Church Worship

I'd Rather Have Jesus

  • Lucy Neeley Adams
  • 2009 31 Jan
I'd Rather Have Jesus

Cheers and tears of joy came from a crowd of almost two million on January 20, 2009 in front of the White House in Washington, DC. It was Inauguration Day and there was a change of leadership in America.
A friend of mine stated rather firmly, "If it were possible, I'd  rather have President Bush in leadership." With a laugh, he explained to me that he didn't mean the recent President Bush, but his father. That is an impossibility of course, but some people enjoy having long discussions about the political scene.
The other day I was talking with a friend who said: "You can have all the leaders you want, but I'd rather have Jesus as my leader." I liked that because I cherish the memory of a special day when I read a story about the late Catherine Marshall. She wanted to go to college but the family did not have the money to send her. So her mother said, "Let's ask God to send money for that." They prayed and trusted that money would come. Several weeks later, Mrs. Marshall received a check for a booklet she had written long ago about their state history and it provided tuition.
I was amazed that when she prayed she knew she was talking to someone who was listening. Could God become like that to me? I was a church member, and a ministers wife, but had not learned to pray from my heart about real needs.
After reading that story, I hesitantly prayed: "Lord, I don't know you. Please help me." Soon I discovered a prayer group in my church and I loved meeting other women who were also on a new journey with Jesus. We had a hunger for God's word and prayer.
There was a similar turning point that came to musician George Beverly Shea in the mid 1920's. One Sunday morning in the family home by the piano he discovered a poem with the title "I'd Rather Have Jesus." It stirred deep longings in his heart. He tells the story in his latest book, How Sweet the Sound:

"At the age of twenty-three, I was living at home with my parents, continuing to work at Mutual Life Insurance and studying voice. Going to the piano one Sunday morning, I found a poem waiting for me there. I recognized my mother's handwriting. She had copied the words of a poem by Mrs. Rhea F. Miller, knowing that I would read the beautiful message, which speaks of choice. As I read these precious words:

I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause.
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause.

I  found myself singing the words in a melody that expressed the feelings of my heart."

Very soon he developed a radio music ministry with the purpose of sharing the Good News of Christ. When the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was formed in the 1940's he was asked to become the soloist. After many years with this world wide ministry, Dr. Shea has officially retired but continues to accept invitations to sing God's praises. He makes his home in Montreat, NC, which is near the home of his friend Billy Graham.
On February 1, 2009, Dr. Shea celebrates his 100th birthday. His family and friends will be united in festivities full of music. Among the many hymns that he has made famous, "I'd Rather Have Jesus" will be a meaningful part of the rejoicing.   
A few years ago, I had a memorable experience. Kurt Kaiser, also a composer, asked me if I would send my book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions, to his friend Bev Shea. He asked me to call him on the phone to explain why I was mailing my book to him.
I dialed the number thinking that his secretary would be taking his calls. But a very deep voice answered with a cheery, "Hello." I was taken by surprise so my stumbling response was a question: "Dr. Shea?" He laughed heartily and said, "Oh no, this is Bev Shea!"
I explained why I was calling. He thanked me and said that his latest book, How Sweet the Sound, included stories of some unknown hymns. He would like to send me a copy since I too loved music.
"If I don't get it to you right away," he said, "I would like to read you one of my favorite stories. The book is in the other room but I'll hurry to get it because I know this is your nickel." I agreed to wait, of course, because my nickel was of no importance at this point.
He quickly returned to the phone and read the story of a hymn, It was a powerful account of a soldier who was wounded in World War II. Being terrified and slipping in and out of consciousness, he began to sing his mothers favorite hymn, "Jesus Whispers Peace."
Evidently, it was familiar to the German soldier standing over him with a drawn bayonet. With tears in his eyes the German said, "Sing it again, sing it again." Then a very strange but wonderful thing happened. He was lifted into the arms of the German soldier who took him to a safe place where he would be found by American medics.
When our conversation ended, I thanked God. That special act of caring from Bev Shea to me, someone he did not know, is a reminder that a brother and sister in Christ are never strangers. The Body of Christ becomes one family after we each decide that we'd rather have Jesus.
Thank you God that love unites your spiritual family. Professing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is the key. When we make that decision, you open the floodgates of love, joy, peace and purpose. Feed us with your Word, calm us with your presence. In Jesus name, Amen
Lucy Neeley Adams has always loved music. She began telling the story of hymns on Christian radio WWGM in Nashville, TN, in the '80s. She then wrote a newspaper column titled "Song Stories" for five years. During that time Lucy's book, 52 Hymn Story Devotions, was published by Abingdon Press in Nashville. Each of the 52 stories contained in the book is written in a devotional format, with the words of the hymn concluding each devotion. She may be reached for comment at Visit her at 

Originally published on: January 31, 2009