In 2002, at the Philadelphia Conference on Reformation Theology at 10th Presbyterian Church, I had the privilege to sit under the excellent teaching of D.A. Carson and was so blessed I bought all his books. Tonight as I was finishing up my “get finished” bits and pieces stack before my 2007 BB Warfield project, I read this passage from Carson’s “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” and realized that this passage had used the same hymn that I had used for my Thanksgiving post. Lovely! “Be Thou My Vision” is one of my favorite hymns and I especially like the Celtic version I have included here (once again). Be blessed and encouraged by this devotional message and the music.
“Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of the most influential preachers of the century. A few weeks before he died, someone asked him how, after decades of fruitful ministry and extraordinary activity, he was coping now he was suffering such serious weakness it took much of his energy to move from his bed to his armchair and back. He replied in the words of Luke 10:20: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, do not tie your joy, your sense of well-being, to power in ministry. Your ministry can be taken from you. Tie your joy to the fact that you are known and loved by God; tie it to your salvation; tie it to the sublime truth that your name is written in heaven. That can never be taken from you. “Lloyd-Jones added: “I am perfectly content.”
Here then is a practical test as to whether the excellence I pursue is really for the glory and praise of God or for my own self-image. If the things I value are taken away, is my joy in the Lord undiminished? Or am I so tied to my dreams that the destruction of my dreams means I am destroyed as well?
Paul’s pursuit of prayer of what is excellent is not idolatrous; rather, it is bound up with praising God. He would have understood the ancient Irish hymn:“1/
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;2/
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
Thou ever with me, and I with Thee, Lord;
Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Thou my whole armour and Thou my true might;
Thou my soul’s shelter, and Thou my strong tower,
Raise Thou me heavenward, great power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.
High King of heaven, Thou heaven’s bright sun,
Grant me its joys after victory is won;
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
1/D.A. Carson, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” 1992, pp.141-42
2/ Be Thou My Vision, Psalm 141:8 Author: Irish Hymn, C. 8th Century, Grans. By Mary E. Byrne, 1880-1931