Hymn History: “Living for Jesus”

2 min

The gentleman held the letter, pondering the request. Thomas O. Chisholm wrote poetry primarily for his own personal enjoyment, although many of his works had been published. The letter he had received was from C. Harold Lowden, a pastor in New Jersey. Two years earlier Pastor Lowden had written a children’s song for a special service. The melody was a “light and summery tune.” Now the pastor was preparing a book of hymns. He felt the original words did not quite fit the lilting melody. Would Mr. Chisholm please write new words to accompany his original tune? 

Shaking his head, Mr. Chisholm wrote back, regretting that he did not know how to write lyrics for music. However, Pastor Lowden refused to take “no” for an answer. He responded, urging Mr. Chisholm to try. Pastor Lowden believed Mr. Chisholm was the man for the task. With his daughter assisting by repeatedly humming the melody, Mr. Chisholm penned the words that we know now as “Living for Jesus.”

The writer’s early years began with his birth in a log cabin in 1866. Mr. Chisholm was educated in a one-room schoolhouse in which, at sixteen, he became the classroom teacher! Several years later he was hired by a local newspaper. When he was twenty-seven, he heard the Gospel at a revival meeting and received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The young man was employed by the evangelist and later ordained as a pastor. However, severe health challenges forced him to leave the pastorate after one year. Mr. Chisholm sold insurance to make ends meet. For personal therapy, he found a relaxing outlet in writing poems. Other poems he wrote include the classic hymns “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “O to Be Like Thee.”

Although he penned more than 1,200 poems, Mr. Chisholm’s goal was never wealth nor fame. He once wrote, “I have sought to be true to the Word, and to avoid flippant and catchy titles and treatment. I have greatly desired that each hymn and poem might have some definite message to the hearts for whom it is written.”

Sincerity is “eagerness to do what is right, with transparent motives.” Mr. Chisholm’s works humbly reflect this quality, as his desire was to do right, with no hidden motives. The hymn “Living for Jesus” expresses the longing of a sincere heart. Do the words of the hymn express your heart’s desire? Indeed, doing what is right from a pure heart will guide you on “the pathway of blessing”!

Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.

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