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April 3, 2012

Hymn History: Have I Done My Best For Jesus?

Edward Spencer was a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He was a budding Olympic swimmer, the first to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympics. He had the strength and potential to do much more as an Olympic swimmer, if it hadn’t been for that one fateful day.

Northwestern University sat on the banks of Lake Michigan, which is known for its sudden storms. Ed was studying in the library one day when he heard the news that a boat, the Lady Elgin had collided with another boat and was sinking. People were drowning, and nothing could be done because of the strong currents.

Ed ran from the library to the shores of the lake. He saw that the situation was indeed serious...people were floating in the icy waters, close enough to shore for their cries of help to be heard, but unable to swim to safety because of severe undertow.

Without a hesitation, Ed stripped himself of excess clothing and dove into the icy, rolling waves. He was able, with his olympic strength, to reach the first person and bring them to shore. He repeated this heroic act several more times before onlookers and friends began to say, “Ed, you’ve got to stop. You’ve done all you can. You’ll kill yourself if you keep going!” Ed did not hesitate. He replied, “I’ve got to do my best,” and plunged again into the water.

Ed rescued 17 people in 16 trips in that pitching, rolling storm. After the 16th trip he collapsed unconscious on the shore, unable to go on. He lay there repeating, “Have I done my best fellows? Have I done my best?” All night he battled for his life in the infirmary, continually repeating, “Have I done my best fellows? Have I done my best?”

Ed Spencer had done his best - but it cost him his health and his future as a champion swimmer. He lived the rest of his life as a semi-invalid in Phoenix, Arizona. It was there in a humble cottage that Ensign Edwin Young found him. Mr. Young had heard his story and heard that he could be found in Arizona, and so went looking for this hero. He found a man no longer a robust athlete, but a shadow of the strong man he once was.

During the course of their visit, Mr. Young commended him for his heroic action and asked how he had been recognized during his life by the people who’s lives he had saved that day. With tears streaming down the invalid’s cheeks, he replied, “Not one ever came back to even say thank you.”
It was the retelling of this story that led Ensign Edwin Young to write, “Have I Done My Best for Jesus?”

Despite the fact that none of the survivors recognized Ed Spencer’s heroic act, the students of the Northwestern University did not forget him. A large plaque in his honor hangs on a campus wall with this inscription:

To commemorate the heroic endeavors of Edward W. Spencer, 1st Northwestern student life saver. This tablet is erected by the class of 1898. At the wreck of the Lady Elgin, off Winnetka, Sept 8, 1860. Spencer swam through the heavy surf 16 times, rescuing 17 persons in all. In the delirium of exhaustion which followed, his oft-repeated question was: Did I do my best?”

I wonder have I done my best for Jesus,
Who died upon the cruel tree?
To think of His great sacrifice at Calvary!
I know my Lord expects the best from me.

How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?

The hours that I have wasted are so many
The hours I’ve spent for Christ so few;
Because of all my lack of love for Jesus,
I wonder if His heart is breaking too.

I wonder have I cared enough for others,
Or have I let them die alone?
I might have helped a wand’rer to the Saviour,
The seed of precious Life I might have sown.

No longer will I stay within the valley
I’ll climb to mountain heights above;
The world is dying now for want of someone
To tell them of the Saviour’s matchless love.

How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?

 

7 comments:

  1. This was a favourite in our family growing up! Thank you for sharing the story. How sad to think that not even one person came back to say thank-you! And, what a challenge to remember that I don't always appreciate what Christ has done for me.
    Thanks for this story!

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    1. It is a sad but inspiring story. Thanks for your comment! =)

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  2. I've searching for the music sheet for above title, though i saw the piano but I'm still looking for Hymn book. Please if you have it, kindly write me at stainlesscoin@yahoo.com > God bless you

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    1. One of the hymnals that includeds this song is Great Hymns of the Faith, compiled and edited by John W. Peterson, 1968 by Singspiration Inc. You might find a copy for a reasonable cost on Amazon.com.

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    2. You can download the music for free at: www.grace4all.com/sheet-music/10308-sheet-music.html

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  3. Thanks for this, Nicole. Very challenging. I've read through your blog posts too. It always warms my heart to find people my age that love the Lord. Our generation seems to be drifting so far away from God.

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    1. Thank you for your sweet comment! I agree with you about our generation. So glad you dropped by!

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