What a Friend We Have in Jesus

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

By way of hitting the “pause button” for a take-away from this week’s look at Overcoming, let’s go back to the hymns.

At one point, I had a teacher whom I admired in many ways though he didn’t ever seem to think anything but poorly of me.  As a matter of fact, no encounter was complete until he’d used every theological means to reduce me to tears.  One instance surrounded today’s hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

I had selected this hymn as the theme music for a Lenten Intercessory Prayer Series I coordinated—not taught, an important distinction—at what was our local church until 2004.  I chose this hymn for its focus on the beauty, benefits, and blessing of prayer.

Prayer honors God.  It is invaluable in our Overcoming.  I believed it true then.  I believe it now.

This teacher’s disagreement was with the word Friend.  We cannot call Jesus our Friend, he said.  He cited all the right theological reasons why Abraham could be God’s friend (James 2:23) but Jesus can’t be ours, even with a capital F to show reverence.  Friendship is a one-way street apparently.  God can call us friends, but it’s improper for us to call God that even in a hymn exalting Him as Savior.  I was told so in private and then the teacher pronounced the same in a class of more than 200 students, though he spared me the humiliation of calling me out by name.  I knew who he meant.  Clearly, he didn’t view me as a “friend” but a heretic, perhaps with all caps for emphasis.

According to the cyberhymnal, What a Friend We Have in Jesus was written in 1855 by Joseph M. Scriv­en:

Scriven wrote this hymn to com­fort his mo­ther, who was across the sea from him in Ire­land. It was orig­in­al­ly pub­lished anon­y­mous­ly, and Scriv­en did not re­ceive full cred­it for al­most 30 years.

But even that does not tell the full story of this Overcomer.  Scriven looked at the world with the expectations of Jesus—a world filled with God’s goodness and possibilities that invited a wholehearted response of faith which provides every ounce of Holy Spirit power needed to humbly obey the call to love one another.  Take a moment, if you will, to watch the encouraging history behind the hymn, behind the man, behind the suffering, and behind the relationship of love and trust and obedience that inspired What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

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What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O 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 your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will 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.

Categories Articles, Articles and Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on August 16, 2013

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