“I Want to Be a Worker”

"…Go work today in my vineyard" (Matt. 21.28)

     INTRO.: A song which indicates the need for each child of God to go work today in His vineyard is "I Want To Be A Worker" (#504 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #113 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Workman) was composed both by Isaiah Baltzell (sometimes spelled Baltzel; also some books have L. Baltzell, but this is probably due to a smudge in printing), who was born on Nov. 26, 1832, at Thurmont near Frederick City, MD, the younger son and second of seven children of Lorenz and Susanna Hann Baltzell. In 1854 he became a minister with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Virginia Conference, and served several circuits and missions in that area. In 1858 he married Cecelia C. James, and they had five children: Margaret, Luella, Rolff, Rose, and Winton James.

     In 1862, Baltzell transferred to the Pennsylvania Conference, returned to the Virginia Conference in 1868, but in 1872 removed to the East Pennsylvania Conference, living near Harrisburg, where his children attended the common schools, and serving as presiding elder in several districts. During his lifetime, he produced several hymns and edited a number of gospel song books, most of them in connection with Edmund Simon Lorenz, for the United Brethren Publishing House, including Golden Songs in 1874, Heavenly Carols in 1878, Gates of Praise in 1884, Garnered Sheaves in 1888, Songs of the Morning in 1889, and The Master’s Praise in 1891. His best known song, "I Want to Be a Worker," dates from 1880, but I have been able to find no information on its source of publication.  Another song in some of our books for which Baltzell provided music is "Is Your Lamp Still Burning?" He died at Annville, PA, on Jan. 16, 1893.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century, "I Want to Be a Worker" has been in the vast majority of them. It appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1938 Spiritual Melodies, the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs, and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 all edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal, the 1957 Revival Songs, and the 1959 Hymnal all edited by Marion Davis; the 1940 Praise and Revival Songs, the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns, the 1955 Sacred Praise, and the 1959 Gospel Service Hymnal all edited by Will W. Slater; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song encourages every Christian to determine to be engaged in the work of the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 suggests that we should be workers because we love the Lord’s word
"I want to be a worker for the Lord, I want to love and trust His holy Word;
I want to sing and pray, and be busy every day In the kingdom (vineyard) of the Lord."
 A. We need be workers for the Lord because our labor is not in vain in the Lord: 1 Cor. 15.58
 B. If we truly love and trust His holy word, then we will want to be workmen that need not be ashamed, handling it aright: 2 Tim. 2.15
 C. We need to be busy at all times because we show our faith in God’s word by our works: Jas. 2.18

II. Stanza 2 suggests that we should be workers because we want to lead others to Christ
"I want to be a worker every day, I want to lead the erring in the way
That leads to heaven above, where all is peace and love, In the kingdom of the Lord."
 A. We need to be workers every day because we shall reap in due season only if we do not lose heart: Gal. 6.9
 B. The aim of our work needs to be leading the erring in the way: Jas. 5.19-20
 C. Our hope in this work is that they might know the peace and love that Christ offers: Col. 3.14-15

III. Stanza 3 suggests that we should be workers because we trust in Jesus’s power to save
"I want to be a worker strong and brave, I want to trust in Jesus’ power to save;
All who will truly come shall find a happy home In the kingdom of the Lord."
 A. In order to be good workers for the Lord we must be strong and brave: 1 Cor. 16.13
 B. The reason that we can be strong and brave is that we trust in Jesus’s power to save, which is revealed in the gospel: Rom. 1.16
 C. When we do our work, those who respond will find a happy home and receive rest from the Lord: Matt. 11.28-30

IV. Stanza 4 suggests that we should be workers because we want both us and others to go to heaven
"I want to be a worker; help me, Lord, To lead the lost and erring to Thy Word
That points to joys on high, where pleasures never die In the kingdom of the Lord."]
 A. We certainly need the Lord’s help to be workers, so He reminds us that He will not forget our work and labor of love: Heb. 6.10-12
 B. If we ask, He will help us to be lead the lost and erring to His word as laborers in His harvest: Matt. 9.37-38
 C. The end result of our labors is that both we and those whom we bring to Christ can receive joys on high in heaven: 1 Pet. 1.3-5

     CONCL.:  The chorus reminds us that just as a vineyard needs workers, so the Lord’s service needs our labors.
"I will work, I will pray, In the vineyard, in the vineyard of the Lord;
I will work, I will pray, I will labor every day In the vineyard of the Lord."
Teaching the gospel to the lost and other areas of doing God’s will are not always easy. However, it is true that any goal worth achieving is worth working for. Therefore, my attitude toward my service to the One who left heaven and died for me is that for Him "I Want to Be a Worker."


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