This song has blessed people for hundreds of years. Please give it a sing-along listen and then come back for a chat on why this song is still able to help people grab a fresh perspective today.
The word “survey” still carries the same meaning today that it did in 1707 when Isaac Watts authored these lyrics. To “survey” is “to examine as to value, to appraise — to determine the form, extent and position — to view or consider comprehensively — to contemplate, study, scrutinize, explore”.
The “wondrous cross” was a unique altar used to offer the most valuable sacrifice ever given at any time, anywhere. It is where the Prince of glory died.
Isaac Watts surveyed — examined — that cross “as to value”. He contemplated the pain and sorrow Jesus Christ suffered and how it was mixed with amazing love. Watts concluded “my richest gain I count but loss. I pour contempt on all my pride. Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.”
These centuries-old lyrics are still blessing people because they take singers by the hand and gently remind them to let the love of Jesus calm the howling storms of this life.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
For us to survey the wondrous cross means that we contemplate — we think long, deeply and often — about what Jesus won for us. And we think about the price he paid to win it.
When we think about what Jesus did for us, many wonderful things happen. Here are a few:
- The problems in this life fall into proper perspective. As bad as things might seem, they dim when we compare them to how good our Savior is, and how large salvation is. That helps our patience and endurance.
- The blessings in this life take on greater significance as we give the Lord credit for them. That helps our energy and attitude.
- We honor the Lord for all He is, for all He has done and for all He will do. That helps us grow into being mature, powerful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For all kinds of good reasons we want to look to Jesus!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV]
Thumb perspective trick
Here is a quick exercise you can do to survey (to determine the form, extent and position of) any problem you are facing compared to the wondrous cross.
- Look at something nearby that is bigger than your thumbnail.
- Cover your left eye with your left hand and stretch your right arm out toward that thing, thumb pointing up, thumbnail centered on the object.
- Slowly pull your right hand thumbnail toward your right eye until your thumb completely hides that object.
- Notice your thumbnail now appears larger than that object.
Do this to remind yourself how easily you can make your thumb appear larger than an object. Now remember how big the problems are that were solved by the cross. Next, adjust how you are thinking about your problems accordingly — and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the Lord’s promise to help in times of trouble.
It is amazing how quickly and well our outlook on life can be lifted when we remember to survey the wondrous cross.
God bless you lots!
LYRICS – When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
Text: Issac Watts (1707)
Tune: Lowell Mason (1824)
1. When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
2. See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
3. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
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