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A Life-lesson from a Song

The Crucial Difference
It takes a good eye to see the difference between worth and worthlessness. It takes a good heart to understand the differences between unworthy and worthless.

It was spring of 1968.
I was a freshman in college, away from home for the first time, alone one afternoon in my dorm room I had a visitor whom I had known a long time but on this afternoon, I came to know Him better. I was listening to music on my record player, a new album by a Gospel quartet called, “The Statesmen.” About the middle of one side was a song called, Unworthy, by the wonderful songwriter, Ira Stanphill.

When the song began to play I began to weep. That was me—unworthy. There was a call to ministry on my life and yet in definite steps the Lord had led me to this little state college to get a music education degree. I was active in several campus ministry groups and learning how to be a Pentecostal among those who love Jesus as much as I do but are called by some other name. I wept during the whole song. I lifted the needle and placed it at the beginning of the song to play it again. With repetition, my tears increased to become sobs. I paced the floor of my dorm room weeping with great heaves. The song ended and I played it again. I have no idea how many times this cycle repeated but I was not going to let this moment of visitation go until God was through with me. I don’t remember how it ended. I just know that I was changed by the truth of the song.

To this day I cannot put it all into words but somehow I learned the difference between worthless and unworthy.

  • Worthless things and people are useless, a burden to the world.
  • Unworthy things and people are useful, a blessing to the world.

If I had been tempted to believe the lie from Satan that I was worthless, I now had the truth from God. Like everyone else I was certainly unworthy, but I was not without worth.

  • Think of the Roman whip, the hammer and nails, the crown of thorns, the twisted trials, the beatings and the cruel words like rocks hurled at Jesus until, suspended between earth and heaven He breathed His last breath.
  • Think of the blood streaming down from the cross to splash on the sand and sink down into a fallen earth.
  • Think of words of forgiveness fueled by those last few breaths falling with the rain from high above the unworthy crowd of mourners and murderers.
  • Think of Jesus and know that He was thinking of you.

We certainly are unworthy. But worthless? Not on His life! We have been deemed so precious, more precious than flawless diamonds, to the Lord Jesus, that He would endure such suffering and  shame to solve our sin problem.

The Psalmist observes that people are confused about worth. They highly prize worthless things. The Father makes no such mistakes—He does not waste the blood of His son on worthless people.

“He made me worthy and now by His grace, His mercy has made me His own.

Psalm 12
Help me, Lord, for there is no godly one left; the faithful have vanished from among us. Everyone speaks falsely with his neighbor; with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart. … The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined from ore and purified seven times in the fire. O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation forever. The wicked prowl on every side, and that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone.
John 3:16-18 NIV
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Hebrews 12:2 NKJV
…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Isaiah 53:5-6 NKJV
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Matthew 16:26 KJV
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 6:25-27 NIV
I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Song of Worthiness
Words and Music: Ira F. Stanphill

1. Unworthy am I of the grace that He gave,
Unworthy to hold to His hand;
Amazed that a King would reach down to a slave,
This love I cannot understand.

Unworthy, unworthy, a beggar
In bondage and alone;
But He made me worthy .and now by His grace,
His mercy has made me His own.

2. My sorrow and sickness laid stripes on His back,
My sins caused the blood that was shed;
My faults and my failures have woven a crown
Of thorns that He wore on His head.


3. Unworthy am I of the glory to come,
Unworthy with angels to sing;
I thrill just to know that He loved me so much,
A pauper, I walk with the King.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer


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