Published January 16, 2018

Paul's Epistle
"What A Day"

Do you ever find yourself with an old Gospel song running through your mind, over and over again? Perhaps the Lord has brought it to your mind as a message you need to hear. Perhaps it's simply a song opening the door to worship or praise for the Lord. Perhaps it's expressing – through the words of others – your own deepest heartfelt desire.

Such a song for me is the old song, "What A Day That Will Be." I don't know how many times that song has just started going through my mind, even while just driving down the road. And it never fails to spark a worshipful experience, often with moistened eyes.

That song, written back in 1955 by Jim Hill, has appeared in countless hymnals and has been recorded by more than a thousand Gospel artists1, including multiple appearances on Gaither Homecoming videos. During a 1991 interview, Jim told me that "it's not often that you find somebody living that has a standard hymn." But, for the song's overwhelming acceptance, he said simply, "I thank God for that."2

In fact, Jim – a Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee and one-time member of the Statesmen and Stamps quartets, among others – once said that, of all the things he accomplished over the years, that song meant more to him than anything else.3

Jim often told the story of how the song — the first he ever wrote — was inspired. He recalled attending a church service one time where a young orphan girl sang a song about reaching heaven, ending with a comment, "What a day that will be." The phrase stuck in Jim's mind.4

Some years later, Jim's mother-in-law, Mrs. Albert Daldridge, only fifty years old, was paralyzed by a stroke. It hit the family very hard. On his way home from work one day, Jim pleaded with God, asking why this was happening to such a wonderful woman. Suddenly, words just began flooding into his mind. God was giving him a song! Quickly Jim found something to write on, and jotted down words that became the song's familiar lyrics:

     There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come,
     No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye;
     All is peace forevermore on that happy, golden shore.
    What a day, glorious day that will be!

     There'll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear,
     No more sickness, no pain, no more parting over there;
     And forever I will be with the One who died for me.
     What a day, glorious day that will be!

     What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
     And I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace!
     When He takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land,
     What a day, glorious day that will be!

The first person to whom Jim sang the song was his mother-in-law, who, for the first time in three years, reacted with signs of excitement.5  The truths in the song, the sentiments expressed, obviously resonated with her own soul's yearnings.

Such yearnings – to be with Christ – have been the "norm" since the Apostle Paul said he would prefer to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8), although he realized he had a job to do here, first. A noted Bible teacher of the past century, Dr. Vance Havner, once said, "I'm homesick for heaven. It's the hope of dying that has kept me alive this long."6

This is the Christian's hope – a hope that is sure – an immutable, certain expectation of meeting the Lord face-to-face, being welcomed into the presence of the One Who has saved us by His grace, the One whose love for us is far beyond measure, the One with Whom we will live forever.

Last week, Jim Hill – in his mid-80s – passed on to Glory. He is now experiencing the truth of the words he was given for his song, in answer to prayer, more than six decades ago. By God's grace, Jim has now, indeed, looked on the Lord's face. "No more sickness, no more pain," forever to be "with the One who died for me."

For those of us who remain, it's something that's still ahead in time — a glorious expectation for each true Christian. But now, for Jim, "what a day, glorious day that"!

- Paul Heil

1. Singing News, September 1997, p. 92
2. Personal interview with Jim Hill, Nashville, TN, Feb. 19, 1991
3. Singing News, June 1994, p. 20
4. "The Complete Book Of Hymns," Petersen 2006, p. 464
5. Ibid, p. 465
6. Quoted by Billy Graham in "Facing Death," Word 1987, p. 171

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