“I asked the Lord that I might Grow” – John Newton

As many of you know, I have been suffering with a kidney stone for over three weeks now.  However, last Friday was my last day of significant pain, so I feel that I am over the worst of it.  Thanks to all of you have been in prayer for me during this time.  I first began my travail with this tiny stone the day before Easter.  I was fasting on that Saturday and I had asked the Lord to help me to identify with Him in his sufferings.  The Lord answered my prayer, but not in the way that I imagined.  I remember, at one point last week, weeping in the middle of the night.  I asked the Lord, “Is this really what it takes to humble me?  Am I so calloused that I need such pain to buffet me?”  I sat in the dark whispering. Defeated.  “You know best, Lord.  You know exactly what I need.  I am yours.  You know best.”

Yesterday, I was eating lunch with a friend – Iain Boyd – an episcopal priest who serves at Trinity Episcopal in downtown Myrtle Beach.  He’s a really great guy whom God had been prodding me to get together with.  As we sat in Cracker Barrel, Iain began to share with me a hymn written by John Newton called “I asked the Lord that I might grow.”  I had never heard it before.  Iain recited it to me by heart – and as he spoke the words across the table, God’s Spirit impressed me with the magnitude of this hymn.  It was my experience.  I had asked the Lord for something – thinking that I knew best how to receive it.   I asked the Lord to help me grow.  I wanted a deeper intimacy.  My plan was a day of fasting in exchange for a closer identification with Christ.  But that was not Christ’s plan.  He chose another, significantly more painful way.  Yet, I am learning to  thank God for his way over mine.  He knows exactly what I need.  Only he truly knows how to pour contempt on all my pride.  Only he knows how to arrest my wandering heart and press his ancient love into my soul.

Much thanks to my friend Iain who pastored me yesterday.  Also, thanks also to John Newton for writing such a powerful and true hymn.  I would like to share that hymn with you now.  Again, John Newton wrote “I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow” and published it in the Olney Hymnbook in 1879.  It is sung below by Indelible Grace.  Please take the time to listen to it prayerfully.  It is wonderfully dark, beautifully rich, and absolutely true to the Gospel.  It is a spiritual steak set to music.  I encourage you to contemplate its deep meaning so that it feeds your soul the way that it has fed mine this morning.

Lyrics – “I asked the Lord”

1. I asked the Lord that I might grow, In faith and love and every grace. Might more of His salvation know, and seek more earnestly His face
2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray, And He I trust has answered prayer. But it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair
3. I hoped that in some favored hour, at once He’d answer my request, And by His love’s constraining power, subdue my sins and give me rest
4. Instead of this He made me feel The hidden evils of my heart And let the angry powers of Hell Assault my soul in every part
5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed Intent to aggravate my woe crossed all the fair designs I schemed, cast out my feelings, laid me low
6. “Lord why is this?”, I trembling cried “Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?” “Tis in this way” The Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith”
7. “These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me, That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

16 thoughts on ““I asked the Lord that I might Grow” – John Newton

  1. The Lord reigns. The Lord has made us wonderfully and beautifully after His own image. We think we know ourselves best…..He knows us even better. He, if we are willing, will make us into the image of Himself. God’s ways are not our ways….His ways are perfectly pure and worthy of praise. Shalom dear fellow saint & brother! <

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  2. Tim – From your prayer to identify with Christ’s sufferings and continuing to today’s blog, you have blessed me so. John Newton and others like him were not surprised at suffering like we are. When I read about their lives (John Piper’s The Swans are not Silent series), I’m so amazed at their willingness to accept suffering as God’s mark on their lives – driving them to look to Him for every sustenance and every answer.
    I do pray with you that your pain is over, but if I thought it would bring an end to these nourishing blogs, I might secretly wish for another stone!
    Thankfully, Vicki

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    • Vicki, I am incredibly humbled that God has used me to encourage you. It seems to me that your struggle with cancer can hardly be compared with my “light afflictions”. In fact, I must admit that often I am reticent to share what Christ is teaching me in my suffering when I compare them to the sufferings of others. I can’t tell you how much your words affirm that I am doing the right thing in sharing what God is teaching me. Blessings to you and Ricky!

      Tim

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  3. Tim how beautiful and soul searching your awareness to the truth of what is in our hearts and how God can mold and make us into the image of Himself. I have been following your journey and I know that you WILL be a better instrument for God’s use. God tattooed it in your heart and mind that you may have the compassion He showed to others. God bless you and I love you.
    Jane

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  4. Great Newton words – and nice new setting. But there’s one change in the lyrics you might be interested in.

    The revised version of v.5 reads “Cast out my feelings, laid me low”

    Newton wrote “Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.”

    I understand the reason for the change– most would not understand what Newton was talking about. But that’s a bit of a pity. He’s actually alluding to the story of Jonah 4, where God provides a ‘gourd’ or vine to give Jonah shade, but then removes it to teach Jonah what is REALLY important to God (and so should be to us).

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  5. This beautiful and true hymn is the theme of a LARRY CRABB book entitled “Shattered Dreams”. It’s a very thoughtful and wonderful book, so true to the Christian’s life and experience. It took me a week to read because I wept at the turn of every page.

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    • Yeah, I’ve read the book. I often recommend it to people who are in the midst of struggle and searching for how God’s Will relates to their suffering. Thanks for reading!

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  6. Tim, I just “stumbled upon” your blog — what a blessing! Earlier today the Lord brought to my mind a phrase from this hymn to comfort me in a painful situation and I Googled the phrase to find the full text. Your blog was the first search result and my comfort abounds. I recently joined a Presbyterian (PCA) church after having been Baptist all my life. I was delighted but not surprised to see that I am among close kin here. May God bless your ministry.

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    • Carolyn,

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. It is always good to hear that Christ is using my “feeble ramblings” to bring Gospel cheer in some way or another. I pray that the Spirit will continue to comfort you in your current trials.

      Blessings to you!

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  7. Greetings Tim, I realize that this is an old post, but I really like Newton’s hymn. Newton caught something of the reality of Christian experience which many seem to miss. Newton understood how God sometimes deals with His children in order to make them more holy. Did you know that it hymn can be found in the Trinity Hymnal – Baptist Edition? Great Commission Publications, 1995. It is #732. A gifted musician/composer wrote an excellent (more traditional) hymn tune to go with it. Check it out, and press on. Bart

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    • Thanks for that tidbit Bart. I’ll check that out. I think Newton’s hymn is one of the best I’ve ever heard. It is a true gospel lament that gives shape, form, and encouragement to cry out to God, even in our most bitter moments of disappointment and pain. I have come back again and again to the dark graces that are expressed in this blessed song.

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  8. This post is greatly an encouragement. I am especially encouraged by the words, “God knows best.” I have been going through eye problems lately and possibly a tumor, and many things have been going wrong (going wrong, in my perspective, that is, but I hope not in God’s accurate perspective). This song by Newton epitomizes my feelings and encourages me, so I googled it and found this blog post. It is good to know that I am not alone in this experience. I just hope I will learn to trust God more and I hope I will trust that whatever happens is a central component of God’s “good, pleasing, perfect will.” I hope God will use these hard experiences to help me to trust Him with each and every moment of life, for He is the one source of stability, security, rest, peace, and joy everlasting.

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    • I sure will be praying for you. I’m so glad that Christ is giving you gospel categories for the suffering that you are going through.
      – Tim Melton

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