the person we are mad at. This is not how God operates and the song reinforces that God’s hand is unchanging so therefore we should hold it tight. Let’s examine the first verse of the song. For those of you who do not know or may never have heard this song you can probably Google it or find a version of it on YouTube.
III. Verses One and Three
Verse one says: “Time is filled with swift transition, naught of earth unmoved can stand, build your hopes on things eternal, hold to God’s unchanging hand.”
The first verse informs us of what we really should focus our attention and energy on, things that are eternal. It says that “time is filled with swift transitions.” For those of you who understand what it means to be in transition, it means that things are not settled. Transition mean that things are moving, going from one stage to another or one place to another. She says that time is filled with swift transitions meaning that our lives, because we exist within time, transitions fast from one point to the next. Then she says “naught of earth unmoved can stand.” I had to meditate on this one. She was saying that nothing of the earth which is unmoved or unmovable can stand. You see, there are things that we place our hope and trust in that we think are unmovable. Our homes; relationships; jobs, etc are areas where we place our trust and hope; but they can move. All of these things can and will shift. John wrote in Revelations 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away….” What we know as the “unmovable” earth will move one day and be totally changed. Because of this known fact, the author says “build your hopes on things eternal, hold to God’s unchanging hand.” In other words, focus on something that will not change. Paul wrote the following to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” When you read what Paul wrote, you also understand what the author meant when she wrote in verse three: Covet not this worlds’ vain riches that so rapidly decay; seek to gain the heavenly treasures, they will never pass away.” Again, our focus should be on the eternal things of God versus them temporal things of this world. Let’s move on to verse two.
IV. Verse Two
Verse two says: “Trust in Him who will not leave you, whatsoever years may bring, if by earthly friends forsaken, still more closely to Him cling.
This verse is really self explanatory. Trust is something that takes time to build and oftentimes we place our trust in people and things both of which could fail us. I shared with you before what Solomon said in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” When the author of the song recommends that we place our trust in God regardless of what the years may bring she is talking about a trust that is not broken because of life’s circumstances. She was saying she trusted in God even though she was forced through “life’s circumstances” to live her life in a wheelchair. Our trust in the Lord cannot be based on our experiences or circumstances, but on things that are eternal. If I get sick, it is temporal. I will either get well or I may die, but it will transition one way or another. Everything we experience in this world will transition one way or another. The only steadfast thing we have is our trust in a God who will never leave us nor forsake us. When our friends and family members turn their backs on us, she says we should cling even more closely to Him. Do you think she was speaking from personal experience? I believe she was! This song was written from a depth of knowledge about a type of relationship with God that many do not have. I can sit down and put pen to paper and write a song and it could be a blessing to some. But when you put an experience to song, that song will reach deeper than just someone putting pen to paper. She wrote from a vantage point of a wheelchair bound person who loved and trusted in God even when others wondered why she could feel that way since God obviously caused or allowed her to be in that wheelchair. Her trust was in eternal things. (By the way, she spent 52 years in a wheelchair on this earth and so far she has spent, in our measurement of time, 99 years in the presence of her Lord and Savior.) She is experiencing things eternal right now. Let’s close with verse four.
V. Verse Four
Verse four says: “When your journey is completed, if to God you have been true, fair and bright the home in glory, your enraptured soul will view.”
She was focused on something other than this world. She made the key point that when our journey is completed, if to God we have been true. You see there is a requirement for reaching heaven. We have got to be true to the one we are serving. We have to be focused on His things, not ours. Paul wrote the following to the church at Philippi: “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” (Philippians 1:23) As Paul approached the end of his life, he was not fearing death but looking forward to it. His heart desired to be in the presence of Christ but he knew it would be better for those he ministered to to stay a little longer. But if we consider what he said, he was focused on things eternal and he understood what was in heaven waiting for him was much better than what was here on earth.
The chorus of the songs reiterates the primary focus, hold to God’s unchanging hand; build our hope on things eternal; hold to God’s unchanging hand.
My Personal Thoughts
I grew up listening to; singing; and watching others sing this song. I remember watching the older members of our Church sing this song with tears in their eyes. As a child with little understanding, we would laugh at the older members when they became emotional during a Church service. We would actually imitate (and make fun of them) when we were at home and outside of our parent’s presence. It is amazing that now at the age of 51 I understand what they experienced. Time does bring some wisdom. When I think back now on those older members of our Church who are now in the presence of their Lord and Savior, I can see, even though they were not perfect, they had some experiences that aligned them to Christ.
If you have ever been disappointed in this life and you’re wondering what’s to be had for you in the next, continue to hold to God’s unchanging hand. When I learned this song as a child, I liked the rhythm and how they sung it. Today, although that has not changed, I understand the meaning of the words. I can sing this song as a faith statement of something I am choosing to do. I no longer sing this song as a song that someone else wrote; but as a personal statement of my faith. This might not be your song, but it is one of mine. When you’re really feeling close to God or have that need to be close to Him, what song comes to your mind? What song do you sing during your most stressful times that allow you to feel the presence of God and bring you peace?
I will leave you with these words from Psalm 89:13: “You have a strong arm; Your hand is mighty, Your right hand is exalted.” Whose hand are you holding?
Next week we will examine “Mother’s Amazing Grace” by Roberta Martin. May God bless and keep you is my prayer.
Hold To God's Unchanging Hand lyrics
(by: Jennie Bain Wilson)
Time is filled with swift transition, Revelations 21:1
Naught of earth unmoved can stand, 1 Timothy 6:17
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.
Hold to God’s unchanging hand, Psalm 89:13
Hold to God’s unchanging hand; Malachi 3:6
Build your hopes on things eternal, James 1:17
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.
Trust in Him who will not leave you, Proverbs 3:5-6
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken
Still more closely to Him cling.
Covet not this world’s vain riches 1 Timothy 6:17
That so rapidly decay,
Seek to gain the heav’nly treasures,
They will never pass away.
When your journey is completed, Philippians 1:23
If to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in glory
Your enraptured soul will view.
Posted on March 26, 2013