I Once Was Hounded
Posted on May 12, 2020 by Catey Stover in Freedom Fighters
“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8 (NLT)
Many of you may not have heard of Francis Thompson but the former Indianapolis Colts head coach, Tony Dungy, did. It is in Tony’s devotional book, Uncommon Life, where he challenges his reader to check out a poem written by Thompson titled, “The Hound of Heaven.” It is eloquently written and it may take many reads to follow the flow but in its basic, the poem is centered on the pursuit of a sinner by a loving God.
Francis didn’t have a really good life. He was a devout Catholic who, when he quit his studies to become a priest and a physician, fell on financial hard times. He sold matches and borrowed paper to pursue a career as a writer. Thomas also had been addicted to a tincture of opium known as Laudanum he first was taking to relieve the Neuralgia he was suffering from. He would die a month short of 48th birthday from tuberculosis but not before writing a catalog of poems and proses that influenced a young J.R.R. Tolkien. Oh, and in 1988 it was also theorized that he may have been “Jack the Ripper” but you can look that up yourself.
In Thompson’s poem, “The Hound of Heaven”, the speaker explains that God took away the pleasure that led him in the wrong direction, “Rise, clasp My hand, and come!” Even though the speaker may have thought that the gloom he felt was nothing more than the shade casted by the hand of God, God tells him the happiness he sought by running away from God was following him all the time, “stored for thee at home.” I wonder if that was how the apostle Paul felt when he went from Saul to Paul?
To dig into what made Paul tick is quite a task but he will admit being a Hebrew of Hebrews. His training was under the supervision of Gamaliel, who was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin and was held in great esteem by all the Jews of that time period. And he also apparently enjoyed persecuting the church of God. It has been said he really wasn’t seeking to be a Rabbi but he took an active part in the stoning of Stephen, a fellow Jew who converted to Christianity. But then came this…
“As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:3-4)
From that very moment on, Paul’s life wasn’t his own anymore because God was gonna change his “to-do list” and He wanted Paul to see that the God he thought he was serving was actually in pursuit of him, even if Paul was openly defying His plans for His church. On the road to Damascus, Saul was finally run down by the Hound of Heaven. Paul kept running from village to village and Francis kept running to pursue the opium habit he had. Neither one never really knowing that Hound of Heaven was on their trail.
I too have had my moment with the Hound of Heaven. I ran around in the world looking for something that would bring me peace. But, just like playing with the toys in a devil’s playground, I grabbed the wrong thing and it consumed almost everything that I once was (and it wasn’t much to begin with). It took a bit to get me to settle but eventually, I came to understand this verse from the Book of James, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” (James 4:8) Divided loyalty was no way to live…so God stopped it.
How about you? Feeling hounded today? Maybe you’re at that point where your loyalty wavers and God wants to make that known to you. Straddling a fence maybe be a challenge to some but eventually, it’s gotta go from your “to-do list”. Not all of us need that Damascus Road moment to stop either, sometimes all you need to do is just stop and let God happen. Unfortunately, many of us knuckleheads require a sterner hand but at least our mighty God loves us enough to make it happen. I hope you get to be one of the fortunate.
In closing today, here are the ending verses to Thompson’s poem. May they encourage a stirring in your hearts…
“All which I took from thee I did but take, Not for thy harms, But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms. All which thy child’s mistake, Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: “Rise, clasp My hand, and come!” Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) has been married for 25+ years (Kathy), has a married son (Kevin) and a daughter in college (Karen). He has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Think About This: “The degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completeness of God’s victory over him.” — A.W. Tozer
This Week’s Verse to Memorize: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and [i]mammon.” –Matthew 6:24
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the doctrinal and theological views held by America’s Keswick.