Friends of Jesus
In the sermon about Jesus calling us friends, I mentioned some of the songs that refer to Jesus as our friend. It made me start to wonder about the history of those songs. With a bit of research, here are some things I discovered.
The opportunities for Joseph Scriven were abundant in Ireland. His parents were wealthy enough to give him a college education. Everyone, including him, had high expectations and ambitions. However, his life was derailed when the woman he
loved drown the day before their wedding. The grief led him to travel and he settled in Canada. He was highly regarded there and began to tutor the local children. He fell in love again and had great plans to get married. Unfortunately, before they could wed, she died of pneumonia. Later, Scriven himself turned ill. A friend came to visit and found a poem Scriven had written to encourage his mother who still lived in Ireland. The poem, rising from a heart that knew its share of grief has comforted generations, maybe even you. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear….”
Johnson Oatman was expected to work in the family business, but he wasn’t satisfied. He thought he would become a minister, but he couldn’t find a church that would hire him. Apparently he wasn’t a good preacher. He was a better than average singer and so he thought that might be his calling. His father had a booming voice and was in great demand as a gospel singer and was considered one of the best singers in the state. He was a good singer, but he would never attain to the level of his father. At the age of 36 Oatman just couldn’t figure out where he could fit in. He needed a friend like Jesus. That’s when he found his talent. Within 3 years hundreds of churches were singing his song, “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, No, not one….” Thousands have been encouraged by his songs. I know and have sung all his songs in our hymnal: “Count Your Blessings,” “Hand in Hand with Jesus,” “Higher Ground,” “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus,” “Lift Him Up,” “Sweeter than All,” “The Last Mile of the Way,” and “What Shall It Profit?”
My motivation when I started writing this was to encourage all the graduates wondering what kind of work they’ll do. Sometimes, the best job is the one that finds you.