Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day?
Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that unto God’s kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.
Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet
Thy blessed face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet
What will Thy glory be!
Then I shall end my sad complaints
And weary sinful days,
And join with the triumphant saints
That sing my Savior’s praise.
My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.
— Richard Baxter (1615-1691)
I had never heard this hymn before, but I encountered it recently in J. I. Packer‘s amazing book Knowing God, where he quotes the first two stanzas. I was curious, so I hunted down the full lyrics. This hymn is so powerful, and absolutely packed with rock-solid theology. I’m in love!
Think about some of what Baxter is saying here, which (by the way) he dedicated to his wife who had demonstrated godly perseverance through what was reported to be a brutally difficult illness…
His purpose for me
If life be long, I will be glad that I may long obey…
It is my place in this world to know God, to glorify God, to delight in God, and to obey God. If I live a long life on earth, it is not for my benefit, but rather so that I might serve God longer, better, more fully. Life isn’t about me. It’s certainly not about my happiness or my fulfillment or my consumption of the things that I desire. It is about steadfastness in my obedience to God (that is to say, my love for God) over a lifetime.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
His destiny for me
If short, yet why should I be sad to welcome endless day?
We tend to think of this life as an exercise in “grab all you can while you have the chance.” But in reality, this life is nothing compared to what God has planned for His kids. Moments after we die, we will struggle even to remember what the fuss was all about in this life — promotions, possessions, problems, posturing, and the like. And for the Christ-follower, we shouldn’t have to wait for the next life for the things of earth to grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things… (Philippians 3:8)
His way made for me
We enter the Kingdom of God through Jesus, the only door (John 10:7-11). And on the way, He asks far less of me than He Himself gave for me. But that doesn’t mean that He demand everything. He bids me to come and die — to trade all this world has to offer (not much, really, by comparison) for citizenship in His Kingdom and fellowship in His family (Matthew 16:24-26).
this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
His sufficiency for me
My knowledge of that life is small, the eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all, and I shall be with Him.
We really can’t imagine heaven (1 Corinthians 2:9). We don’t really know what we will someday be, but — spoiler alert! — we know that we will be like Jesus (1 John 3:1-2). And we know the way to that new life only to the extent that we know the One who leads us to it (John 14:4-7). And for those you know and trust Him, who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, that’s enough.