“On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”
These words arose in my heart this morning as I was praying and pondering the condition of our country. A global pandemic, civil unrest, violent political division, and economic uncertainty swirled around in my mind.
Our nation has wound itself up into chaos. On the heels of those thoughts emerged the confidence that even though sometimes the world appears ready to spin us right off into space, there is solid ground in Jesus.
The words I recalled are from the hymn, My Hope is Built. It was written nearly two hundred years ago, in 1834, by a man named Edward Mote when he was 37. He had already endured significant personal difficulties and national upheaval in his life.
Born in poverty to parents that were struggling pub owners, he was neglected and left to roam the streets of London.
His family rejected religion, but Edward became a Christian at 15 when he heard a preacher for the first time. Before that he said he was so ignorant that he did not even know that there was a God.
During his early years, he had witnessed the rise and fall of the Emperor Napoleon in neighboring France and England’s war with the newly formed American colonies.
Locally, there was civil unrest over unfair labor practices, and the mass exodus of citizens from the crowded English cities into rural areas, changing the British economy significantly.
As an adult, Edward made his living by cabinet making until he was 55. At that point, he was offered a position as a minister which he gladly accepted, leaving his successful cabinet business.
He became a beloved pastor who never missed a Sunday in 21 years, finally resigning from the church in 1873 due to failing health. He died a year later at the age of 77.
His headstone at the church where he served reads, “In loving memory of Mr. Edward Mote … the beloved pastor of this church, preaching Christ and Him crucified, as all the sinner can need, and all the saint desire.”
Supported in the Flood
“On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.”
As I sang these words this morning, the first two verses bubble up into my mind. Then, wanting to sing the entire song, I looked up all the verses:
My Hope is Built
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name
When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil
His oath, His covenant, His blood
support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
I often wonder what event, joy or heartache inspires people to write songs. As I continued exploring the history around Edward Mote’s lifetime, I discovered something surprising. Something that we can relate to as we battle the ravaging COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.
When Edward wrote The My Hope is Built in 1834, the world was in the throes of a global cholera pandemic. It was the second such outbreak, the first episode beginning in 1817 and ending in 1824. The initial occurrence did not reach England, staying mostly in Asia, but the second one did.
The second bout began in 1826 and by the time it ended, it had taken hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, hitting hard in Edward’s neck of the woods.
Between 1831 and 1834, cholera killed over sixty thousand in England where the population was fourteen million. Three subsequent outbreaks in Edward’s lifetime took the lives of hundreds of thousands more.
How Hope is Built
When uncontrollable events occur, such as a pandemic, hurricane, the unexpected death of a loved one, or the loss of a job, it feels like we are losing our footing. It seems like we are at the mercy of whatever is coming against us to devastate us. And in a way, we are.
God sometimes allows us to experience the true instability of the world and its systems. He will expose human frailty and limitations.
Traumatic and destabilizing incidents show us that the only eternally solid place on which to build our lives is Jesus and his teachings. Our only security in pandemics, poverty, unstable relationships, traumatic loss, or ungodly governments is in him.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”Matthew 7:24-27
Who would have thought that in 2020, scientists and medical professionals would not be able to stop a disease from ravaging every continent?
To date, this novel coronavirus has killed almost 100,000,000 people worldwide. That is a difficult number to even begin to comprehend and the future consequences from those deaths are yet unknown.
The Solid Rock
What a gift Edward Mote gave the world during another devastating pandemic in 1834.
My Hope is Built tells the story of the formidable love of God through Jesus that carries us to safety. It recalls for us the assurance and comfort we have through his protection, not only in the storms of this life, but forever.
We cannot put our faith in “progress”, doctors, vaccines, governments, social systems, or in ourselves. But there is hope! Lasting confidence, joyful anticipation of good, and profound comfort are found only in the person of Jesus and in building our lives on his words.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts…2 Thessalonians 2:16-17