(photograph of Frank C. Huston)
IT PAYS TO SERVE JESUS
“If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and…him will my Father honor” (John 12:26)
INTRO.: A song which discusses the importance of serving Jesus and the blessings that come to those who do so, “It Pays to Serve Jesus” (#582 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #481 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Frank Claude Huston, who was born at Orange, IN, on Sept. 12, 1871, the son of Thomas M. and Mary Harris Huston, and attended school in Fayette County. Both of his parents were musically inclined, and at the age of twelve, he was playing cornet in a local concert band. By the age of seventeen, he was singing regularly in male and mixed voice units, and at eighteen, he was conducting church music. His education was received at the Moody Bible Institute, and he studied music with William E. M. Hackleman (a cousin), Daniel Brink Towner, W.C. Caffin, and Charles H. Gabriel. On May 13, 1894, Huston married Bertha Martin and that same year was converted to Christ. There were seven children. He spent a brief period as a public school teacher and then in 1904 became a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) but was also known for his musical abilities. For several years he was a singing evangelist and traveled for a time with the Charles Reign Scoville party, working in 180 evangelistic campaigns from Nova Scotia to Florida.
Huston served as Chaplain of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Field Artillery, Rainbow Division, in the First World War and continued his interest and participation in patriotic organizations. He served a term as Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and a term as national president of the Federated Patriotic Societies. During World War II, Huston volunteered his services to the Coast Guard Auxiliary. For many years Huston lived in Indianapolis, IN, owning and operating his own publishing company in Indiana for a number of years, and was a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. One of his best known books was Selected Sacred Songs. Huston is credited with more than 400 songs, some patriotic. His two best-known hymns, for which he provided both words and music, are “It Pays to Serve Jesus,” written in 1909 while he was preaching for the Oaklandon Christian Church in Indianapolis and copyrighted by him, and “The Christ of the Cross,” which was copyrighted in 1924. It was in April of 1909, while Frank was directing the music for Evangelist W. S. Buchanan in a series of services being held in Providence Christian Church, Scranton, PA, that he was inspired to write the music of “It Pays to Serve Jesus.” His hosts during the Scranton engagement were Mr. and Mrs. Gwylym Edwards. One day while Frank was musing at the keyboard of the Edwards’ piano, a melody suddenly came to him which he decided was worth saving. So he quickly wrote it down on a piece of music paper which he usually carried around in his pocket for just such emergencies, and promptly forgot all about it.
Returning to his home in Indianapolis, Hustron paid a visit to an eighty-two year old friend, M. E. Mick. During their conversation, Mick suddenly said to Huston, “You have written so many good songs, won’t you write one for me on the subject we have just been discussing, and call it, ‘It Pays to Serve Jesus’?” While in Harrisburg, PA, Huston recalled Mick’s plea of several weeks earlier and suddenly remembered the manuscript in his pocket, and out of sheer curiosity, he took it out, and the words of a stanza and chorus fell into place almost spontaneously. Before he knew it, he was singing a brand new hymn to his own original tune. Among the several hundred others are “Keep on Believing,” “The Word of God Shall Stand,” “Lead On, O Christ, Thou Holy One,” and “O Holy Day of Pentecost.” Later “It Pays to Serve Jesus” was owned by the Standard Publishing Company, a firm associated Christian Churches and located in Cincinnati. OH, which renewed the copyright in 1937. Moving to Florida in 1941, Huston’s final years were spent in Jacksonville, FL, where, in his eighties, he served as chaplain for the Jacksonville Chapter of the Coast Guard. A book, One Hundred Hymns and Gospel Songs, was published in 1955. For the last eighteen years of his life, Huston lived in Florida Christian Home in Jacksonville, a home for the aged maintained by the Christian Church. There, he was active with his music and voluminous correspondence. He died on October 14, 1959, in Jacksonville, FL. His funeral service was held in the Edgewood Avenue Christian Church in Jacksonville, and interment was in Knightstown, IN.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “It Pays to Serve Jesus” has appeared in 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 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal edited by Marion Davis; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; and the 2010 Favorite Songs of the Church edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.
The song talks about all the wonderful privileges that are associated with serving Jesus.
I. Stanza 1 teaches us that those who serve Jesus receive true pleasure and joy
The service of Jesus true pleasure affords,
In Him there is joy without an alloy;
’Tis heaven to trust Him and rest on His words;
It pays to serve Jesus each day.
- A job well done always brings a sense of joy: Eccl. 2:24
- And serving Jesus brings true joy, both here and in eternity: Matt. 25:21-23
- Trusting Him by resting on His words is like a taste of heaven on earth: Ps. 20:6
II. Stanza teaches us that those who serve Jesus receive the riches of mercy
It pays to serve Jesus whate’er may betide,
It pays to be true whate’er you may do;
’Tis riches of mercy in Him to abide;
It pays to serve Jesus each day.
- “Whate’er may betide” would include the various trials and temptations of life: Jas. 1:2-3, 12
- No matter what happens, we need to be true or faithful to Him: Rev. 2:10
- People of this world may become rich in material things because of the work that they do, but serving Jesus faithfully produces far greater treasures: Matt. 6:19-20
III. Stanza 3 teaches that those who serve Jesus will receive a reward from the Redeemer Himself
Though sometimes the shadows may hang o’er the way,
And sorrows may come to beckon us home,
Our precious Redeemer each toil will repay;
It pays to serve Jesus each day.
- Shadows symbolize the tribulations of this life which we must face: Acts 14:22
- These tribulations often bring sorrows: Matt. 24:4-8
- The rewards for toil in this life may include fame, power, and praise of men, but the ultimate reward for faithfully serving Jesus is a crown of life in heaven: 2 Tim. 4:6-8
CONCL.: The chorus reiterates how truly blessed servants of Jesus are
It pays to serve Jesus, it pays every day,
It pays every step of the way,
Though the pathway to glory may sometimes be drear,
You’ll be happy each step of the way.
Serving Jesus has its benefits even now in this life, but when we reach the end of the way and receive our eternal reward, Christians surely will more fully understand that “It Pays to Serve Jesus.”