"SOMETHING FOR JESUS"
"What doth the Lord require of thee, but…to walk humbly with thy God?" (Mic. 6:8)
INTRO.: A hymn which reminds us of what the Lord requires of us is "Something for Jesus (#108 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #291 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Sylvanus Dryden Phelps, who was born at Suffield, CN, on May 15, 1816, and educated at the Connecticut Literary Institute, Brown University, from which he graduated in 1844, and Yale Divinity School. His son, William Lyon Phelps, became a famous author and professor of English Literature at Yale. While still in college, Sylvanus began producing hymns, the first of which were temperance songs for children. Becoming a Baptist minister, he served the First Baptist Church of New Haven, CN, for 28 years, from 1846 to 1874.
This hymn was completed in 1862 and first appeared, beginning, "Something, my God, for Thee," unsigned two years later in the Mar. 17, 1864, issue of the Boston, MA, magazine Watchman and Reflector. It was apparently rewritten in its present form around 1870 by the author himself at the request of hymnbook editor Robert Lowry (1826-1899). Lowry, who had seen the poem and asked that it be submitted as a hymn, composed the tune (Something for Thee) and included the song in his 1871 collection Pure Gold for the Sunday School (sometimes the date of 1872 is given), which he edited for Biglow and Main Publishers with William Howard Doane. In 1874 Phelps moved to work with the Jefferson St. Baptist Church in Providence, RI, but resigned two years later to become editor of the religious journal, The Christian Secretary.
During his later life, Phelps published several books of both poetry and prose. The most famous was his work The Holy Land, with Glimpses of Europe and Egypt, a Year’s Tour, which resulted from his extensive travels and ran through nine printings. On his seventieth birthday, he received a letter from Lowry with the following message: "It is worth living seventy years even if nothing comes of it but one such hymn as ‘Savior, Thy Dying Love.’ Happy is the man who can produce one song which the world will keep on singing after its author shall have passed away. May the tuneful harp preserve its strings for many a long year yet, and the last note reach us only when it is time for the singer to take his place in the heavenly choir." Phelps died some nine years later in New Haven, CN, on Nov. 23, 1895.
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 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.
The song is a meditation on what Jesus has done for us and what we need to do for Him.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that the supreme sacrifice of Christ suggests a like sacrifice on our part
"Savior, Thy dying love Thou gavest me,
Nor should I ought withhold, Dear Lord, from Thee;
In love my soul would bow, My heart fulfill its vow,
Some offering bring Thee now, Something for Thee."
A. Jesus showed His love for us by laying down His life for us: 1 Jn. 3:16
B. Therefore, we should bown down before Him: Phil. 2:10
C. And as Jesus gave His life for us, we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices for Him: Rom. 12:1-2
II. Stanza 2 tells us that our faith must be fixed on Jesus who is our advocate with the Father
"At the blest mercy seat, Pleading for me,
My feeble faith looks up, Jesus, to Thee:
Help me the cross to bear, Thy wondrous love to share,
Some song to raise, or prayer, Something for Thee."
A. We should certainly want to offer our all to Him who is at the right hand of God making intercession for us: Rom. 8:34
B. In order to do this, our faith must look up unto Him who is the author and finisher of our faith: Heb. 12:1-2
C. If we do this, He will help us to bear our cross for Him: Matt. 16:24
III. Stanza 3 tells us that we must look to Christ for strength that we might do God’s will
"Give me a faithful heart–Likeness to Thee–
That each departing day Henceforth may see
Some work of love begun, Some deed of kindness done,
Some wanderer sought and won, Something for Thee."
A. The Lord wants our hearts to be faithful to Him: Rev. 2:10
B. Being faithful means having the likeness or image of Christ in our lives: 2 Cor. 3:18
C. Our faith is usless if it is not one that works through love: Gal. 5:6, 1 Thess. 1:3
IV. Stanza 4 tells us that in all things we must follow the example of our Savior
"Lord, I would follow Thee In all the way
Thy weary feet have trod, Yes, if I may;
Help me the news to bear, All Thy fair graces wear,
Close watching unto prayer–Something for Thee."
A. We should have the attitude that we want to follow Jesus: Lk. 9:57
B. Following Jesus means that we look to the example that He left us: 1 Pet. 2:21-23
C. In order to do this, we need to be close watching unto prayer: Eph. 6:18
V. Stanza 5 tells us that the service which we render unto Christ will result in eternal life
"All that I am and have–Thy gifts so free–
In joy, in grief, through life, Dear Lord, for Thee!
And when Thy face I see, My ransomed soul shall be
Through all eternity Something for Thee."
A. Everything that we are and have are gifts from above: Jas. 1:17
B. Someday, those who follow Christ have the hope of seeing His face: 1 Jn. 3:1-2
C. But our reward in eternity will depend in part on how we have served both God and our fellowman in this life: Matt. 25:34-40
CONCL.: The original poem by Phelps is quite different from the present text:
1. "Something, my God, for Thee, Something for Thee:
That each day’s setting sun may bring Some penitential offering;
In Thy dear name some kindness done; In Thy dear love some wanderer won;
Some trial meekly borne for Thee, Dear Lord, for Thee."
2. "Something, my God, for Thee, Something for Thee:
That to Thy gracious throne may rise Sweet incense from some sacrifice–
Uplifted eyes undimmed by tears, Uplifted faith unstained by fears,
Hailing each joy as light from Thee, Dear Lord, from Thee."
3. "Something, my God, for Thee, Something for Thee:
For the great love that Thou hast given, For the great hope of Thee and heaven.
My soul! her first allegiance brings, And upward plumes her heavenward wings,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee."
Despite its inclusion in nearly every standard hymnbook used among brethren for the last 100 years or so, my experience has been that this hymn is woefully underused. When originally published, it had the heading, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). The spiritual longings which it expresses are valid for all earnest souls. Surely, there is nothing better to which we can aspire in this life than to offer our entire lives as "Something For Jesus."