Learning To Lean

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

In June I had the privilege of preaching at the annual Hartselle Camp Meeting in Hartselle, Alabama. This camp meeting has been held for 110 consecutive years.

The worship services are held in a tabernacle that was actually built 110 years ago. The supports for the tabernacle are large cypress trees that were cut from that property and still serve as the support for the tabernacle.

Years ago a musician came to lead the music at the camp meeting. His name was Elisha Hoffman. At the time he and his family were going through some very, very tough times. They had experienced health issues, unexpected challenges, etc. While he faced tough times, he also knew on Whom to lean to find stability and security.

While at the camp meeting in Hartselle, he went to the tabernacle and wrote down a lot of his thoughts. They were his expression of the tough times, but also his answer to facing them. Those thoughts became his testimony expressed in the great hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms;

What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;

Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

George Beverly Shea, long time soloists for the Billy Graham Crusades, knew about the writing of this hymn. He wanted to visit Hartselle and see the tabernacle. In 2007, at age 97, he had my friend Phil Waldrep take him and his wife to the tabernacle. George Beverly Shea wanted to stand where Hoffman had stood when he introduced the hymn. George Beverly Shea started to sing from memory the entire hymn. Phil said it was one of the high spiritual moments of his life.

George Beverly Shea had experienced some real tough times in his life. He had discovered the same answer to dealing with those problems as had Elisha Hoffman. Their discovery can be our experience today.

I was able to stand in the same tabernacle in the same place as those two great musicians. I didn’t try to sing it, but I did quote it and it drove home to me even more the fact that we can rise above the storms of life. I felt that I joined a heavenly chorus of transformed people who knew on Whom to lean in order to navigate well the tough times.

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