"IN THE HOUR OF TRIAL"
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find help in time of need" (Heb. 4.16).
INTRO.: A hymn that talks about coming boldly to the throne of grace to ask Jesus to plead for us is, "In The Hour Of Trial" (#83 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #536 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854). He was the son of the only Moravian minister in Scotland and became a newspaper editor who also wrote many hymns. This one was produced in 1834 but was not published until 1853 in his Original Hymns for Public, Private, and Social Devotion, where it appeared in four stanzas. The original of stanza 1, "Jesus, pray for me," was altered in 1880 for A Church of England Hymnal by Godfrey Thring (1832-1903). The original of stanza 2, "With bewitching pleasures," was altered and major revisions in stanzas 3 and 4 were made by Frances A. Hutton (1811-1877). The hymn in its present wording is first found in H. W. Hutton’s Supplement and Litanies of the late 1800’s. Mrs. Hutton’s arrangements are so different that they are often used as separate stanzas along with all of Montgomery’s.
The tune (Penitence or Lane) was composed by Spencer Lane, who was born at Tilton, NH, on Apr. 7, 1843. After serving as a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War for three years, he studied music at the New England Conservatory and became a vocal and instrumental teacher in New York City, NY. Later he moved to Woonsocket, RI, where he opened a music store and became song director at St. James’ Protestant Episcopal Church for thirteen years, during which time he produced a number of hymn tunes. One Sunday in 1875, following the close of the morning service, the minister gave him the hymns for the evening service. He found that he disliked the tune used with "In the Hour of Trial," so that afternoon, while his wife was cooking dinner, he provided this melody as a substitute.
The song was sung with his tune during the evening service that Sunday and then first published in Charles L. Hutchins’ The Church Hymnal of 1879. After leaving Woonsocket, Lane served churches in Monson, MA, and Richmond, VA, and then moved to Baltimore, MD, where he became a business associate with the Sanders and Stayman music firm and also served as song director for the All Saints’ Protestant Episcopal Church. His death occurred in Readville, VA, on Aug. 10, 1903. Through the years, this hymn has been a source of comfort when believers have faced crisis situations that often become turning points in their lives, such as the loss of a loved one, serious illness, economic difficulties, or mistreatment by friends.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both 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 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, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
This hymn encourages us to turn to Christ for help in our tribulations.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that we are capable of denying the Lord by word or deed during difficult times, so we need his help to be strong
"In the hour of trial, Jesus, plead for me,
Lest by base denial, I depart from Thee;
When Thou seest me waver, With a look recall;
Nor for fear or favor Suffer me to fall."
A. While we may think that we’re strong, even someone like the apostle Peter denied the Lord: Lk. 22.54-60
B. But Jesus said that He would plead for Peter: Lk. 22.31-32; and He is making intercession for us too: Heb. 7.25
C. Something that helped Peter to repent was a look from Jesus: Lk. 22.61-62. While we obviously cannot see Jesus literally looking directly at us today, as Peter did on that occasion, we know that Jesus is watching and sees our trials; and that knowledge can help us overcome.
II. Stanza 2 tells us that we should be careful of the forbidden pleasures and sordid treasures of this world and seek Christ’s help in resisting them
"With forbidden pleasures Would this vain world charm,
Or its sordid treasures Spread to work me harm;
Bring to my remembrance Sad Gethsemane,
Or, in darker semblance, Cross-crowned Calvary."
A. In order to avoid denying Christ during an hour of trial, one step that we must take is to learn not to love this world and the things in it: 1 Jn. 2.15-17
B. To assist us in accomplishing this, we need to remember the agony that Christ experienced in Gethsemane because of our sins: Lk. 22.39-46
C. Also, we need to remember the pain that Christ suffered on the cross in order to save us from sin and deliver us from this present evil world: Lk. 23.26-33. Remembering these things can help give us the strength that we need to turn away from sin
III. Stanza 3 tells us that during times of sorrow or pain, we can cast our cares upon God to help us endure our tribulations
"Should Thy mercy send me Sorrow, toil, and woe;
Or should pain attend me On my path below;
Grant that I may never Fail Thy hand to see,
Grant that I may ever Cast my care on Thee."
A. Life is going to bring us times of sorrow, toil, woe, pain, trial, and tribulation, because even though our inward man can be renewed day by day, our outward man is perishing: 2 Cor. 4.16-18
B. When these things happen it will help us to follow the example of Jesus and commit ourselves completely unto the Father: 1 Pet. 2.21-23
C. Why is this important? God has promised that nothing will overtake us that we cannot handle with His help; thus, we can always cast our care on Him: 1 Cor. 10.13, 1 Pet. 5.7
IV. Montgomery’s original stanza 3 tells us that we should be willing to face whatever afflictions the chastening of God allows in our lives
"If with sore affliction Thou in love chastise,
Pour Thy benediction On the sacrifice.
Then upon Thine altar Freely offered up,
Though the flesh may falter,
Faith shall drink the cup."
A. While the Bible teaches that God does not tempt us with evil, it does say that He allows us to suffer trials to chasten us: Heb. 12.5-11
B. These trials should be looked upon as part of the sacrifice of ourselves offered upon the altar to God: Phil. 2.17
C. It will help us to refrain from denying Christ when we face the hour of trial if we remember ahead of time that as Christians we may be called on to drink the cup of suffering: Matt. 20.22-23
V. Stanza 4 tells us that even in death we can overcome the hour of trial.
"When my last hour cometh, Fraught with strife and pain,
When the dust returneth To the dust again;
On Thy truth relying, Through that mortal strife,
Jesus, take me dying To eternal life."
A. Someday our last hour will come when the dust will return to the ground from whence it was taken: Gen. 3:19
B. The ultimate safeguard to denying Christ is to keep our minds focused on the ultimate truth that there is a home in heaven with Him when this life is over: 2 Cor. 4:16-18
C. Thus, if we remain faithful, we can have the hope that He will take us to eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25
CONCL.: Whenever we face trials in life, there are two basic attitudes that we can take towards suffering–rebellion that creates bitterness, or submission with the endeavor to find something helpful in the experience. God has promised to deliver the godly out of their temptations (2 Pet. 3.9). Therefore, may we seek to be more and more consecrated to the Lord so that we will never deny Him "In The Hour Of Trial."