A CHARGE TO KEEP I HAVE
Charles Wesley, 1707–1788
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1)
All of us as Christians have been given a general charge—a God to glorify. We have also been given a particular charge or calling that is unique. Our response to these charges is what gives life purpose and meaning. Fulfillment and contentment in life are not measured alone by our accomplishments. We must have the satisfaction that we are in the place and doing the task that God has destined for us—whether it be great or small.
Charles Wesley is said to have been inspired to write the text for this hymn while reading Matthew Henry’s commentary on the book of Leviticus. In his thoughts on Leviticus 8:35, Henry wrote, “We shall everyone of us have a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, one generation to serve.” This hymn text first appeared in Wesley’s Short Hymns on Select Passages of Holy Scriptures, published in 1762. It was printed under the title “Keep the Charge of the Lord, That Ye Die Not.”
This hymn text reflects the strength and zeal of the early Methodists. John Wesley once remarked upon hearing of his followers’ persecution: “Our people die well.” On another occasion a physician said to Charles Wesley, “Most people die for fear of dying; but I never met with such people as yours. They are none of them afraid of death, but calm and patient and resigned to the last.”
Being a Christian who worthily represents the Lord has never been and will never be a life of ease. It requires our very best, the total commitment of our lives.
A charge to keep I have—a God to glorify, who gave His Son my soul to save and fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age, my calling to fulfill—O may it all my pow’rs engage to do my Master’s will!
Arm me with jealous care, as in Thy sight to live; and O Thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray, and on Thyself rely; and let me ne’er my trust betray, but press to realms on high.
For Today: Leviticus 8:35; Joshua 24:15; Galatians 1:15–24; 1 Peter 4:10, 11
Ask God to redefine your sense of divine calling in life and to help make you more contented right where He has placed you. Carry this musical challenge with you—