Like any other Sunday morning, I awoke as usual at 6.30 a.m. on 3 Dec 2017, to get ready for worship.
What was unusual about that morning, however, was a tune that was ringing in my ears. It was a familiar tune from a hymn that I loved to sing when I was involved in the Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) at my home church many years ago – 43 years to be exact.
Those who were in my ‘cohort’ would recall the Youth Hymns, which came in two volumes: the earlier publication had a blue cover, whereas the second volume had a red cover. I remembered clearly that this beloved hymn was found in the red hymnal.
The hymn tune was still in my head when I led worship, which was the first Sunday of Advent. Then a strange thing happened when the speaker for that Sunday ended his sermon; he shared a recording of that exact hymn! I was dumbfounded when the tune of ‘Follow Me’ sounded throughout the sanctuary – the hymn that had pursued me all morning.
Ira Forest Stanphill composed ‘Follow Me’ in the early 1950s, which makes this hymn less than 60 years old. However, I believe this 20th century hymn continues to be popular because of the storyline embedded in the lyrics.
In stanza 1, the singer laments the weariness of travelling alone on life’s long pilgrimage with a heavy load (the cross). But the hymn reminds us that our suffering is nothing compared to Jesus’ pain as He walked the road to Calvary and was nailed on the cross for us. The message is comforting and we are urged to press on faithfully.
The second stanza invites the believer to think about what he or she has done in the service of the Lord. At times, we can get carried away easily and even boast about the numerous things we have done for Christ, forsaking fame and fortune to “walk the narrow way”. But the hymn once again humbles us with the words, “I left the throne of glory and counted it but loss…”
The hymn ends with the words of encouragement, “But now we’ll make the journey with your hand safe in Mine. So lift your cross and follow close to Me.”
I thank God for putting the hymn in my head on that wonderful Sunday morning, as I am reassured of the presence and care of Jesus who promises to journey with me.
Follow Me (YOUTH HYMNS 5-6-7-8, #74)
- I travelled down a lonely road and no one seemed to care;
The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair,
I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me,
and then I heard Him say so tenderly,
“My feet were also weary, upon the Calv’ry road;
the cross became so heavy, I fell beneath the load.
Be faithful weary pilgrim, the morning I can see.
Just lift your cross and follow close to Me.”
- “I work so hard for Jesus,” I often boast and say,
“I’ve sacrificed a lot of things to walk the narrow way.
I gave up fame and fortune, I’m worth a lot to Thee,”
and then I hear Him gently say to me.
“I left the throne of glory and counted it but loss.
My hands were nailed in anger upon a cruel cross.
But now we’ll make the journey with your hand safe in Mine,
So lift your cross and follow close to Me.”
Words & Music: Ira F. Stanphill, 1953
Dr Yeo Teck Beng –
is a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.
Picture by enterlinedesign/Bigstock.com