"EVERY TIME I FEEL THE SPIRIT"
"…Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit…" (Rom. 8:15-16)
INTRO.: A song which reminds us that we have received the Spirit of adoption which bears witness with our spirit is "Every Time I Feel the Spirit." The text is an Afro-American spiritual. William B. Smith wrote that this "spiritual describes the power and energy released in black devotion to the God of emotion. Black people have never had any concept of a God who could not be felt. It is this feeling of the spirit of God that renders the black religious experience [given its distinctive spontaneity] incomparable to any other." The tune (Pentecost) is an Afro-American spiritual melody. Arrangements have been made in 1986 by William Farley Smith for the United Methodist Publishing House for the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal and in 1990 by Melva W. Costen as found in the 2001 Worship and Rejoice hymnal published by Hope Publishing Co. 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 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1977 Special Sacred Selections edited by Ellis J. Crum in a 1935 arrangement by Fred S. Martin for the Stamps Baxter Music Co.
The song emphasizes the importance of letting the Spirit direct our lives.
I. Stanza 1 says that He will help us get to heaven
"Chilly waters, running cold, Chill the body not the soul.
Not but one train on this track, Runs to heaven and right back."
A. Many versions say, "Jordan River, running cold." This is reminiscent of the crossing of the Jordan River by the Israelites: Josh. 3:14-17
B. The fact that cold water can chill the body but not the soul might make us think of Jesus’s statement that we should not fear those who can kill the body but not the soul: Matt. 10:28
C. Just as the Israelites crossed Jordan into Canaan, someday we shall cross the river of death, but there is only one way to obtain eternal life: Matt. 7:13-14
II. Stanza 2 says that He will reveal the Lord’s word to us
"On the mountain my Lord spoke; From His mouth came fire and smoke.
All around me looked so fine; Asked the Lord if it was mine."
A. God spoke to the Israelites on the mountain with fire and smoke: Exo. 19:16-20
B. However, today God speaks to us through His Son who sent the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth that they might write the scriptures to reveal God’s will to us: Jn. 16:13, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Heb. 1:1-2 & 12:18-24
C. As we look around at this world, we see that God has placed many find things here for us to enjoy, and the Spirit’s word tells us that all things are ours: 1 Cor. 3:21-23
III. Stanza 3 says that He will lead us
"I have sorrow, I have woe, I have heartaches here below.
But while God leads I’ll not fear, For I know that He is near."
(For the last line, one version has, "For I’m sheltered by His care.")
A. Yes, in this life we have sorrow, woe, heartaches, and other kinds of trouble: Job 14:1
B. However, we can look to God who through the truth revealed by His Spirit will lead us: Ps. 25:5
C. Therefore, if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us: Jas. 4:7-8
IV. Stanza 4 says that He will strengthen us
"Down the valley I feel weak When the devil tries to speak.
He is crafty, full of lies; Need the Spirit to be wise."
A. There are situations that everyone faces in life when he or she is weak and feeble: Heb. 12:12-13
B. At such times, the devil will speak to us, and we must remember that He is full of lies: Jn. 8:44
C. Thus, we need to turn to that which the Spirit has revealed in order to be wise and stand against the wiles of the devil: Eph. 6:14-17
V. Stanza 5 says that He will help us overcome temptation
"Satan tempts me all in vain; With my Jesus I remain.
In the valley, on my knees, I ask my Lord, ‘Mercy, please.’"
A. Satan is the tempter: Matt. 4:3
B. However, if we remain with Jesus and follow His example, we can resist the devil: 1 Pet. 2:21-22, 5:8-9
C. Therefore, whenever we face temptation we should be on our knees asking the Lord’s mercy to help us overcome: Matt. 6:13
CONCL.: It may be the case here, as it often is with other folk songs, that stanzas have had a tendency to evolve over time. The
different websites that I checked to do research on this song have great variations in the wording. One version has the following lines:
"Old St. Peter, at the gate, Says, ‘Come, sinner, don’t be late.’" The simple chorus says,
"Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray."
This is usually repeated. Some might object to the idea of "feeling" the Spirit. Certainly we must recognize that we cannot determine truth based on how we feel about something, because feelings can be deceptive. There are cases where people thought that they "felt the Spirit" when it was actually the spirit of false teaching or even their own lusts that they felt. At the same time, if one is genuinely following the truth as revealed by the Spirit in the written word, he will, or should be able to, feel the Spirit moving in his heart. And this does not necessarily refer to something direct, mysterious, or even miraculous that is "better felt than told," but merely the influence of the Spirit working through the word that the individual has been taught. Surely it should be my "holy desire" that I can be moved to pray, praise God, or give thanks "Every Time I Feel the Spirit."