Lyte was inspired to write this hymn as he was dying of tuberculosis; he finished it the Sunday he gave his farewell sermon in the parish he served so many years. The next day, he left for Italy to regain his health. He didn’t make it, though—he died in Nice, France, three weeks after writing these words. Here is an excerpt from his farewell sermon:
O brethren, I stand here among you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with the death of Christ.
Man is fearful
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
The man speaking here is terrified of what is happening in his life and feels totally helpless. However, being a Christian, he realizes that God is available and that God will stay with him. Even so, this man seems fearful of what will happen. His prayer seems to be of the psalmist David “Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.” (Psalm 38:21)
Psa 27:10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
Even if people betray you, God will still be with you. (Note I'm not picking on parents, it just happened to be the first one I found)
Isaiah 41:17 [When] the poor and needy seek water, and [there is] none, [and] their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
What comforts have you lost? Does it matter? God will always be there to comfort you.
We must trust God that He will keep His promises that He will never leave or forsake us, because God cannot lie.
Hebrews 13:5-6 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Titus 1:2 “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;”
But maybe we should ask ourselves the opposite question: What if we forsake God? What will happen then? When we forsake God, we get in big trouble. Look at Jeremiah for example. He uses the word “forsake (azab)” 23 times, more than any other book of the Bible. Read Jeremiah and you will see what happens to those who do not follow God but turn their back on Him. Now, I’m not saying a Christian will lose their salvation if they fall away, but God is not going to bless them; He will chastise them to bring them back, even to the point of death. Take for example, Jonah. He thought he could ignore and forsake God—he ran away! Or so he thought. It didn’t work out very well, because God came after him to straighten him out. That was one awesome prayer meeting in the belly of the fish. OK, back to Jonah. He ran away, or so he thought, but God brought him back. Lesson? Don’t run away from God, or He will send you a big fish (of some sort of trial)
The world is a vapor
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
The older you get, the faster life goes by…didn’t every year seem like an eternity when you were younger? And now…yesterday was your birthday! And the closer to God you get (which hopfully increases with age), the offereings of the world appeal to you less and less. Everything here on earth dies and rots away thanks to sin. Everything will change, rot, die…but God is the same yesterday, today and forever more. Who do you want as your closest friend? One that changes every year? Month? Week? Day? Or the One who is always the same and never breaks His promises? One that you can tell EVERYTHING and who will always listen. As the piece I’m listening to right now “My Soul, There Is a Country,” says: “Leave then thy foolish ranges, \ For none can thee secure, \ But One who never changes, \ Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
Malachi 3:6 For I [am] the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Exodus 33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
Proverbs 18:24 A man [that hath] friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend [that] sticketh closer than a brother.
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
How much do you talk to God?
Do you trust Him with the life He has for you?
What do you want to never change?
How much do your friends change?
1 Cor. 15:26 The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death.
1 Cor. 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
One day we will no longer have to deal with all the death and decay and sadness here on earth. Don’t you look forward to that?! But, in the time being, serve God for as long and as much as you can while you have time.
Our friendship with Jesus
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
How often do we just offer a “hey” or a “whasup” as we pass a friend in the hall. What should our relationship with God be? Should we talk to Him perhaps…say two times a day? Three? Four? How often are we to pray? Always.
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
1 Thess. 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
Col. 1:3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
How are we to pray?
Daniel 6:11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
Daniel 9 (look it up)
Matthew 6:7-13 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Notice, Jesus did not say “pray these exact words again and again” (didn’t He just condemn that practice as heathen?), but “in this manner.” The Lord’s Prayer is an outline for how we should pray, not a magic prayer we can all repeat again and again and expect to have God hear it because it’s in the Bible. Prayer comes from the heart. Yes, God already knows what we are going to say, but He wants to hear it from us.
To go back to where we started, we want a heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus; we need to be familiar with God, spend time in His Word, and listen to the Holy Spirit. God is patient and slow to anger, but if we ignore Him, He will have to do something to get out attention. Don’t be a Jonah. “Sojourn” means “a temporary stay.” Do we need a temporary stay with Jesus? No! Once you are saved, Jesus is always with you, every moment. And we need to (excuse the expression if it sounds disrespectful) “take advantage” of having Jesus with you always and talk to Him as a friend. But respectfully. (And you should talk to your friends respectfully as well.)