God is Always Working

   In our recent Messenger messages, we have been reading some amazing things about famed American evangelist Dwight L. Moody.  But did you know that his longtime “side-kick” Ira Sankey had a remarkable career and had his own amazing experiences in the service of God?  

   Ira David Sankey was a phenomenal singer of hymns and gospel music at the end of the 19th century.  So much so, Sankey is credited as being the father of “gospel music”.  As a young man, Sankey devoted his life to the Lord and then devoted much of his time to singing sacred songs in churches, while working full time for the IRS.  Dwight Moody was established as a well-known preacher in the U.S. and the UK when he heard Ira Sankey sing at a church convention in Indianapolis in 1870.  Moody told Sankey “I have been looking for you for eight years!” and asked Sankey to lead the music for his preaching campaigns.   Sankey agreed to join Moody full time and what a powerful team they became. 

   Through his special gift of heartfelt singing, Sankey became equally responsible with Moody for effectively bringing the gospel to many thousands of people.  One woman in Chicago wrote, “Mr. Sankey sings with the conviction that souls are receiving Jesus between one note and the next…”  Hey, that’s how I should be singing each Sunday, how about you?

   Remember how Billy Graham used the special talents of George Beverly Shea to sing at his crusades for over 50 years?  I think I know where Billy got the idea to use a top gospel singer for his crusades. 

   Anyway, according to the American Encyclopedia of Gospel Music, Ira Sankey eventually wrote 1,200 songs and published compilations of hymns that sold over 80 million copies.  He donated a large part of his proceeds to Christian ministries.  What an exemplary Christian servant! 

   Sankey is also known for a stunning miracle that God did for him, that Sankey learned about much later in his life.  Sankey was traveling on a Delaware River steamboat on Christmas Eve 1875 and was asked by some of the passengers to sing one of his own hymns.  Sankey instead sang William B. Bradbury’s hymn, “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”  When he finished, a man from the back of the group stepped forward and asked Sankey if he served guard duty in the Union Army on a bright, moonlit night at a certain Union camp in 1862?   “Yes”, said Mr. Sankey.    The stranger then stated that he was in the Confederate army sent out that night to pick off Union soldiers near the camp.   The stranger, completely hidden, took aim at Sankey to kill him.  But hold on, Sankey was singing “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us” in the moonlight.   It was a hymn that the rebel heard his God-fearing mother sing to him as a child. The rebel soldier decided to let Sankey finish the hymn, and then shoot him.  But the words of the hymn got into him: ‘We are Thine; do Thou befriend us, be the Guardian of our way.’   When Sankey finished singing, the stranger found it impossible to shoot him.  He said, ‘The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty.’  The rebel crept back to his camp leaving Ira Sankey to beautifully sing unto the Lord for 46 more years 

    That story makes me think of Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”.    God caused Ira Sankey, to sing a particular hymn, while on tedious guard duty, during a dreadful war, which melted the heart of an enemy soldier sent to kill him.  Then, God caused Dwight Moody to hear Ira Sankey sing at a church convention that cemented a formidable evangelical partnership that lasted 30 years.  

      God is in the business full time of making things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  Do you love God as Jesus commanded in Matthew 22:37 “…with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”?  And are you called according to God’s purpose?  God’s biggest purpose for us is that we believe in Jesus and receive Jesus as our Lord.  When people asked Jesus in John 6:28, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?  Jesus answered them and said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who God has sent”.   We can’t do these things without God’s help - but we must be willing partners in God’s work.  If you haven’t done so already, just ask God to help you receive His Son Jesus Christ as Lord of your life.   

       Next, ask God to help you love Him with all of your heart.  He will do it!  Then you will see God orchestrate great things in your life that you could never pull off yourself.  You will be amazed how God moves things in and out, like a master chess player, for your benefit!   As a result, your faith in God will grow even stronger.  I expect we will learn later in life, or possibly in heaven, about many miraculous protections that God provided to us when we really needed it, just like Ira Sankey.   I also expect God takes great enjoyment in orchestrating our lives for our good, to amaze us with His love, His power, and His genius.


May God richly bless you in ways that you know of now and in ways you may find out later.      Doug Berry 

The Summer