"TO THE WORK"
"Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…" (1 Cor. 15.58)
INTRO.: A song which encourages us to be always abounding in the work of the Lord is "To The Work" (#508 in Hymns for Worship Revised and # 113 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Mrs. Frances (Fannie) Jane Crosby Van Alstyne, better known by her professional name Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915). The tune (Toiling On) was composed by William Howard Doane (1832-1915). The words are said to have been produced in 1869 and the music in 1871. The song was apparently first published in Doane’s 1871 Pure Gold for the Sunday School. Some older books say, "Copyright 1899," but that would undoubtedly refer to the renewal date which usually came 28 years after the original publication.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, this song has been used in the vast majority. It appeared in 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; 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. 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; in addition to Hymns for Worship; Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song suggests several areas in which we need to be workers for the Lord.
I. Stanza 1 to work as servants of God and followers of the Master
"To the work! to the work! we are servants of God;
Let us follow the path that our Master has trod.
With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew,
Let us do with our might what our hands find to do."
A. God calls us to be His servants: 1 Pet. 2.16
B. As servants of God, we are to follow the path that the Master has trod: 1 Pet. 2.21
C. This means that we must do with our might what our hand finds to do: Eccl. 9.10
II. Stanza 2 exhorts us to work to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty
"To the work! to the work! let the hungry be fed;
To the fountain of life let the weary be led.
In the cross and its banner our glory shall be,
While we herald the tidings, ‘Salvation is free!’"
A. The hungry need to be fed with the bread of Jesus’s words: Jn. 6.51, 63
B. The thirsty need to be led to the fountain of living water: Jn. 4.13-14
C. In doing this, we glory in the cross of Christ: Gal. 6.14
III. Stanza 3 exhorts us to work as soldiers to fight the kingdom of darkness and error
"To the work! to the work! there is labor for all,
For the kingdom of darkness and error shall fall;
And the name of Jehovah exalted shall be
In the loud, swelling chorus, ‘Salvation is free!’"
A. There are many passages that teach the importance of our work or labor for the Lord: Matt. 21.28, Phil. 2.12, Heb. 4.11
B. This work involves fighting against the rulers of the darkness of this age: Eph. 6.12
C. The result is that the name of Jehovah (Cyberhymnal reads "the love of the Father," as does The Baptist Hymnal of 1991, but all others read "the name of Jehovah," which I assume is the original and was altered by the editors of The Baptist Hymnal, though why someone would feel the need to change it is beyond me) will be exalted: Isa. 12.4
IV. Stanza 4 exhorts us to work as those who are laboring for a reward
"To the work! to the work! in the strength of the Lord,
And a robe and a crown shall our labor reward,
When the home of the faithful our dwelling shall be,
And we shout with the ransomed, ‘Salvation is free!’"
A. In order for us to work, we must look to the strength of the Lord: Eph. 6.10
B. For those who work faithfully, a crown will reward their labors: Rev. 2.10
C. They will receive a dwelling in the home of the faithful, which is heaven: Col. 1.3-5
CONCL.: The chorus emphasizes the need of continuing to work for the Lord throughout our lives.
"Toiling on, toiling on, Toiling on, toiling on,
Let us hope (and trust), let us watch (and pray), And labor till the Master comes."
God has ordained that in the physical realm, man must labor with the sweat of his face to eat bread and provide for his own. Likewise in the spiritual realm Christians need to understand the necessity of always going "To The Work."