The triumphs of God’s grace

Published 9:41 am Friday, February 6, 2015

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Tom Biatek

In May of 1738, Charles Wesley, an Anglican priest, was not feeling well.

Tom Biatek

Tom Biatek

He had been battling pleurisy, he had great doubts about his faith and his ministry was in a shambles. Nothing was going right. Encouraged to attend a Bible study by some friends, on May 21 Charles got out of his sick bed and attended the service.

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The people there gave him encouragement and prayed for him. He wrote later that, listening to their singing and receiving their prayers and compassion, he felt his heart change and his faith restored.

His health improved, he renewed his daily prayer and Bible study and, one year from that day, he sat down to write a new hymn.

“O For a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise!

The glories of my God and king,

The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious master and my God,

Assist me to proclaim,

To spread through all the world abroad

The honors of thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,

That bids our sorrows cease;

‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,

‘Tis life, and health, and peace.”

“O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” is one of the great Christian hymns and is included in the hymnals of almost every Christian tradition.

It is a song of stirring confidence and courage. It speaks of an unshakable faith and absolute confidence in God.

Its roots, however, are set in the sadness, hurt and confusion of Charles Wesley as he wrestled with his doubts and fears.

His confidence is restored by rejoining his faith community and finding God’s presence in hard times. It was in the singing of those faithful people and their compassion for a hurting friend that Charles felt restored to himself and to his community.

In his lifetime, Charles would go on to write more than 6,000 hymns. He is regarded as one of the greatest hymn writers of all time.

We all face times of fear, doubt and stress. Modern life can be full of loneliness and confusion. It is in those times that we must work within ourselves to experience the inner strength that gives us courage and the faith that provides us with hope. In the church, we understand this as embracing God’s grace or love for us. Within it all, the challenge is to turn the living of our lives into a song and, with that song in our heart, sing out with all of the passion we can muster.


The Rev. Tom Biatek is the pastor at United Methodist Church of Albert Lea.