What Tom Knew

Tom Chisholm was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky.

He worked on the family farm and didn’t finish high school. But Tom was a smart boy and by 16 was hired to teach at his school.

He discovered that he loved to write and practiced his talent by composing poetry. Some of his poems he submitted to the local paper. The ambitious young man was associate editor of The Franklin Favorite by the time he was 21.

He had his mind set on a career in journalism.

When he gave his life to Jesus Christ at a revival service Tom ended up attending seminary and entered the pastoral ministry. But poor health forced him to resign his church. He moved to New Jersey with his family and became an insurance salesman.

It wasn’t easy. Tom Chisholm had answered God’s call. Now circumstances beyond his control had changed the direction of his life entirely. What was God doing?

Tom was heartbroken but trusted God and carried on.

This wasn’t the end of Tom Chisholm’s story – it was just the beginning.

Still determined to serve God in some kind of ministry, Tom now turned back to his true passion – writing. He submitted religious poetry to Christian publications such as the Sunday School Times, Moody Monthly and Alliance Weekly.

One day he was reading a passage in the Old Testament book of Lamentations. He was struck by its beauty and power. Tom reflected on his own life, the ups and downs; the moments of exhilaration and seasons of deep despair; times that were good and those that were tough.

Like a mighty river, one grand theme coursed through all the experiences he’d had. Whether it ran through tears of joy or sadness, achievement or disappointment; on the mountains or through the valleys, it ran strong and crystal clear in his life.

Tom Chisholm knew it. It could not be denied.

He wrote a letter to his friend Bill Runyon in Kansas. Bill was a music composer. Tom told Bill that God “has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness”.

It was 1923 and Tom Chisholm was 57.

“Please see what you may be able to do with this,” he wrote his friend.

Bill Runyon carefully unfolded the enclosed paper and slowly read the lines.

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; as Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be”.

In the midst of his sorrow, “remembering my affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall” – the unmitigated bitterness of his suffering – the prophet Jeremiah was humbled by a reality that transcended it all (Lamentations 3:19-20, KJV).

Crying out from the very epicenter of his lamentations, this weeping prophet grasped the truth that could not be denied.

“I will never forget this awful time … Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this” (verses 20 -21, NLT).

What was it you remembered, Jeremiah? What was it that, for all his disappointments and trials in life, gripped Thomas O Chisholm so profoundly that he penned immortal words of beauty in its praise?

What is it that we should never forget?

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3: 22-23, KJV).

In spite of everything that may sometimes assail us, you and I may “still dare to hope” when we remember this:

God’s compassions fail not – great is his faithfulness!

Whatever else you and I may face at the dawn of a new and uncertain day, of this we may be sure:

God bestows upon each of us fresh mercy and abundant grace.

“They are new every morning”.

His creation itself proclaims God’s faithfulness. Chisholm wrote:

“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest; sun, moon and stars in their courses above; join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love”.

The Bible proclaims the joyful glory of God’s awesome handiwork. Nature is the divine witness.

Listen to the voices.

“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice … the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Psalm 96: 11-12; Isaiah 55: 12, KJV).

It’s no wonder we love the outdoors. That’s where God and the angels laugh and dance.

Tom Chisholm also wrote of God’s intimate faithfulness. He wrote as one who knew.

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth; Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow; blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”

Is this not the shared experience of every follower of Jesus? Is this not the beautiful rejoicing testimony at every Thanksgiving table?

What was that mighty river that ran through Tom Chisholm’s life for 94 years?

“Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided; great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

Amen Tom! And pass the pie!

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Filed under Christian World View, Faith, Religion

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