Johnson Oatman Jr., 1856–1922
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
How sad it is to observe someone who has never lived up to his real potential. It is tragic to watch an individual who has great ability that is never used simply because he or she lacks the incentive to pursue a worthy goal. Similarly, it is disappointing to see a Christian fail to evidence spiritual growth of any kind. Scripture teaches that Christian maturity or Christlikeness is a process in which we advance from one level to the next, step by step. But the secret of such development is to have an intense desire to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives.
“Higher Ground” has been a favorite with many Christians since it was first published in 1898. It expresses so well this universal desire for a deeper spiritual life, continuing on a higher plane of fellowship with God than we have ever before experienced.
The author of this stirring text was Johnson Oatman, Jr., a businessman who wrote 3,000 gospel songs in his leisure time. Oatman was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal denomination but never pastored a church. His hymns were always well received, even though he was paid no more than $1.00 for any of his texts.
The music for “Higher Ground” was composed by Charles H. Gabriel, music editor of the Rodeheaver Publishing Company. He wrote the music and sometimes the texts for more than 8,000 gospel songs, many of which were especially popular in the Billy Sunday-Homer Rodeheaver campaigns from 1910–1920. This song was used often in the great camp meetings of this era and the singing of it would often bring forth shouts of “Glory, hallelujah!”
I’m pressing on the upward way; new heights I’m gaining every day— Still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay; tho some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground.
I want to live above the world, tho Satan’s darts at me are hurled; for faith has caught the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground.
I want to scale the utmost height and catch a gleam of glory bright; but still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found, “Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”
Chorus: Lord, lift me up and let me stand by faith on heaven’s table-land; A higher plane than I have found—Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
For Today: Matthew 6:33; 1 Corinthians 9:24–27; Philippians 3:12–16
Reflect on some particular area of life that with God’s enablement could be lived on a higher level. Use this musical prayer to help—
Osbeck, K. W.
- But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be ministered unto you. Matthew 6:33
- Know ye not, that they which run in a race, run all, ye one receiveth the prize? so run that ye may obtain. And every man that proveth masteries, abstaineth from all things: and they do it to obtain a corruptible crown: but we for an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly: so fight I, not as one that beateth the air. But I bear down my body, and bring it into subjection, lest by any means after that I have preached to others, I myself should be reproved. 1 Corinthians 9:24–27
- Not as though I had already attained to it, either were already perfect: but I follow, if that I may comprehend that for whose sake also I am comprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself, that I have attained to it, but one thing I do: I forget that which is behind, and endeavor myself unto that which is before, And follow hard toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even the same unto you. Nevertheless, in that whereunto we are come, let us proceed by one rule, that we may mind one thing. Philippians 3:12–16