What Fred Faber Knew

Pastor Ian meditates on Frederick Faber's hymn and prays that we will daily seek the joy of thinking of God and breathing His name. 

“Only to sit and think of God
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name
Earth has no higher bliss.”

~Frederick W. Faber, 1863

Each week as our Pastoral Team plans for our services, we try to choose one attribute of God that we hope every part of our service will reflect. It is our desire that every word spoken and every song sung will then direct our attention to one particular Divine quality.  

Frederick Faber was a pastor, theologian, hymn writer and restless spiritual pilgrim who was raised in the Reformed tradition of the Huguenots, became an Anglican vicar and died a Catholic priest. He was a man who passionately celebrated opportunities to meditate on the goodness of God. But the man who wrote the hymn, God of a Thousand Attributes, struggled with one. One divine characteristic drove him to particular distraction: God is… ineffable. In other words, the God who makes Himself known is in fact unknowable. He is incomprehensible. And yet prophet and psalmist, apostle and saint has encouraged us to believe that we may in some small or large way, know Him. What a paradox!  

Faber was not wrong. The vastness of God is truly, gloriously beyond human comprehension. Even after the coming of Christ; who was and is the clearest picture we have of God. Even though He is the embodiment of the infinite, unknowable God who makes Himself known to finite human beings; even in seeing Jesus, Paul reminds us that "now we see in a mirror dimly…" (1 Cor. 13:12a).  

In many ways, Faber’s restlessness paralleled the journey of the Apostle Paul, who in Philippians 3:8-10a, wrote, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…” Paul, like Frederick Faber, took supreme joy in thinking thoughts of God, of breathing His name, of knowing the unKnowable.  

How then can we celebrate the pursuit of something so unattainable? 

1. We will remember that the fact that we know anything at all of Him, is evidence of the providential grace of this loving God, who has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

2. We are reminded that it is the resurrection of Christ that gives us hope in this pursuit. Note the emphasis of Paul’s complete thought to the Corinthian church: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Cor. 13:12) Joy comes in the middle of attempting to comprehend the incomprehensible God, when we realise that contained in the resurrection is the promise that we will one day know the unknowable. We will know Him fully and completely, just as He now knows us.

3. We will rush for any and all opportunities to experience "life’s highest bliss" … to think thoughts of God and to breathe His name! One-on-one Bible reading, small group Bible study, personal devotions, Sunday morning worship services, and even sharing the gospel with non-believing friends, all provide us a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise to study and experience the many attributes of God.  

4. We can pray this prayer with men like Faber and Paul, and the saints who have gone before us:

Father God,

I praise You for whatever of Yourself You have been pleased to disclose to me. Help me to earnestly search it out as treasure more precious than rubies or of fine gold. Help me daily to seek the joy of thinking of You… for with You shall I live when the things of earth have decayed, the stars of the twilight are no more and the heavens have vanished away and only You remain.



Announcements this week:

  • All GBC members are invited to our Quarterly Congregational Meeting (QCM) next Sunday morning, 7 October in Room 310.
  • Make plans now to attend the Grace that Sings concert, 27th October!  Tickets are free but you will need a ticket. Get yours at tinyurl.com/gbcrefcon2018 or pick them up at the booth after our service this Sunday.


Special Prayer Needs (for Pastoral Prayer):

  • Pray for our Cambodia Missions Team who will be leaving this coming Sunday. Ask that Christ would be obvious in their service.
  • Pray for our students, Elisabeth and Samuel who have sat for their PSLE exams this week. Ask that God would lend their families confidence in His sovereign purposes as they wait for results.
  • Pray for all those who are preparing their hearts and giving their engergies to the upcoming Grace That Sings Concert.