O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing

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Revelation 5:11-13 , Isaiah 61:1-4

Text: Revelation 5:11-13 , Isaiah 61:1-4

I’ve always envied people who know their “spiritual birthday”—the day that marks the moment in time they received Jesus as Savior. My faith journey was not so black and white, and I never knew what to say when the topic came up in youth group or college Bible studies.

Charles Wesley did not have this problem. The famous Methodist minister was captured by the beauty of the Gospel on May 21, 1738—at 8:45pm, to be exact. He describes that his heart was “strangely warmed” and that the Holy Spirit “chased away the darkness of [his] unbelief.” Exactly a year later, in 1739, Wesley penned nineteen stanzas (!!) of the hymn we now call “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing.” He wrote it to commemorate the first anniversary of his conversion, inspired by missionary Peter Boehler’s statement: “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ Jesus with all of them.”

It’s a great story, right? Here’s the craziest part: Charles Wesley had been an active, ordained, teaching and preaching member of the church for nearly two decades by the time he wrote this hymn. He and his brother John even led a missionary excursion to America in 1735, three years before their heart-warming gospel transformation. The Wesleys had an abundance of knowledge and a host of good deeds, but they discovered they didn’t have faith. They needed to believe.

Some 250 years later, in 1999, a naive and well-meaning college girl named Amanda went on her own overseas adventure, to carry the Gospel to the youth on the streets of Wales. Her heart had been warmed and she did know Jesus, but she mistook salvation as a commodity to be sold rather than Good News to be shared. I have a journal from the time I spent in Wales, and I read through it just the other day. I read the names of young people I met—kids not much younger than I was at the time—and how desperately I wanted them to know Jesus. I look back on that experience with fondness and regret. Rather than handing those teenagers a sales pitch and a tract, I wish so badly I would have shared my heart.

The worship of a changed heart is the best evidence of the Gospel. No other case for Christ comes close, no matter how well-rehearsed. This is not to diminish the importance of teaching and preaching—it was during a sermon that Charles Wesley first believed! But following Jesus is not a decision of logic; it is a determination of the heart—a determination that only comes by grace through faith when the Holy Spirit softens that heart to see and receive the beauty of Christ and opens our lips to sing His praise.

We hear the words of a grace-changed heart in this beloved hymn. Wesley practically gushes about his Lord!

Jesus! The Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease,
Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
Tis life, and health, and peace.

“The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace”—that’s what I wish I would have shared with those scared, seeking kids on the streets of Wales all those years ago. Rather than sell the transactional Jesus I’d created, I wish I would have simply sung the praises of my Savior: He brings me peace. He gives me life. He trumps all my fears and sorrows.

I wish I had looked Nikola and Scott and Chris and all the others straight in the eye and said,
I was a prisoner in a cell of my own making, and Jesus set me free.

We want so badly to convince the world of the beauty and hope of our Lord, but only God can warm the heart. The Creator of heaven and earth does not need our defense—He deserves our praise. The Rescuer of hearts is not made more beautiful by my salesmanship—He is regarded as beautiful in my worship.

Sisters, may the God whose grace has triumphed over us “assist us to proclaim” His praise to the poor and the brokenhearted, to the captives and those who mourn, to sing with all the hosts of heaven:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
(Revelation 5:13b, ESV)


by Charles Wesley, 1749

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy Name.

Jesus! The Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
Tis music in the sinner’’s ears,
Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy!


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113 thoughts on "O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing"

  1. megan oneal says:

    Beautiful hymn and beautiful words shared. It is so hard to find the middle ground in anything as humans, we always run to one end or the other. This was a good reminder that a true relationship with Christ lived out speaks volumes to the world. BUT, there are many stories of people who had to see the logic of Christianity laid out before they could respond with their hearts, CS Lewis is one example. That’s the most beautiful thing about our faith, it captures our minds and hearts! We’re told to worship in spirit and in truth. It’s not logic OR heart, it’s both!

  2. Tiffany says:

    Loved this devotional.

  3. Christina Hargrove says:

    My conversion came with much weeping after years of worshipping and ministering. Faith is so much different from religion! I am a salesperson by trade and I am so comforted that I don’t have to sell The Gospel, I need only to tell my story and pray for the Spirit to move. Such wonderful encouragement!

  4. Kayla says:

    I remember the day I asked Jesus into my heart and I cannot describe the feeling, but it was the greatest moment of my life. I have always wanted to be the person who shows others my changed heart and be an example for Gods work and what he has done in my life, but I never feel like I have the right information to tell someone. I want to be so content with my walk with Christ that I can bring others on that walk so they can get to know our savior too. He doesn’t need us to defend him, he will be out almighty beautiful God no matter what we say or do, he is everlasting and unchanging, always present if we allow him to be in our lives. I’m so thankful for that.

  5. Kathryn Lopez says:

    I’ve been on a missions trip for the past week and today is my last day. How fitting a reminder that God’s Good News is not something to be sold but shared. God doesn’t need our defense and He works no matter what we do. His word does not return void.

  6. MGonzalez says:

    This is a beautiful devotion but the content is inaccurate. It was John Wesley, Charles’ brother who felt his “heart strangely warmed” at Aldersgate. Blessings.

  7. Erin says:

    I love the part about God not needing my defense. He is regarded as beautiful in my praise. My husband and I have been married for 8 years and he recently has decided there is no God. We have a little girl and it has definitely been a concern of mine about how I will defend God to her when her own dad doesn’t believe. But the best thing I can do is let her see my praise, love, and worship for our God and let Him warm her heart. And by God’s grace, He’ll warm my husband’s heart again.

    1. Jill J. says:

      Wow… Hang in there. Try to be that wife in 1 Peter 3:1-2 who keeps on serving even when her husband does not. Your daughter is blessed to have you!