“I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” — Rhea F. Miller
This is a sentence from Miller’s 1922 poem “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” in which she reflects about her father’s testimony of being delivered from alcoholism. The song became popular when George Beverly Shea got hold of it in the 1940s.
As I plopped down on the sofa this night, my iPhone in hand to idly scan Facebook with “American Idol” blaring in the background, this hymn was running through my head.
Would I rather have Jesus than anything?
My pastor preached on this several weeks back as we cruised through the latter part of Hebrews 11. We humans have a tendency to emphasize how we look and how we live — forgetting this world is not our home. We are merely passing through. Yet some of us have gotten real comfortable with the earthly riches.
“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold/I’d rather be His than have riches untold/ I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands/I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand/Than to be the king of a vast domain/And be held in sin’s dread sway/ I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”
I began wondering, would I really rather be content with my current wages over trying to make money in any way possible? Would I really rather be a child of the King, with the promise of a mansion on the hilltop over hoping to buy a lavish, spacious house here? Would I really rather choose a lifestyle of obedience He calls me to over living in the moment, doing whatever I want?
When I actually tuned into the first scenes of this year’s “Idol” auditions, with the new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, I was struck by how self-absorbed these divas were. Contestants were falling all over themselves to get their approval. Five minutes into the show, I ended up shutting off the TV.
I spun up my iTunes playlist “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” as sung by Jason Crabb of the Southern gospel group The Crabb Family, and then brought up the YouTube video from 1965 of George Beverly Shea singing at a Billy Graham Crusade. These humble gentlemen both consider “I’d Rather Have Jesus” as part of their own testimonies. Neither would aspire to use the song as a stepping stone to gain fame and fortune.
“I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause/I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause/I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame/I’d rather be true to His holy name/Than to be the king of a vast domain/And be held in sin’s dread sway/I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”
Would I really rather have Jesus’ approval than the approval of my peers or employers or husband? Would I really rather be associated with Jesus than have a recognizable name that gives me a chance with the “in-crowd”? Do I really want Jesus’ eternal rewards in heaven more than short-lived rewards here?
It boils down to, do I really want Jesus more than anything this world has to offer? Is He important to me, over everything else?
Paul in Philippians 3 said we as brothers and sisters in Christ need to watch out for things that distract us, such as our positions, our power, our profits. We need to think differently, to remember our citizenship is in heaven.
“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not have a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-9)
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