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Fanny Crosby

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 15, 2021 12:00 am

Fanny Crosby

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 15, 2021 12:00 am

Fanny Crosby is known for 2 things: her blindness and her remarkable hymns. But understanding how she endured her blindness and why she spent the latter part of her life writing hymns is where her real legacy is found.

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Can you imagine what it would be like to be blind and for the first thing you ever see to be heaven? Stevens looking at the life of Fanny Crosby. As you know, Fanny was blind and we're looking at that today.

Don't ever think that seeing the Father's face through Christ, seeing the glory of the Father's house will mean the same thing to you and to me in the same way as it will be to someone who was blind until they got there. Fanny Crosby is remembered for three things, her strong Christian faith, her blindness and her remarkable hymns. Understanding how she endured her blindness and why she spent the latter part of her life writing hymns is where the real treasure of her legacy is found. Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart. This is the teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. Stephen typically teaches through books of the Bible, but in this series, Legacies of Light, Stephen is exploring the lives and legacies of several Christian heroes and martyrs.

Settle in and be encouraged as Stephen shares with you some inspiring truths from the life of Fanny Crosby. Turn in your Bibles to the Gospel by John in chapter 9 and you'll understand a little better why the disciples asked Jesus the question that they did. John chapter 9 and verse 1. As he, that is Jesus, passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples, verse 2, asked him, Rabbi, that is teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?

Now you notice here, this is a grown man who'd never been able to see. In other words, this is the most irreversible case you're going to find. This guy is without a doubt incurable. Now notice, they asked, who sinned, verse 2, this man or his parents? Somebody sinned, again, buying into the concept of their day that this disability is associated with the wrath, the anger, the discipline of God. Somebody, somebody sinned somewhere. So who did it, Lord? Who's at fault?

This was the prevalent view in the first century and I fear even in the 21st century. Isn't that too bad? Somebody somewhere did something wrong and this particular man here, now in John chapter 9, has to pay for it for the rest of his life. Somebody sinned. Look at verse 3. Jesus answered, it was neither that this man sinned nor his parents, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Now that's shocking news. By the way, to this day, that kind of statement is both alarming or comforting, depending on where you are in the equation, that God was behind this disability. Jesus is effectively saying that everything is ultimately secondary to God's purposes, which are primary. Can you imagine? Jesus Christ stuns all of them here by declaring that this man's lifelong disability was actually planned by God the Father to bring glory to Christ at this moment in time, in this man's life, and with it credibility to the gospel.

Can you imagine this? That's because of what God is about to do, God the Son, that is. He's about to turn this disabled man into a rather amazing, passionate apologist in front of the religious leaders. Verse 6, look there. When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and applied the clay to his eyes and said to him, go wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus Christ, who knows the future, knows that he is going to use this blind man for the glory of God to confront the religious leadership of his day. And so the first thing that Jesus does, in fact, I'll point out a couple of things that he does to literally obliterate the rules of the Sabbath, rules that had developed into doctrines. Instead of simply speaking so that this man is healed, he does what they would consider physical labor.

You know, when you were younger, that'd be fun. If you had to do it now, it'd be work, right? So he's working.

The rabbis of Jesus, they had defined the Sabbath rest so ridiculously that it meant a man couldn't carry a handkerchief from an upstairs room to a downstairs room in his hand. It'd be work. He couldn't light a lamp or extinguish a lamp.

It'd be work. He couldn't even cut his fingernails or pull a stray hair from his beard. In fact, women weren't even allowed to look into a mirror on the Sabbath because they would be tempted to fix something and more than likely engage in some kind of repair work.

I'm not going any further than that. So Jesus is actually setting up this conflict. He's setting it up. Furthermore, by making mud and applying it to his eyes, Jesus is applying a poultice, as crude as it was. He's acting like a doctor. Again, the Jewish leaders didn't allow any medical work on the Sabbath day unless a person's life was in danger. You couldn't work on a toothache. You couldn't even pour cold water on a sprained ankle.

That was off limits. So Jesus is obviously at work curing this man by intentionally breaking the traditions of the religious leaders that meant absolutely nothing, of course, to God and his Word. So he's working with his hands and he's obviously giving this man medical treatment. In fact, did you notice that Jesus even prescribes a remedy by telling the man to go and wash himself off in the pool of Siloam?

In other words, I want you to go work too. So Jesus is deliberately setting up this drama so that the religious leaders are going to be boxed into a corner where they will either have to rethink their false religious traditions or deny the obvious hand of God. Blindness, they believe, could only be cured by the hand of God. So Jesus must be God incarnate or empowered by God or this really didn't happen, which is exactly where they will land, unfortunately. So this man is cured and he engages with fearless courage. And our purpose isn't to expound on the chapter, but if you read through it, he'll have two different conversations with these religious leaders. It's absolutely fascinating. And the crux of his apologetic, his defense of Jesus Christ boils down to verse 32.

At least look there. This cured man says this, since the beginning of time, it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.

In other words, how obvious can it be? So obvious that they could do nothing more than tell him he's a sinner, verse 34, and kick him out of the temple. But he becomes an irrefutable testimony to the power of God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Imagine God has allowed this man to suffer for his entire life so that at this moment he can most effectively establish a witness to the authenticity of the power of Christ who must be, who must be moving the hand of God. Imagine this man's disability was planned.

Does that bother you? That God is that sovereign? That this could be purposed by God? Forget the fact that he was healed for a moment. Every one of us, by the way, are going to be healed one day, right? Forget the fact that he was healed while he was still alive. God planned that this man would live the majority of his life blind.

Why? Not because he sinned or because his parents sinned, but go back again and look at the last part of verse 3. So that the works of God might be displayed in him. Wouldn't that make life worth it? No matter how you suffer and every one of you suffer, suffering is the universal language. Imagine that somehow that suffering could allow the work of God to be displayed.

We would never regret it. It's exactly what happens here. You know, it caused me to think as well in light of our series that the most prolific musical testimony in the history of the Christian church was a woman who testified courageously of her salvation. She would write hymns like, and I shall see him face to face and tell the story saved by grace. Eight thousand more hymns, two by the way, copied more than a hundred million times in more languages as well than any other hymn writer. In fact, she would write under 200 different pen names because hymnal publishers didn't want the public to know that she had entirely dominated the musical scene.

She would have as many as 40 hymns churning through her mind before writing them down. Well actually, she never wrote any of them down because she was blind. And her name was? Fanny Crosby. Francis Jane Crosby.

Her friends called her Fanny Crosby. She wasn't actually born blind. She caught a cold. It created a rash around her eyes. The family physician was away at the time and a country doctor was called to treat her and he prescribed hot mustard poultices to be applied to her eyelids which had become swollen with this rash. The infection did clear up but the treatment scarred her eyes. It wasn't long after that that Fanny's parents realized that she had lost her sight. It would be discovered later that this particular doctor was not even qualified to practice medicine.

He had quickly left town and had never been seen again. When she was five years old, friends and neighbors, her father having passed away a few years earlier, pooled their funds to send her to the best eye specialist in the country, Dr. Valentine Mott. She could still remember, even though she was five years old, his diagnosis where he said to her, and I quote, poor child, I am afraid you will never see again. End quote.

But that wasn't her attitude at all. In fact, the first poem she would compose when she was only eight years old goes like this. Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see. I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be. How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't. So weep or sigh because I'm blind.

I cannot and I won't. Pretty powerful for an eight year old girl, isn't it? She would later write this. If I could meet that doctor now, I would say, thank you for making me blind. It was intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life. And I thank God for the way he arranged it. That's a powerful balance, by the way, for the believer.

The secondary cause might be a doctor unqualified to practice medicine who makes a mistake. But the primary cause is the intentional plan and will and providence of God so that his work might be displayed in us through that. Now, one ability that God gave Fanny and early on it was clear to others was a photographic memory. In fact, a neighbor took her under her wing and taught her the Bible, would read to her. And by the time she was 10 years old, she could quote verbatim Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the book of Proverbs, most of the books of the psaltery or Psalms, along with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Pretty amazing. It was obvious that she was capable of a formal education. And so when she was 12 years old, they enrolled her in New York City's famous institution for the blind. And she loved every subject, evidently just dove into everything. She loved every subject except mathematics. Woman after my own heart. She even wrote a little poem to voice her frustration.

It went like this. I love, abhor, it makes me sick to hear the word arithmetic. When she graduated, she would become the institution's most famous teacher. She would teach there for 23 years. Quickly, she became famous for her poetry, secular poetry, secular songs. She even wrote the first secular cantata by an American composer called the Flower Queen.

She was published twice with books of poetry. Although Fanny Crosby knew much of the Bible, as I mentioned by heart, she did not know the Savior until she was 30 years old. She was invited to attend a revival and she went along and heard the gospel, never resolved it in her own life until that meeting. But it was interesting that it wasn't during the sermon or afterward, it was during the closing hymn written by Isaac Watts that she gave her life to Christ. She would say later in an interview, when we began to sing of the fifth stanza, and when we reached the third line, hear Lord, I give myself away, tis all that I can do, she said I did. Up to this point, she had yet to write one hymn for the church. In fact, it was still going to be 10 years later when she met William Bradbury, a famous hymn writer and publisher, and he challenged her to use her incredible talent for the sake of the gospel and to write something poetic for the church. And so on the spot, kind of as a dare I can do that and I will, she agreed and she wrote her first hymn.

It was published and she was 40 years of age. She would go on to write more than 8,000 hymns over the course of the next 51 years of her life. She did have a personal request and she had a notebook where she would write anybody that she heard of trusting Christ because it was her prayer that her hymns would be instrumental in leading one million people to faith in Jesus Christ. That's why her hymns are so gospel oriented.

I have little doubt that was achieved. Primarily because a man by the name of Ira D. Sankey became a close friend of hers and he was the musician for D.L. Moody and he introduced her to the public and began to sing her hymns and of course they would be picked up decades later by George Beverly Shay and Cliff Barrows of the Billy Graham Crusades.

I think it's interesting that she came to faith in Christ at the singing of a hymn and God used her to display his glory through her and many no doubt have come to faith through the singing of her hymn. I want to pull from her personal testimony three observations and they are timeless. First, usability in one area of life is often created when we accept our inability in other areas of life. Let me say that again.

Usability in one area of life is often created when we accept our inability in other areas of life. What makes her testimony so compelling is her submission to an incredibly difficult life as nothing less than joyful submission to the providence of God. Frankly, she and many others before and since remain a challenge to the church, don't they? To all of us in so many areas where we might spend our lives pining away at doors that God has bolted shut instead of looking at doors that God has opened wide. No, I want to do this.

No, I want you to do that. Instead of developing resentment or this resignation, she maximized this opportunity as ultimately the work of God which would be displayed in her life. Let me make another observation.

Secondly, victory over one issue of suffering does not guarantee victory over every issue of suffering. Again, the study of someone's life not only brings up their successes but it reveals their failures. Fanny married a former student who had also enrolled at the institution for the blind. They had gotten to know each other. In fact, he started out as her student. Even though 11 years younger than her, they, over the course of several years, fell in love.

He also, blind, had become a proficient organist and was performing concerts in major cities. A year after their marriage, they had their only child, a daughter they would name Frances. Sadly, not long after her birth, she died suddenly from typhoid fever. Fanny's husband, Van, grew more and more reclusive in his grief. In fact, for the rest of her life, Fanny never spoke publicly of even having been a mother.

So deep was that wound. Until late in life, she opened up about her years of sorrow. Eventually, after years of living together intermittently, Fanny and Van separated.

Most biographers and historians conclude that this was the result of Van's reclusive resentment to the pain and sorrow of losing his little girl. I thought it was interesting, it was one thing to deal with the disability of blindness, which they both amazingly overcame, but too much to deal with the grief of death. Fanny responded to that by writing a hymn she entitled, Safe in the Arms of God.

Victory over one issue of suffering doesn't guarantee victory over every other issue of suffering. Fanny would spend the remaining twenty years of her life as a guest of wealthy patrons who appreciated her and supported her as she continued to compose one hymn after another, averaging four and five, sometimes six a day. It was her way of trusting Christ through grief, and you read her hymn lyrics and they long for heaven. One more observation. Thirdly, disability, both its cause and its cure, is ultimately in the plan of our sovereign Lord. It ought to be our testimony that the grace of God and the trustworthiness of Jesus Christ are sufficient.

And that's our daily challenge, isn't it? That this is ultimately from the hand of God like Job. He gives us good and he gives us grief. He gives to us that which we would appreciate and he takes things away.

Why was this man born blind in John chapter nine is recorded there. Why did God allow Fanny Crosby to be misdiagnosed and mistreated? Why do you even now suffer in whatever way you do so that we can demonstrate trust in the grace and purposes of God so that the works of God might be displayed in our lives? You happen to be a sheet of music upon which a perfect, loving, intentional, creative Lord is composing the harmony of his glory and his grace. And one day, one day the tables are going to be turned, aren't they?

Those who suffered most I believe will sing the loudest. That's an important reminder today and I hope you've been inspired and encouraged by this look into the life of Fanny Crosby. This is Wisdom for the Heart with Steven Davey. Steven's right in the middle of a series called Legacies of Light. He's looking at some significant individuals from church history.

These men and women have left a lasting legacy. If you missed any of the lessons in this series so far, you can go online and listen to them on either our website or our app. Just visit or install the Wisdom for the Heart app to your smartphone. Steven has a book that's based on this series and it's in stock and available now. He's taken these biographies and turned them into a beautiful hardback book. It makes a great gift for a friend or family member and would be a valuable resource in your personal library.

Give us a call at 866-48-BIBLE and we can give you information about getting a copy of the book Legacies of Light. You'll also find it on our website if you want to go there and learn more. We recently heard from a listener who wrote to say this, thank you for your hard work at studying and presenting your messages in a spirit-filled, easy to understand way. Your ministry has brought me closer to Jesus. That was from a listener named Steven and it's our hope and prayer that God will use these messages to bless and encourage you in your walk with Christ. Thanks for joining us today for Wisdom for the Heart. We'll continue through this series next time and I hope you'll be with us then.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-22 22:36:26 / 2023-07-22 22:44:55 / 8

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