Hymn Notes

Ralph M. Petersen

In high school, I became aware of a couple whose daughter was terminally ill. When her death was imminent, they began to pray, fervently, to God; “You have promised to heal all our diseases! You have said, ‘Whatever we ask in faith, believing, you will do it!” And then it got really scary; their prayers became angry and demanding. They commanded God to keep her alive.

Their prayers must have worked because God granted their petitions; the girl lived for several more years, but she never recovered from her illness. She remained bedridden and required constant care and she was often comatose.

There are at least two lessons to learn from that incident:

Don’t make demands on or attempt to manipulate God. Contrary to the errant lyrics of another song about God’s promises, Every Promise In The Book Is NOT Mine. God has made many promises that were specific and unique to certain people at certain times and we are not to presume that, just because those are recorded, He must grant us the same promises.

Standing on God’s promises is not a physical thing. It’s not about a comfortable best life now”. It is a peaceful assurance that comes when we rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. And it is a determined act of trusting the certain and immutable truths and principles of God’s Word.

God saved Russell Carter in a prayer meeting at a military academy he attended in the late 1800s. He was a star athlete and a top student.

After graduating, he returned to become an instructor and athletics coach in the academy. He joined a Methodist church and later became an ordained minister. He spent the last years of his professional life as a medical doctor.

And through all those diverse occupations, he had time to become a musician and a songwriter. In 1886, he produced a hymnbook in which he published his hymn, STANDING ON THE PROMISES.

Russell Carter was just 30 years old when he was diagnosed with a critical heart condition and faced imminent death. That condition humbled him; He made a promise (to God) that, healing or no, his life was finally and forever, consecrated to the service of his Lord.

From that time on, he learned to lean on the promises he found in God’s Word. He committed himself to trust his Savior whether or not he was healed. In the end, he concluded that his life or death was God’s prerogative. As it turned out, God granted Carter another 49 years. His hymn was a personal testimony to his faith.

The biblical inspiration, for the song, might have been Peter’s opening salutation in his second epistle – he wrote specifically,

“To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, ...His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises...”

The hymn is simple yet profound. After an opening stanza of praise to God, verse two reminds us that His promises cannot fail and that those, whose trust is in the Living Word (Jesus), will prevail.

Verse three assures us that we can overcome our spiritual battles every day because the Spirit of God indwells us and has provided us with the sword of protection which is the Word of God.

The last verse encourages us to be constantly listening to the Spirit of God as He applies the written Word of God to our hearts.

And that is how we can Stand firmly on the Promises of God.

Ralph M. Petersen and his wife, Kathy, are the owners of the OLDE TOWNE EMPORIUM at 212 E. Main St. in Rogersville. Comments are welcome. You may contact him at ralphmpetersen@gmail.com or by phone at (951) 321 9235.