"WHEN THE BATTLE’S OVER"
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2.3)
INTRO.: A song which encourages us to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ is "When the Battle’s Over" (see #275 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #224 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text is taken from a poem written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). The exact date and circumstances of its writing are unknown. Watts was in the habit of composing a hymn each week to use in connection with his Sunday morning sermon. This one, to accompany a lesson on the subject of "Holy Fortitudes," has been placed as early as 1709 and as late as 1723. It first appeared in print as an appendix to the third volume of Watts’s Sermons published in 1724. These words have been set to many different tunes, most of which are also associated with other hymns, most of our books using one (Arlington) by Thomas Augustus Arne which is most commonly found with Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s hymn "Again the Lord of Light and Life." The one whose chorus begins "When the battle’s over" is believed to be an old English song arranged by William B. Blake. I have been able to find practically nothing much that is known about it or the arranger. Some books have an arrangement where the text is paired with a tune and chorus beginning "We will stand the storm" by Tullius Clinton O’Kane. Given the fact that there are six stanzas to the hymn, three can be used with one tune and another three with the other to make two separate songs.
The majority of hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ have had this text in one form or another. It appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1–words only) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 (with two different tunes, "Pisgah" usually associated with Watts’s "When I Can Read My Title Clear," and "McAnally" usually associated among us with J. M. McCaleb’s "The Gospel Is For All") edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson (both with the "Arlington" tune); the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch (with both "McAnally" and "Arlington" tunes); and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater (with "Arlington"). 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 (both with "McAnally); the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard (with "Arlington"); the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann (with "Arlington"); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand (with "McAnally," "Arlington," and "Pisgah"!); as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, (which both have "Arlington"), and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church (which uses both "Arlington" and "McAnally"). However, none that I know of has used the Blake version.
The hymn points out the need to be faithful in fighting the good fight of the faith.
I. Stanza 1 says that as soldiers, we should not fear to own Christ’s name
"Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb;
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?"
A. We are soldiers of the cross because we are to wage a good warfare: 1Tim. 1.18
B. As soldiers of the cross, we are followers of the Lamb: Rev. 14.1-4
C. Because of what the Lamb has done for us, we should never be ashamed of the cause for which He fights: Rom. 1.16
II. Stanza 2 says that as soldiers, we must be willing to fight that we might gain the prize
"Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to gain the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?"
A. A good soldier of Christ will fight the good fight of the faith: 1 Tim. 6.12
B. Only those who thus fight can hope to gain the prize: Phil. 4.13-14
C. And such a fight may require us to "sail through bloody seas" in the sense of being willing to give up our lives for the cause of Christ if necessary: Matt. 16.25
III. Stanza 3 says that as soldiers, we must always be prepared to meet the foe
"Are there no foes for me to fight? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace To help me on to God?"
A. A good soldier of Christ will remember that he fights against spiritual enemies: Eph. 6.10-11
B. In doing so, he will be helping to setm the flood of evil and wickedness: Eph. 5.11
C. This requires not maintaining friendship with the enemy, the world: Jas. 4.4
CONCL.: The chorus points us to the blessings that will be received by the faithful soldier when his fighting days are over.
"And when the battle’s over We shall wear a crown!
Yes, we shall wear a crown! Yes, we shall wear a crown!
And when the battle’s over We shall wear a crown In the new Jerusalem.
Wear a crown, Wear a crown, Wear a bright and shining crown;
And when the battle’s over We shall wear a crown In the new Jerusalem."
The scripture reference of the sermon with which this hymn was written to be used is 1 Cor. 16.13 which says, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong." Although produced over 200 years ago, these words are still a challenge for us today. Every Christian must examine himself daily, especially as he faces times of sufferings or difficulties in life, and continue to be a good soldier for Jesus Christ, looking forward to the reward "When the Battle’s Over."