"I KNOW THE LORD WILL FIND A WAY FOR ME"
"Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good…and shall set us in the way of His steps" (Ps. 85.12, 13)
INTRO.: A hymn which expresses the assurance that the Lord shall give us that which is good and set us in the way of His steps is "I Know the Lord Will Find a Way For Me" (cf. #485 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text appears to be an American folk hymn and the tune an American folk melody. I can remember singing this song in Bible classes and vacation Bible schools when I was a child, c. 1963 to 1965, but a friend of mine told me that he remembers hearing and singing it at David Lipscomb College in the late 1940’s, somehow connecting it with Otis Gatewood and the workers in Germany as a kind of theme song for them. My friend said that he is inclined to think that Gatewood introduced it to them but is not sure about that. The arrangement of the song that is probably familiar to most members of the Lord’s church was made in 1965 by Palmer Esker Wheeler, who was born on July 11, 1904, at Millport, AL, in a four room log cabin, the third child of William David and Gertrude Jane Tate Wheeler. For the next few years, the family lived on five different farms in the community of Simmon Town near the old Pollard school house, but when Palmer was thirteen they moved to a farm near Columbus, MS. Then in 1922, they moved to southeastern Oklahoma, where Palmer attended Southeastern Teachers College at Durant, OK, for one year. Times were hard, so when he was offered a job with the Stamps-Baxter Company, he took it. The Palmers had been a singing family, the children having been tutored in music by their father, and by 1924 the whole family had made music their vocation.
That year, Palmer took his first harmony class from N. W. Allphin at Whitesboro, TX, and went on to have other training in music at such schools as the Stamps School of Dallas, TX, and the Vaughan School of Music at Lawrenceburg, TN, and with such teachers as R. B. Vaughan, G. K. Vaughan, W. B. Walbert, C. C. Stafford, and Homer Rodeheaver. However, to pay the bills and continue their lessons, the family sometimes had to pick cotton, work in the hay, or do other jobs of that nature. In 1925, Wheeler taught his first singing school. Two years later, in 1927, Palmer joined the Stamps Quartet with his brothers J. E. and Roy. This soon became the famous Stamps All-Star Quartet with Frank Stamps singing the bass. The group made records for Victor in 1927 and 1928, but the Depression separated them, and Palmer spent 1930 through 1933 in Kentucky teaching singing schools, singing for religious meetings, and working with the Sunshine Quartet. On June 21, 1929, he married Lena Bandy of Scottsville, KY, and that same year was baptized into Christ by Clarence Williams at Hugo, OK. Later, Lena was baptize by G. K. Wallace at Wheeler, TX. In 1935, Wheeler joined the Vaughan Quartet and sang first tenor in this famous group with Keiffer Vaughan, John Cook, and Jim Waits for nearly three and a half years, gaining the distinctive title of "The Golden Voice Tenor of Tennessee" in the middle 1930s, but left to teach music in the public schools.
For two years, Wheeler was Director of Music at Freed-Hardeman College, but left that work to go into fulltime evangelistic song leading. After that, he taught in more than 500 singing schools, and led singing in meetings with N. B. Hardeman, G. C. Brewer, E. R. Harper, and Foye E. Wallace, Jr. This work took him into 27 states from San Francisco, CA, to Washington, DC. Credited with more than fifty songs, many of them for children, Wheeler edited a 1955 book Youth Melodies and Action Songs, with 148 selections, "designed for the edification of our youth, to be used especially in Vacation Bible Schools, Singing Schools, Song Drills and Chorus Work." The song of which he said that he was the proudest was the books of the New Testament which he set to music. I can also recall singing this song frequently in Bible classes and vacation Bible schools, and even now whenever I say the books of the New Testament, its melody still runs through my mind. "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; Acts, and the letter to the Romans…." The Great Christian Hymnal No. 2, edited by Tillit S. Teddlie, contains another song by Wheeler entitled "Unity in Christ," which also had appeared in Youth Melodies and Action Songs. A 1970 invitation song by Wheeler, "Tomorrow May Be Too Late," was included in Alton H. Howard’s 1971 Songs of the Church and has become fairly popular. For many years, Wheeler lived in Dallas, TX, until his death there on Jan. 8, 1983. His son, Tommy Wheeler, born 1931, and a cousin, Max Wheeler, born in 1932, are also songwiters.
Wheeler’s arrangement of "I Know the Lord Will Find a Way for Me" was first published in a book entitled Into All The World. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared on the inside front cover of subsequent editions of the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the back cover of subsequent editions of the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; and the 1980 Our Garden of Song compiled by Gene C. Finley. In all of these, the authors are identified as "Ketron & Reed," but I have been able to find no further information about them. The song also appeared in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 arranged by the editor, L. O. Sanderson; and in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons, arranged by Harold Neal and Mrs. Floyd McGee. Today, it may be found in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections (where the tune is called "Traditional") arranged by the editor, Ellis J. Crum; the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard marked "Traditional" in an arrangement by Reid Lancaster; and with the Wheeler arrangement in the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard (again attributed to "Ketron & Reed"); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand. Hymns for Worship uses a version arranged by Morris Lynwood Smith and V. O. Fossett. The 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat has L. O. Sanderson’s arrangement. Some books change the title to "I Know the Lord Will MAKE a Way for Me." This writer has arranged the words to avoid needless repetition and give the song more substance.
The song encourages us to look to the Lord for assistance and guidance in life.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that the Lord has a purpose for us on this earth
"I know the Lord will find a way for me; The Lord wants me in heaven with Him to be.
If I walk in heaven’s light, shun the wrong, and do the right, I know He’ll save from sin and set me free."
A. The Lord has provided a way for those who wish to have eternal life, and the Bible refers to it as the strait and narrow way: Matt. 7.13-14
B. Because the Lord has provided this way, we know that He wants us to be with Him in heaven and promises to come back that He might receive us to Himself so that we can be with Him: Jn. 14.1-3
C. To prepare us for that home, His purpose for us on earth is to find that way so that we can be saved from sin and set free: Rom. 6.3-4, 17-18
II. Stanza 2 tells us that the Lord has a work for us to do
"The Lord has said go preach the word to all Who live upon this earth’s terrestrial ball.
If I walk in heaven’s light, shun the wrong, and do the right, I know He’ll guide me as I heed His call."
A. The Lord wants His word to be preached: 2 Tim. 4.2
B. He wants it to be preached to every human being on this earth: Mk. 16.15-16
C. To encourage us, He has promised that as we go about making disciples and teaching others He will guide us and be with us: Matt. 28.18-20
III. Stanza 3 tells us that the Lord has a plan for our lives
"The Savior bids me live for Him each day, And follow in His footsteps all the way.
If I walk in heaven’s light, shun the wrong, and do the right, I know He’ll hear me when through Him I pray."
A. The Lord’s plan is that we live for Him: Gal. 2.20
B. To do this, He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps: 1 Pet. 2.21
C. Part of this relationship with Him is that God has promised to hear the prayers of His people when they come to Him through Christ: Heb. 4.14-16
IV. Stanza 4 tells us that the Lord has a reward for our labors
"Won’t it be grand to hear Him say, ‘Well done,’ When life is over and the victory’s won?
If I walk in heaven’s light, shun the wrong, and do the right, I know He’ll crown me when the race is run."
A. Someday the Lord has promised all those who are faithful that they will hear Him say, ‘Well done": Matt. 25.21
B. This will occur when life is over, Christ has returned, the dear are raised, and the final victory is won: 1 Cor. 15.51-57
C. At that time, we can be assured that we shall receive the crown of life: Rev. 2.10
CONCL.: Some might quibble over whether the Lord will "find" a way or "make" a way, but I personally cannot see much difference between the two. The Lord has already prepared and provided a way whereby all who desire can be saved from sin and have the hope of eternal life. So as we determine to walk in heaven’s light, shun the wrong, and do the right, He will find or make a way for us to receive the guidance and direction we need. Therefore, I can approach life and journey toward heaven with the assurance that "I Know the Lord Will Find a Way for Me."