"JUST FOR TODAY"
"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself" (Matt. 6:34)
INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us not to be anxious for the morrow because the morrow will take care of itself is "Just for Today." The text was written by Sybil Farish Partridge, who was born around 1856 at London in Middlesex, England. Originally in eight four-line stanzas, it is dated 1876 and first appeared in the Jan., 1880, issue of The Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1881, she was a governess of a school in Liverpool while living in the convent of Notre Dame on Mount Pleasant. Frederick M. Steele, a Presbyterian minister from Chicago, IL, visited her, know then only as Sister Mary Xavier or S. M. X., to meet the author of "Lord, for tomorrow and its needs." She gave him her name but said, "It would be my preference that the great world outside should not know it till after I am gone." Sometimes the author’s name is erroneously listed as E. R. Wilberforce. The text’s first appearance in America seems to have been in the 1888 Songs of Rejoicing edited by Fred A. Fillmore.
In the Nov. 11, 1920, issue of The Continental, Lee wrote of his earlier visit with Partridge, saying, "I learn she recently has passed away, so I am at liberty now to tell the story." Thus, she must have died somewhere around 1910 to 1920, probably at the convent of Notre Dame in Liverpool, England. The tune (Vincent) most commonly used was composed for this text by Horatio Richmond Palmer (1834-1907). Though copyrighted in 1887, it first appeared in his 1892 Garnered Gems of Sunday School Song. Palmer is best remembered for "Yield Not to Temptation." Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, a version of "Just For Today" appeared in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 with both words and music arranged by editor Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992). The same tune was used in the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 with Robert Walmsley’s hymn "The Sun Declines O’er Land and Sea."
The song makes several requests of the Lord for each day.
I. Stanza 1 asks for help with our speech
"Lord, for tomorrow and its need, I do not pray;
Keep me, my God, from stain of sin, Just for today.
Let me no wrong or idle word Unthinking say;
Set Thou a seal upon my lips, Just for today."
A. There are many ways to sin, and we should ask God to lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one: Matt. 6:13
B. One way that we often sin is by allowing wrong or idle words to proceed from our mouths: Matt. 12:36-37
C. Therefore, like the Psalmist, we should ask God to set a seal upon our lips: Ps. 141:3
II. Stanza 2 asks for help to be faithful in work
"Let me both diligently work, And duly pray;
Let me be kind in word and deed, Just for today.
Let me in season, Lord, be grave, In season gay;
Let me be faithful to Thy grace, Just for today."
A. We need to watch and pray and also work for the Lord: Matt. 26:41, 1 Cor. 15:58
B. In this work, we need to strive to be kind in word and deed: Eph. 4:31-32
C. There are times when we should be grave and others when we should be gay (some change these lines to read, "Let me in season, Lord, go foth, In season stay"), but in all our work we must strive to be faithful to the Lord: Rev. 2:10
III. Stanza 3 asks for help to be obedient
"And if, today, this life of mine Should ebb away
Give me Thy sacrament divine, Father, today.
Let me be slow to do my will, Prompt to obey;
Help me to sacrifice myself, Just for today."
A. As we grow older, our lives begin to ebb away as we see the night approaching: Jn. 9:4. The use of the word "sacrament" is indicative of the author’s Roman Catholic background and suggests the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. It could be altered simply to read "Give me Thy love and grace divine."
B. Whether young or old, it should be our aim to be slow to do our own will and prompt to obey God’s will: Matt. 26:39, Heb. 5:8-9
C. Thus, we should strive to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God throughout our lives on earth: Rom. 12:1-2
IV. Stanza 4 asks for help in going to heaven
"In pain and sorrow’s cleansing fires, Brief be my stay;
O bid me, if today I die, Come home today.
So for tomorrow and its needs I do not pray;
But keep me, guide me, love me, Lord, Just for today."
A. However long we live on earth, there will be pain and sorrow, and life is brief: Job 14:1
B. Eventually, we shall die (and it could even be today), so we should live so that when that occurs we can go home to be with Christ: Phil. 1:20-23
C. To prepare for this, we need to ask the Lord to keep and guide us every day: Ps. 48:14
CONCL.: This song once seemed to be quite popular. Among other books in my collection, I have seen it in the 1927 Church Hymnal Mennonite edited by J. D. Brunk; the 1939 Christian Service Songs published by Homer Rodeheaver, and the 1940 Broadman Hymnal edited by Benjamin B. McKinney. The text also was found in the 1937 New Hymnal for American Youth with a 1906 tune (Belleville) composed by James Edmund Jones. It is a shame that it has not been used in more of our books, because it expresses several wonderful thoughts about what we need from the Lord "Just For Today."