Read the story and listen to the song below.
“Sinner Saved by Grace“
The Story Behind the Song
by Gloria Gaither
One of the many joys of our work is traveling with and coming to know and love some wonderful people. Bill says we “collect characters,” and he is right. Artists are a breed all to themselves. We love them! They seem to be wired with their sensors closer to the surface than other human beings. They not only experience what happens to them, they feel what happens to other people too.
Most of us, when we hear a great song or read great writing, say to ourselves, Why, I could have written that! Great artists make us feel that way. We experience what artists do; they just “tune in” and are able to express for us what we all feel and know to be true.
Artists—singers, painters, writers, communicators—are often an odd blend of the hermit (quiet lover of solitude) and the communal animal (who thrives on being with others). Artists get in heated discussions of deep philosophical or theological concepts. They are great storytellers and laugh at their own jokes. They cry more, laugh more, and sometimes withdraw more than most people. They swallow life in great gulps, then distill the pain and glory to three verses and a chorus or a play or a scene for a novel.
One of the characters Bill and I collected was George Younce. George was not only one of the greatest bass singers who ever slid to a low note, but he was also a great storyteller and a very funny man. Whenever we shared the stage with the Cathedral Quartet, you could be sure there would be hearty laughter coming from the greenroom backstage, where the singers gather before, during, and after a concert to eat snacks, drink coffee, and tell stories of the road.
George told his stories with more humor than anyone we knew. When George told them, even old stories we all knew by heart doubled us over with laughter.
Like most artists, George could be just as serious as he was funny. No one loved the stories of Jesus any better than George; nor do I know anyone who was more likely to be moved by a great song or a sincere compliment from an innocent child. George loved his Lord and he loved his family. He treasured his friends.
He loved to tell and retell the story of how God found him and changed his life. It’s the story of a country boy from Mississippi who lied about his age, and, in 1947, left his Christian home to join the paratroops. George told what happened like this:
Unfortunately I got in with the wrong crowd, and a boy named Mousey Gonzales introduced me to my first “left-handed cigarette”—marijuana. I worked special duty as a bartender for the HCO and Officers’ Club. Not only did I mix and serve drinks, I’d also sing country songs for the officers. This was not a very healthy atmosphere for a young, green country boy who had strayed from his upbringing and from the Lord. What was supposed to be only three months of special duty turned into three years of bartending and a longer struggle with alcohol.
After George finished his tour of duty in the service, he went to Alaska, looking for adventure. But after only a few months, he returned home. He said, “I was restless and searching when one night the Lord spoke to my heart, and I realized there was no hope for me without Jesus. I got down on my knees and rededicated my life to Him, and I’ve never looked back.”
With that commitment George let God do a work that changed everything. “He’s blessed me beyond belief!” George would tell you as he recited the beauty God had poured into his life down through the years: a family who loved God, friends all over the country who were like family, and an opportunity to travel and sing of his Redeemer for almost forty years with Glenn Payne and the other men who made up the Cathedrals.
One night after a concert that had been especially anointed by the Spirit of the Lord, George said, “The Cathedrals are going back into the studio to record soon. I’d love it if you two would write me a song. You know my story; I’m just an old sinner saved by grace.” Bill and I felt honored that he asked, and we did put George’s story in a song, “Sinner Saved by Grace.”
If you were to have asked George—even after all of the awards he’d received, the recordings he’d made, the acclaim that had been showered on him—he would have told you he owed all he was or ever would be to a loving Father whose love would not let him go. “No wonder this song is very special to me,” George often told us. “The first verse expresses what is in my heart, for it was truly a ‘miracle of love’ that ‘made me what I am today—just a sinner, saved by grace!’ I owe everything to Jesus.”
Once the song was finished and recorded, we realized it was our story too, and the story of hundreds of folks across the country who have since written to us or the Cathedrals to say, “You must have written that song just for me.” Though the details may differ from story to story, we all are sinners—saved only by the wonderful grace of God.
Sinner Saved by Grace
If you could see what I once was—
If you could go with me
Back to where I started from,
Then I know you would see
The miracle of love that took
Me in its sweet embrace
And made me what I am today—
A sinner saved by grace.
How could I boast of anything
I’ve ever seen or done?
How could I dare to claim as mine
The vict’ries God has won?
Where would I be, had God not brought me
Gently to this place?
I’m here to say I’m nothing but
A sinner saved by grace.
I’m just a sinner saved by grace
When I stood condemned to death,
He took my place
Now I grow and breathe in freedom
with each breath of life I take;
I’m loved and forgiven—
Back with the living—
I’m just a sinner saved by grace.
Lyric: Gloria Gaither
Music: William J. Gaither and Mitch Humphries
Copyright © 1986 by Gaither Music Company and Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc.). All rights reserved.
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