Take my life and let it be
As a preacher, I always find it difficult to select the hymn to follow the sermon. How do you ensure that the hymn strengthens the message, rather than distracts from it? As a general rule, I believe it needs to be a hymn that leads to a response: by encouraging more faith or repentance, by leading us to proclaim the Gospel, or by challenging us to hand all that we are and all that we do over to Christ. Particular favourites of mine to follow a sermon include ‘Be Thou my vision’, ‘In Christ alone’, ‘All I once held dear’, ‘I the Lord of sea and sky’, and ‘Guide me O Thou great Jehovah’.
Recently, ‘Take my life and let it be’ has also become a favourite. Although the usual tune of ‘St. Bees’ is not the most rousing, the words are incredibly powerful. I used this hymn after a sermon on Mark 8:31-38 (“…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it…”). The message challenged people to consider whether they were curious, convinced or committed to the cause of Christ, and we looked at some of the sins and temptations that hold us back from giving Christ our all, from picking up and carrying our crosses. I ended by saying that a committed follower of Christ could sing this hymn with boldness, but that ‘boldness’ doesn’t mean just singing the words with gusto. It means examining our hearts and trusting all to Christ. Just consider some of the statements that are made:
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
We have to ask ourselves: Do we really mean these words as we sing them? Are we living lives of worship, all for the glory of God? Would we really give God all of our silver and gold? Are we ready to serve humbly? Are we prepared to share the Gospel with others? Are we prepared to follow Christ’s will, and not our own? Frances Ridley Havergal’s hymn raises so many questions that challenge us.
Frances Ridley Havergal tells the story behind the hymn she wrote:
“Perhaps you will be interested to know the origin of the Consecration hymn ‘Take my life.’ I went for a little visit of five days to Areley House. There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted, but not rejoicing Christians.” – perhaps there is the curious and the convinced – And “He gave me the prayer ‘Lord, give me all in this house!’ And He just did! Before I left the house everyone had got a blessing. The last night of my visit after I had retired, the governess asked me to go to the two daughters. They were crying and then and there both of them trusted and rejoiced; it was nearly midnight. I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration; and these little couplets formed themselves, and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with ‘ever only, ALL FOR THEE!'”
And Frances’ prayer, “Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold,” in the same hymn was not lightly stated. In August, 1878, Miss Havergal wrote to a friend,
“The Lord has shown me another little step, and, of course, I have taken it with extreme delight. ‘Take my silver and my gold’ now means shipping off all my ornaments to the church Missionary House, including a jewel cabinet that is really fit for a countess, where all will be accepted and disposed of for me … Nearly fifty articles are being packed up. I don’t think I ever packed a box with such pleasure.”
“Take my life and let it be” is a powerful hymn that flows from a Christ-centred life. We cannot sing it lightly.