"WHAT SHALL I RENDER TO MY LORD?"
"What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" (Ps. 116.12)
INTRO.: A song which talks about all the benefits of the Lord toward us and how we should respond to Him is "What Shall I Render to My Lord?" The text was written by Huey Parnell Hartsell, who was born at Haynesville, LA, on Sept. 1, 1930, and began preaching at age fifteen. His formal education included Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, TN, and Florida Atlantic University. With his wife, the former Betty Ellis, whom he married in 1950, he has two sons and five daughters. The children’s names are David, Daniel, Dana, Carol, Beth, Jana, and B. J. After beginning fulltime preaching work in 1950, Hartsell has labored with local churches in Mississippi, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama in preaching the gospel regularly for over fifty years. His work has included extensive radio preaching, publishing bulletins, and conducing several gospel meetings each year throughout the nation.
In recent years, Hartsell has collaborated in writing some 32 gospel songs with the composer of the tune for "What Shall I Render to My Lord?," R. J. Stevens (b. 1927). One of their early works, "What Shall I Render to My Lord" was copyrighted in 1994. Concerning "What Shall I Render to My Lord," brother Hartsell wrote, "While pondering David’s statement, ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?’ (Psalm 116:12), I thought of how our greater blessings in Christ add weight to his question. The song is an effort to cause us to not only appreciate our greater blessings, but to see in Jesus’ statement that nothing less than our total commitment is an adequate response–‘take up your cross and follow Me.’" I first saw this song in copies of a handwritten manuscript, but I do not recall now where or how I obtained them. Four songs by Hartsell and Stevens appear in Hymns for Worship Revised. They are "O For a Child-Like Heart," "Will You Forgive Me?", "Train Your Children," and "Thank You, Lord, for Homes."
Hartsell first published a small booklet entitled Gospel Songs with thirteen hymns, including "What Shall I Render to My Lord?", which he has written with Stevens. Also, he has produced some a number of others, many of which have appeared in the New Song Supplement books of 2002 and 2004 and the Hymns for Worship Supplement of 2007. More recently, he has put 25 of these, again including "What Shall I Render to My Lord?", together in a supplemental booklet Worship Hymns: Psalms of Our Heavenly Father, with an accompanying compact disc. After working with the North Jasper church in Jasper, AL, for several years, the Hartsells moved to Harpersville, AL, but have now relocated to Cullman, AL, where Huey has cut back some on his work, but not quit preaching. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "What Shall I Render to My Lord?" has not appeared and is not found in any others to my knowledge.
The song reminds us of how much we owe to the Lord for all His goodness and blessings.
I. Stanza 1 speaks of the many blessings of the Lord
"Dear Lord, a great debt I owe Thee today,
My gifts could never begin to repay;
For countless blessings You’ve given to me,
I know my deeds just a token would be."
A. For all that God has done for us, we are debtors: Rom. 1.14
B. Yet, our gifts and all our good works could never begin to repay what we owe God: Eph. 2.8-9
C. At the same time we should be thankful that He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ: Eph. 1.3
II. Stanza 2 speaks of the blood of Christ
"Your precious blood takes my sin all away;
How can I tell what my soul yearns to say?
Such tender mercy and kindness I see;
How could my songs ever magnify Thee?"
A. It is the blood of Christ that takes our sins away: 1 Jn. 1.7
B. What Jesus did for our salvation is an expression of God’s mercy and kindness: Tit. 3.5
C. While the songs that we sing to Him could never completely magnify the Lord, we should strive in everything that we do to magnify Him: Phil. 1.20
III. Stanza 3 speaks of the loved ones and nature’s beauty that God has given us
"For all dear loved ones who gladden each day,
The feelings of my heart can’t be displayed.
All nature’s beauty gives glory to Thee;
Help me extol all the virtues I see."
A. Loved ones are gifts from God because the Lord sets the solitary in families: Ps. 68.6
B. Nature’s beauty is also a gift from God that declares His glory: Ps. 19.1
C. Indeed, we should extol the Lord’s virtues: Ps. 30.1
IV. Stanza 4 speaks of the hope of heaven
"With hope of heaven I’ll finish the way;
With thankful heart I will faithfully pray.
For perfect gifts and all favors to me,
I am forever indebted to Thee."
A. The greatest gift that God could give us is the hope of the inheritance reserved in heaven: 1 Pet. 1.3-5
B. Therefore, because we serve the God who gave us this hope, we should be in constant communication with Him through prayer: Phil. 4.6
C. And we must remember that we are indebted to Him because of every good and perfect gift that He has given: Jas. 1.18
CONCL.: The chorus then expresses the proper response to that we should give to the Lord’s gifts.
"What shall I render, dear Savior divine?
No worthy offering can I find.
Now in Your word the true answer I see:
‘Take up your cross, and follow me.’"
There is nothing that we can offer unto the Lord that is worthy of what He has done for us. However, He wants us to offer ourselves unto Him in obedience to His will as symbolized by taking up the cross and following Him. This, then, is the answer to the question, "What Shall I Render to My Lord?"