Words by Al Blanton | Image by Ryan McGill
On a bright June morning in 1872, Annie Hawks was engaged in household chores when the Holy Spirit planted a hymn inside her mind. A native of New York and resident of Brooklyn, Hawks was not only a dutiful housewife but a hymnist and, according to author Francis Willard, a poet of “many noble poems.” As Hawks recalled that morning, “Suddenly, I became so filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, these words were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me:
“I Need Thee Every Hour.”
Since then, “I Need Thee Every Hour” has become one of the classic hymns in American culture, sung by congregations far and wide, from sea to shining sea.
Listen to the words of Hawks as she describes the need for the continual presence of her Savior:
I need Thee every hour
Most gracious Lord
No tender voice like Thine
Can peace afford
I need Thee, O I need Thee
Every hour, I need Thee
O bless me now, my Savior
I come to Thee
With all regard to Mrs. Hawks’ divine revelation on that June morning and respect for her sentiment, I humbly submit that I must go a step further.
As I analyze my life, I must conclude that though I strive to be like Jesus, I am often amazed at how quickly I can respond negatively to situations that occur on a day-to-day basis. The truth is, I don’t always handle things the right way. I don’t always do what is right. I so often relate to Paul, who confessed in his letter to the Romans: For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. – Romans 7:18-19
Make no mistake, here. I am not just talking about misdeeds of the knee-jerk variety. I’m talking about willful violations of God’s law. If I’m really honest with myself, I realize how quickly unwholesome talk can come out of my mouth, how quickly my eyes can get off track while consuming varying forms of media, how quickly I can say hurtful things to people (especially if I feel attacked), how quickly I can go into my protective shell and fail to consider the needs of others, and how quickly can I sit and stew in my anger while others around me are negatively impacted.
I have realized that if I am in my flesh, I am a truly wicked individual. If anyone tells you I am a good person, don’t believe them.
After all, the flesh wants what the flesh wants, and it wants everything.
But there’s a flip side to that coin.
Jesus came to earth and died on the cross, not just to save us from hell, but to provide a way to purify ourselves by the power of the Holy Spirit. The secret is through His abiding presence in our lives, and it is only by faith in Jesus that we have any sense of righteousness at all.
1 John 3:6 says, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin.” Therefore, one cannot be simultaneously abiding in Christ and sinning, because in Him, there is no sin. It is only when we step outside of this abiding relationship and into our flesh that we sin.
Sadly, many believers have never experienced this abiding presence for very long. Sure, we may check all the boxes—we may have had a salvation experience at a church, youth revival, or retreat; we may attend church regularly; we may read a devotional; we may have instituted a framework of sin-management into our lives, and we may be interested in things about Jesus. But in the end, we don’t really know Him because we don’t have a relationship with him. Therefore, we do not rest in the hammock of His love. We do not pursue the abiding presence of the risen Christ. We do not curl up into his bosom like a little child does his mother. And we do not experience the blessings of unbroken communion and fellowship with the King of Kings.
Because we do not abide, because we are so apt to go astray, we find that there is little intimacy, little presence, little fruit in our lives. In John 15, Jesus tells us, “Apart from me you can do nothing”—literally— and it is only through the practice of abiding that we can overcome sin, bear fruit, do God’s will, and operate out of the love and the power of the Holy Spirit.
I have reached a point in my life where my own frailty has caused me to understand that I need the continual presence of Jesus in my life. Yes, I undoubtedly agree with Mrs. Hawks and her sentiment, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” But because the train of my flesh has the propensity to derail at any moment, at any time, often when I least expect it, I must conclude that I need thee every second.
I need to be filled with the Holy Spirit every second of every day so I can navigate the wiles of the devil and the snares of this fallen world. And mostly, I need Him because my flesh is weak.
As we seek growth in our Christian walk and move from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity, we should realize that it’s not enough to go to church on Sunday morning, check the box, slide down the Brontosaurus, dissolve back into the world as if nothing happened, and expect to manifest the fruits and abundance of the Christian life. We must continually seek His abiding presence every hour, every second.
The good news is this: as we continue to employ this into our life as a matter of habit, we will be transformed in Christ-likeness, and our stay in the pigsty will become shorter and shorter.
Nineteenth-century pastor and teacher Andrew Murray wrote one of the most powerful metaphors to describe the Christian’s need to abide. “Who would, after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door when he is invited to dwell in the King’s presence and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life? Oh, let us enter in and abide, and enjoy to the full all the rich supply His wondrous love hath prepared for us.”
And not just once a week or every once in a while, but rather continually.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus extends the offer, “Come to me.” Later, in the Upper Room, he extends yet another invitation, “Abide in Me.” Finally, he seals this relationship after the Great Commission by promising to always be with us—”and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
May we purpose to always be with Him. WL