Hi, friends. This is the second installment of my Easter 2019 series. Once again, we will see the story behind a beloved hymn and also look at its relation to the blended theme of sacrifice and redemption.
The Story Behind the Hymn
In the early twentieth century, Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr., a young man fresh out of college, worked for a music company in Hartford, AR. Bartlett loved music so much that he later co-founded Hartford Music Company and opened Hartford Music Institute soon after. [Fun fact: Albert Brumley, author of “I’ll Fly Away,” attended HMI.]
Though Bartlett was a prolific songwriter/composer with much acclaim in his heyday, “Victory in Jesus” is his only hymn that stood the test of time. Oddly enough, it happens to be the last song he wrote.
In 1939, Bartlett had a stroke that paralyzed part of his body, rendering him incapable of traveling and performing his music. Job-esque instances like these truly test one’s faith. What would he do now that he couldn’t use his beloved spiritual gift of making music? Would he remain faithful to the Lord or turn away in anguish?
In the aftermath of his stroke, Bartlett said that while he missed performing and travelling, he still enjoyed studying the Bible. During this time of loss and introspection, Bartlett penned this uplifting hymn, clearly still trusting in God’s promises.
Ironically, Bartlett’s legacy of faith lives on through a song he wrote when many would have thought all hope was lost.
Wow! God really DOES work all things to the good for those who love Him! (Romans 8:28)
Reflections on the Theme
We have “victory in Jesus” because Jesus’s sacrifice and subsequent defeat of death enable us to have total redemption and eternal life. The “return sacrifice” that we give is alluded to in a few phrases: “then I repented of my sins,” “all my love is due Him,” and “‘Dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit.'”
We have been called to “change our hearts and lives,” a phrase repeated throughout the gospels. We change our lives by repenting of our sins, and we change our hearts by loving God, who in turn shapes our worldview and shows us how to love others.
I love the last lyric in the list above because of its vulnerability and humility. When we sacrifice our pride-our pettiness-our need to have the last word-our delusions of total control-our resistance to being led…when we allow Jesus to heal our broken spirits, He gives us the victory!
I heard an old, old story how a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
Refrain: O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.
I heard about His healing, of His cleansing power revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory.
I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing and the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there the song of victory.
Knowing the background makes these lyrics bittersweet; Bartlett was ready to see those streets of gold and sing the song of victory!
Here is a foot-tapping rendition of the hymn!
Thanks for reading! Do you love this hymn? Were you touched by the backstory? Let me know in the comments.