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The hymn "Nearer My God to Thee", was written by Sarah Adams in 1841, and is based upon Jacob's dream at Bethel, where He was assured of God's presence in his life (see Genesis 28:10-22).
But, perhaps, this song is most famous for its reported usage as the final song played by the orchestra at the sinking of the Titanic.
The ship's band leader was a 33 year old musician by the name of Wallace Hartley. Hartley's father was a choir-leader at his church and Hartley himself had been a choir boy. Hartley's Christian upbringing is evidenced by his desire that the hymn "Nearer My God to Thee" would be sung at his funeral.
On that fateful day on April 15th, 1912, when the Titanic ship hit an iceberg, Hartley took it upon himself to lead the other seven musicians aboard in an effort to calm the passengers. And so this small group of men, leading by example, calmed those around them, by playing ragtime, waltzes, and other various tunes until the very end.
As one newspaper put it, "the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroics at sea". And finally, as a testimony of his faith, just before the great ship was about to sink, Hartley is said to have led the rest of the orchestra in playing "Nearer My God to Thee".
Can you picture these musicians, bravely playing this Hymn, knowing full well that they were about to lose their lives, and as a message to the passengers on deck to ponder where they were going to spend all eternity? What a powerful testimony to their faith in the midst of this great test.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Hartley confidently expressed his faith amidst this most difficult of tests, knowing that he would soon die at such a young age (Hartley, also happened be engaged to be married at the time). And his witness continued to live on after his death. Over 1000 attended his funeral crammed into a church that seated only 7000, and there were 30,000 people waiting outside.
And inscribed on his tombstone are the first bars of this hymn that he and his colleagues reportedly played duringlthe severe testing of their faith. Evidence of his faith in God, an example of someone who was convinced of God's nearness as expressed in this hymn, as well as expressed in Romans 8 "that nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, even the sinking of the Titanic".
And so as you experience times of testing in your life, times that will test the genuineness of your faith, Titanic-like times when you may feel all earthly props are giving way, and that you're drowning in troubles and sorrows and disappointments ...
Be assured, that in Jesus, you have been made an over-comer. He has defeated the sin, death and devil through His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. And through Him, you can pass whatever test may occur in your life, no matter how difficult, and become a living example to others of genuine faith.
Through the same Holy Spirit working in you that worked in the life of Hartley, whatever the test, you can also say "Nearer My God to Thee!" With full confidence that whatever your lot in life, God is with you! For as 1 John 5:4-5 confidently declares,
"for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God".
Because He Lives!
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