Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
One evening in 1886, while D. L. Moody was holding meetings in Massachusetts, a young man stood during a time of testimony and said, “I’m not quite sure – but I am going to trust, and I am going to obey.” This young man was a new Christian who had questions and perhaps even doubts, but he was determined to trust and obey the Lord. His words gave us a favorite song that has been enjoyed by many Christians.
The young man’s testimony caught the attention of Moody’s song leader, Daniel B. Towner, who wrote it down. He sent it with a story explaining the occasion to his friend John H. Stammis, and he asked him to write the words for a hymn. Stammis had given up his successful business to pursue full-time Christian ministry. After he received training at several theological seminaries, he pastored churches in Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan. He responded by first writing the words of the refrain, which summarized the thought of each of the five stanzas he then wrote. Towner composed the tune using a sequence of only six notes, and “Trust and Obey” was published in 1887.
Towner had a strong influence on evangelical church music. Some of his compositions include “At Calvary,” “Grace Greater Than Our Sin,” and “Anywhere With Jesus.” He also trained many leaders in church music. In 1893 D. L. Moody selected him to be the first head of the Music Department at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
The name of the young man whose testimony inspired the writing of this song isn’t known, but we should have the same desire to trust and obey the Lord. Each stanza of this song details areas of our lives where we must completely trust the Lord and obey His will to be happy Christians. One has to believe that D. L. Moody was thinking of this when he wrote this summary of the Christian walk: “The blood alone makes us safe. The Word alone makes us sure. But obedience alone makes us happy.”
The last stanza points to the future, which is unknown but secure if we “never fear, only trust and obey.” These words seem so simple, but this isn’t so easy to do. We must be willing to surrender our own will to the Lord’s leading if we are to be happy in Jesus. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full (John 15:11).
In the light of his word,
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey.
Not a cloud in the skies,
Not a doubt nor a fear,
Not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.
The delights of his love,
Until all on the altar we lay,
For the favour he shows,
And the joy he bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
We will sit at his feet,
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do,
Where he sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey.
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