Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.
Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing ,He, my Strength, my vict’ry wins.
Even when my heart is breaking, He, my Comfort, helps my soul.
Storms about me, night o’ertakes me, He, my Pilot, hears my cry.
He hath granted me forgiveness, I am His, and He is mine.
John Wilbur Chapman ( 1859 – 1918 ) was a Presbyterian pastor and evangelist who ministered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By his own admission, he could not pinpoint the date of his conversion to Christ, but did look to an incident at age 17 as “the day of my acknowledgment of Christ.” His parents prepared him for a life of Christian ministry, and after seminary he alternated between various pastorates and evangelistic work, spending a total of around 18 years in each sort of ministry, and preaching over 50,000 sermons to audiences totaling over 60 million.
One source relates that at one of his pastorates, a member told him, “You are not a very strong preacher, but a few of us have decided to gather and pray every Sunday morning for you.” His pastoral ministry was well received and was marked by the growth of his various churches by the conversion of people to Christ.
In his evangelistic work, he was tireless. In his day, no one had preached in as many nations as Chapman did, for he preached not only across the United States (including Minneapolis in 1905), but held evangelistic campaigns across the world, including Canada, Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, England, Wales, Ireland, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, and the Fiji Islands.
Chapman once said, “The rule which governs my life is this: anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me; and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.”
Within the present hymn, we find in turn a number of descriptions of Jesus tied to the various forms of aid He provides for those who are His.
Do we fall short of the glory of God? Jesus is the sinner’s loving Friend (Matt 11:19) who makes us whole.
Are we susceptible to temptation? Jesus is our Strength in weakness (2 Cor 12:10; Eph 6:10-11; Heb 4:15), who wins the victory.
Are we faced with sorrow and deep waters? Jesus is our Help and Comfort (cf. Heb 4:14-16).
Are we in need of direction and protection? Jesus is our Guide and Keeper (cf. Matt 28:20).