I’d Rather Have Jesus

George Beverly Shea, “America’s beloved gospel singer,” traveled with the Rev. Billy Graham evangelistic team beginning in 1946 up until his death in 2014. He was born in 1909 in Winchester, Ontario, where his father served as the pastor for a Wesleyan Methodist Church. Mr. Shea’s mother, the church organist, had a piano that came from England; and, seated in front of its keys, she became a sort of “human alarm clock” for the family, playing an E-flat chord and singing a song every morning.

When George Beverly Shea was twenty-one, he began working for the Mutual Insurance Company of New York, assisting medical examiners in obtaining information relating to the applicant’s health history. Among those who came into the office was Fred Allen, host of a coast-to-coast radio talent show. Learning that Mr. Shea enjoyed singing, Mr. Allen arranged an audition, and a few weeks later Mr. Shea found himself singing “Go Down Moses” to a nationwide audience on the National Broadcasting Company. Though he lost the contest to a yodeler, he received fifteen dollars (equivalent to $224 today) and a taste of widespread fame.

One Sunday shortly afterward, Mr. Shea sat down at his mother’s organ  to practice for the morning church service. His yes fell on a clipping she had left for him there, a poem written in 1922 by Mrs. Rhea F. Miller. As Mr. Shea read the words, they spoke to him about his own aims and ambitions in life. An appropriate melody came easily, practically composing itself.

When Mr. Shea’s mother came in from the kitchen, he played and sang it for her. Wrapping both arms around him, she placed a wet cheek against his. In church that morning, he sang “I’d Rather Have Jesus” publicly for the first time. It later became a sort of “signature song” expressing his own aims and ambitions in life.


I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; /  I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands. / I’d rather be led by His nail-pieced hand.

Refrain: Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; / I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame. / I’d rather be true to His holy name. Refrain

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; / He’s sweeter than honey from out of the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs. / I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead. Refrain


**In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus says to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold…

**Philippians 3:8 says, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame, I’d rather be true to His holy name …

**Philippians 1:21 reminds us: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead …


In an interview, Joni Eareckson Tada once said, “I really would rather have Jesus. I would rather have Him than be out of this wheelchair and on my feet not knowing Him.” That’s how satisfying Jesus is. That’s how gratifying being close to Him really is. Jesus is that satisfying. Being close to Him is better than any amount of not walking, especially if that walking could take you down a wrong road. You and I are intimately and intricately connected to our Christian brothers and sisters. Our attitudes can rub off on others. God can take our joy and infuse it into the hearts of others. When people see that we are
satisfied in Christ, it inspires them to do the same.

I charge you with this: Get your heart happy in God before you go out and meet other people. He is the God of joy and we are His ambassadors to weak and weary people all around us. Make it your fight to stay satisfied in Christ, no matter what. Prefer Jesus over all other things; choose Him above any other pleasures. Because when you do, you will be strengthening and uplifting and edifying the body of Christ like nothing else. Be happy in Jesus and people around you will never be quite the same.


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