Higher Ground

January 3, 2008
by Sylvia Alloway

Philippians 3:13-15a – Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. (NIV)

The church choir in which I sing has been practicing a new setting for the hymn "Higher Ground", a very strong and rhythmic tune. I have found myself singing this song quite a lot in the last week or two. The words are by Charles H. Gabriel, who also gave us "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" and "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?"

    I'm pressing on the upward way,
    New heights I'm gaining every day;
    Still praying as I'm onward bound,
    "Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."

At first, I sang it rather absent-mindedly, but then I started thinking: am I really "pressing on" and gaining "new heights"? Not really. After twenty years or so of almost constant health and financial crises, my family has achieved, by God's grace, relative stability. I would rather sit back and enjoy it, thank you very much. New heights sound like a lot of work, maybe more pain and loss. I work from home. I'm fifty-plus, happily settled into a comfortable, slightly overweight middle age. What would I want with higher ground?

Then I thought again. My father and mother are both still living at eighty-nine and ninety respectively. Does God want me sitting at my computer, never looking up, for the next thirty-plus years? Has He given up on me, released me from His will and plan just because, in my opinion, I've already suffered enough?

He hasn't. It was I who gave up, so gradually that I hardly noticed until I contrasted my attitude with the stirring lyrics to "Higher Ground":

    Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
    By faith, on heaven's tableland,
    A higher plane than I have found;
    Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

As Paul says in our text today, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things." (Philippians 3:15a NIV)

Prayer: Lord, draw our attention to our backsliding ways. Wake us up, and lead us on to new heights for our eternal benefit and Your endless glory. In Jesus' powerful name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Sylvia Alloway <snalloway@verizon.net>
Granada Hills, California, USA

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