"THE PRIZE IS SET BEFORE US"
"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14)
INTRO.: A gospel song which encourages us to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus is "The Prize Is Set Before Us." The text was written by Christopher Ruby (or Rubey) Blackall, who was born on Sept. 18, 1830, in Albany, NY. After serving as a doctor in the American Civil War, he became secretary for The American Baptist Publication Society for the North-West for over eight years beginning in 1867, and was also chairman of the auxiliary board at Harper’s Weekly. The author of over 100 Sunday school songs, he compiled Gems for the Little Ones in 1879 for B. Griffith of Philadelphia, PA. Other songs by Blackall include "Labor On" beginning, "In the harvest field there is work to do," with a tune by William H. Doane, that has been used in some of our books; "Let Us Stand on the Rock, Firmly Stand" beginning, "Firmly stand for God in the world;" and "The Church Bell."
The tune (By and By) for "The Prize Is Set Before Us" was composed by Horatio Richmond Palmer (1834-1907). The song was originally produced in 1874 for the Sunday school of the Second Baptist Church in Chicago, IL, and first appeared that year in Songs of Love for the Bible School edited by Palmer. From there, it passed into numerous collections, including Ira D. Sankey’s 1878/1881 Sacred Songs and Solos. Palmer is perhaps best known as the author and composer of "Yield Not to Temptation." Blackall died on Jan. 25, 1924. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "The Prize Is Set Before Us" appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson. The chorus only
was used in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson.
The song holds out the prize of eternal life with God in heaven as a motivating factor to press on.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the call of Jesus
"The prize is set before us; To win, His words implore us;
The eye of God is o’er us From on high.
His loving tones are falling; While sin is dark, appalling,
‘Tis Jesus gently calling; He is nigh."
A. The prize is set before us, and to win we must run the race: Heb. 12:1
B. It is sin, dark and appalling, that will keep us from reaching our goal: Rom. 6:23
C. Therefore, Jesus calls us from on high through the gospel: 2 Thess. 2:14
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the need to follow Jesus
"We’ll follow where He leadeth; We’ll pasture where He feedeth;
We’ll yield to Him who pleadeth From on high.
Then naught from Him shall sever; Our hope shall brighten ever,
And faith shall fail us never; He is nigh."
A. Jesus wants us to follow Him: Matt. 16:24
B. Following Jesus means that we must yield to Him in obedience to His will: Heb. 5:8-9
C. When we do this, nothing shall be able to separate us from Him and His love: Rom. 8:38-39
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the home that Jesus has prepared
"Our home is bright above us, No trials dark to move us,
But Jesus dear to love us There on high.
We’ll give Him best endeavor, And praise His name forever;
His precious words can never, Never die."
A. Jesus promised to prepare a home for His followers on high: Jn. 14:1-3
B. He is even there now making intercession for us: Heb. 7:25
C. We can come to Him and receive His reward if we continually do what His words, which can never, never die, tell us to do: Matt. 24:35
CONCL.: The chorus reminds us of the great blessing of meeting and greeting Jesus in the by and by.
"By and by we shall meet Him, By and by we shall greet Him,
And with Jesus live in glory By and by;
By and by we shall meet Him, By and by we shall greet Him,
And with Jesus live in glory By and by."
This song is likely not well known among brethren today because it was included in only two of our hymnbooks of the last century, and each of those is over seventy years old! However, I have always liked it. Yes, I know that we must live in the here and now and serve God on this earth as long as we are alive. But one thing that helps to keep us faithful in this life is to remember that "The Prize Is Set Before Us."