Hymn Histories : Great is Thy Faithfulness
Written by : Thomas Chisholm in 1923
Tune : Great is Thy Faithfulness
Composer : William Runyan
This great hymn was written by an ordinary man in an ordinary situation in the ordinary ups and downs of life. By his own admission he didn’t suffer any life-shaking circumstances and even described himself as ‘an old shoe’!
He was born into a poor family in Kentucky and worked as an insurance agent for most of his life. He wrote, ‘My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.’
However, he did enjoy writing poetry and during his life he wrote over 1200 poems, most of which no one will ever hear. But at the age of 57, Thomas sent a few of his poems to William Runyan at the Hope Publishing Company who was particularly moved by ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ speaking as it does of:
- God’s unchanging faithfulness – what a comfort that is in these ever-changing times.
- Creation’s witness to His mercy and love – haven’t we enjoyed being so much more aware of the beauty of the changing of the seasons this year?
- God’s faithfulness revealed in our lives – how wonderful is that – He pardons all our sins, fills us with His peace, assures of His presence, gives us strength, hope, and blessings too numerous to count! Hallelujah!
Runyan set the song to music and it quickly became a favourite with the Moody Bible Institute, and later Billy Graham chose it to be sung in his crusades. Now it’s known all over the world and has been used to encourage millions of Christians to trust in a faithful God. Pretty impressive spiritual fruit from a life insurance agent!
And that’s why Thomas Chisholm’s story is so encouraging. It shows that we don’t need to be incredibly gifted, or attractive or clever or influential for God to use us to proclaim His good news. He can even use an ‘old shoe’!
Whatever challenges, trials or disappointments we might be facing right now, this hymn reminds us that God’s promises are true, that He never changes, that His compassions never fail, and that His faithfulness to us in Christ Jesus is more than good – it’s life-changing!
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!