Is the Phrase “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” Consistent with the Bible?
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Is the Phrase “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” Consistent with the Bible?

Songs to Sing: Abide With Me

Posted July 1, 2020
Worship

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like thyself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless,
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

What can the miserable Christian sing? American evangelicalism refrains, for the most part, from even acknowledging the existence of miserable Christians. You’ve heard it before: “Come to Jesus, and all your problems will disappear!” I cannot think of a worse burden to lay upon sincere Christians who are in the pit of despair. Life is messy; full of grief, sorrow, and bitterness. We shouldn’t be ashamed to admit this. The brief life Jesus lived on this earth was no different. He was a man stricken, smitten, and afflicted; a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. Jesus did not come to take all your earthly problems away; he came to reconcile you to a holy God, to give you everlasting life. Sin and death have been defeated, but this fallen world remains.

Christians should be able to reconcile earthly misery and suffering with a faithful servant’s steady walk with the Lord. They are not mutually exclusive. There is no greater faith than that which has been tested in the sorest of ways and has emerged victorious. Yet, victory in Jesus doesn’t always look triumphant. “Abide With Me” summarizes this reality in some of the most beautiful lyrics ever written. “Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; change and decay in all around I see.” Christians who have endured much of this world understand exactly how the trials of this life can reveal earth’s joys to be dim and bereft of glory; how the world is full of change and decay.

Part of the immaturity of the Western church stems from the temptation to shield ourselves from anything unpleasant. We are comfortable, spoiled, and prone to delight in all the world’s trappings and tinsel. But there is no glittering appeal of this life to the persecuted church. Those believers who live in places of famine, drought, and plague are not tempted to worship the earth and all her stores. To the parents of a child who has received a terminal diagnosis, this world is a bitter place. Moms and Dads, it is good for our children to be gradually exposed to the sufferings of their covenant family. Sometimes I think we make the Christian life out to be a Jesus version of Disneyland, and a saccharine, happy-go-lucky visage isn’t helpful to anyone, especially young believers. Our families will experience suffering, in one form or another. Let’s make sure then, to arm ourselves and our children with truth and reality, and with well-placed hope.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Pet. 5:8–10)

An Anglican minister by the name of Henry F. Lyte wrote the text of this hymn in the late summer of 1847 after preaching his final sermon. According to some accounts, Lyte, knowing that his time on this earth was drawing to a close, walked out to the garden in front of his house and started composing these lyrics, inspired by Luke 24:29, in which the travelers to Emmaus tell Jesus, “stay with us, for it is nearly evening.” As the sun set, Lyte walked back to his home. His family thought he was resting, but he returned to his study to write the last few lines to what would be one of the most beloved hymns in all Christendom. Henry Lyte passed away soon after; his last words were, “Peace! Joy!” “Abide With Me” was sung for the first time at his funeral, and it has been sung at the funerals of many thousands of other saints since. This text is traditionally set to the tune, “Eventide,” which William H. Monk apparently composed in only ten minutes. Some tunes merely accentuate the meter of a verse in order to be of aid in congregational singing. This tune, however, is married to this particular text in a profound way. It is easily accessible and beautifully melodic, yet there is a depth of sorrow, bittersweetness, and a great longing for eternity among its notes. There shall never be another piece of music so exquisitely suited for this hymn. Don’t you dare sing it to anything else!

When I read the words to the fourth verse, I can almost picture Lyte sitting in his garden, scratching out these words onto his notebook; the end of his life setting like the sun on the horizon, and with it, the end of his earthly battle with tuberculosis. “I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless: ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness. Where is death’s sting? where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still, if thou abide with me.” The Lord never promised us a comfortable, painless life, and though he is enough to sustain us, he does not expect his children to be everlastingly chipper. It is okay, dear reader, to grieve, to feel the effects of the fall, to acknowledge the way in which sin taints and destroys everything it touches. We long for an everlasting kingdom. We were created to worship without sin and without misery. Rest assured that this is not all there is; this is not our home. Sometimes during days of exhaustion and weariness, when I am tempted towards despondency, I will whisper the last verse of this hymn to myself. “Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.” Peace is coming. Rest is coming. “Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.” Joy will replace sorrow, and there will be no pain, no misery, no heartache. “Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee.” Take these tears, Father, and undo everything that is wrong. But until then, “in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”

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Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris has been happily married to her husband, Sean, for 12 years and is a mother to four crazy, hilarious, and adorable children. She graduated from Grove City College with a degree in music. She and her family live in Oak Ridge, TN where her husband is a pastor in the PCA. In between homeschooling duties, toddlers, and babies, Sarah enjoys writing, cooking, podcasting, napping, and making fun of her ridiculously pathetic dog.