Hymn History: “Complete in Thee”

2 min

Aaron Wolfe walked quickly to the shipping office. Two weeks earlier in Florida, he had stowed all his worldly goods in crates on a ship headed to New York. Then, with just a knapsack, he had traveled via the cheaper overland route. The thirty-four-year-old had graduated from seminary in New York, worked several years in Florida as a headmaster, and was now returning to the Northeast to seek a pastorate.  He fully expected his crated valuables—his personal library, sermon notes, and other resources needed by a pastor—to be waiting for him when he arrived. 

Upon entering the shipping office, Reverend Wolfe told the clerk the name of the ship that carried his belongings. The clerk had bad news for him. On the day the ship had planned to set sail, a storm had blown into port. Lightning had struck the ship and set the vessel afire. The ship’s main cargo—turpentine—had ignited instantly, and both ship and cargo were destroyed. 

The news was devastating. Yet, as Reverend Wolfe would later recount with a grateful spirit, God used this tragedy to redirect his calling. He realized his life and work were not dependent on the books, papers, and other physical possessions he had lost in the fire. He had eternal treasures and resources in Heaven! Reverend Wolfe had been keenly aware of the importance of investing in his spiritual life. Thoroughness is “knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected.” His thoroughness in building his relationship with God prepared him to recognize God’s redirection through this physical loss. Reverend Wolfe had moved from Florida to New York, intending to find a pastorate. However, God used the loss of all his pastoral aids, including his papers and books, to lead Reverend Wolfe into a vital, effective ministry working with young people.

Four years earlier, before the ship’s fire and his move northward, Reverend Wolfe had written a hymn about God’s thoroughness in His salvation, sanctification, and redemption. Unaware that he would experience loss of his material possessions, he had written these words:

Complete in Thee—each want supplied,
And no good thing to me denied;
Since Thou my portion, Lord, wilt be,
I ask no more, complete in Thee.

Reverend Wolfe also showed thoroughness in another way. One day, as he searched through a hymnal to find hymns about possibly overlooked areas of the Christian life, he noticed a lack of hymns celebrating the Lord’s Table. Seeing the need for a communion song, he wrote the hymn titled “A Parting Hymn We Sing.” 

In what ways can you practice thoroughness as you seek to meet needs around you? Are you fully depending on Christ, in Whom you are complete? 

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