"ONE STEP AT A TIME"
"For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5.7)
INTRO.: A song that asks for God’s help to walk by faith and not by sight is "One Step at a Time" (#70 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #210 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Thomas J. Shelton, who was born somewhere in the state of Kentucky in June of 1849. A minister associated with churches of Christ in the late 1860’s, he desired to imitate the campaigns of revival evangelist Dwight L. Moody and his song director Ira D. Sankey. There is no record as to exactly when or under what circumstances this hymn was produced. The tune (Rosecrans) was composed by James Holmes Rosecrans (1844-1926). A native of Berne, NY, whose family were members of the church of Christ, Rosecrans studied music at the Baxter University of Music in Friendship, NY. After teaching school for two years, he joined the Fillmore Brothers Music House of Cincinnati, OH, and contributed to their Sunday school song collections. In all, he published over twenty collections, produced a great deal of sheet music, and composed tunes for several songs, such as "There Is a Habitation." In the 1870s and 1880s he worked as music director for Shelton’s evangelistic campaigns.
"One Step at a Time" first appeared in 1880 in Joy and Gladness published by James Henry Fillmore. It became quite popular after being included in the much used 1887 New Christian Hymn and Tune Book also published by Fillmore. Rosecrans conducted singing schools in many states. In addition to his music work, he was a minister of the gospel for many years. In 1884 he was an evangelist in the state of California and later was associated with evangelistic efforts in Texas, also serving as professor of music and Bible at Carton College in Bonham, but eventually returned to New York. In 1881, Shelton was with the Milton church in Pike County, IL, but by March of 1891 had migrated to Little Rock, AR, where he preched and published a paper called The Christian. From there he went to Denver, CO, where he preached, published a couple of books, and eventually died on Mar. 6. 1929.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1925 edition of 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 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; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1999 Into Our Hands edited by Leland R. Fleming; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
This hymn speaks of the consecration that we need to walk in the steps of Jesus.
I. Stanza 1 reminds us that we need to walk in the steps of Jesus
"One step at a time, dear Savior; I cannot take any more.
The flesh is so weak and hopeless, I know what what is before."
A. The steps that we need to follow have already been taken before us by our perfect example who showed us the way: 1 Pet. 2.21
B. One reason we need to follow Him is that the flesh is weak and hopeless: Matt. 26.41
C. Another reason we need to follow Him is that we simply do not know what is before us: Jas. 4.13-14
II. Stanza 2 teaches us that walking with Jesus means walking by faith not by sight
"One step at a time, dear Savior; I am not walking by sight.
Keep step with my soul, dear Savior; I walk by faith in Thy might."
A. Those who are not walking by sight are those who deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus: Matt. 16.24
B. In this way, He will keep step with our souls and be with us until the end of the age: Matt. 28.20
C. Walking this way requires living by faith in His might that we might not draw back but endure: Heb. 10.36-39
III. Stanza 3 talks about the need to look at Jesus during our walk by faith
"One step at a time, dear Savior; O guard my faltering feet!
Keep hold of my hand, dear Savior, Till I my journey complete."
A. As we walk by faith, we do not look at the world around us but at "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," who alone can guard our faltering feet: Heb. 12.1-3
B. We must also keep hold of the Savior’s hand, figuratively speaking, by obeying Him in all things: Heb. 5.8-9
C. And we must continue doing this throughout life, being faithful until we complete our journey in death: Rev. 2.10
IV. Stanza 4 points out how important Christ’s word is as we walk with Him
"One step at a time, dear Savior; Thou knowest all of my fear.
One word from Thy heart, dear Savior, And heaven’s mansions appear."
A. This life is filled with things that can bring fear to our hearts: Matt. 10.28, 2 Tim. 1.7, 1 Jn. 4.18
B. However, it is the word of the Lord which is preached by the gospel that can quiet our fears: 1 Pet. 1.25
C. It is also this word that opens heaven’s mansions for those who walk by faith: Jn. 14.1-3
CONCL.: The chorus adds the importance of hope to faith in our walk with Christ.
"One step at a time, dear Savior, Till faith grows stronger in Thee;
One step at a time, dear Savior, Till hope grow stronger in me."
Of course, the phrase "Till faith grows stronger in Thee" points to Jesus as the object of our faith, while the phrase "Till hope grows stronger in me" points to us as the subjects who need this hope within us. As we run the race that is set before us, may we always look to Jesus and say, "One Step at a Time."