Must I go, and empty-handed

“Must I go, and empty-handed,”
Thus my dear Redeemer meet?
Not one day of service give Him,
Lay no trophy at His feet?
  “Must I go, and empty-handed?”
  Must I meet my Savior so?
Not one soul with which to greet Him:
    Must I empty-handed go?
Not at death I shrink nor falter,
For my Savior saves me now;
But to meet Him empty-handed,
Thought of that now clouds my brow.
O the years in sinning wasted;
Could I but recall them now,
I would give them to my Savior,
To His will I’d gladly bow.
O ye saints, arouse, be earnest,
Up and work while yet ’tis day;
Ere the night of death o’ertake thee,
Strive for souls while still you may.
Ken Adibe Nwafor

Abakaliki, Ebonyi, Nigeria

This song has touched my life so many times especially each when I reflect on the circumstance under which this song was composed. A sick man who was confirmed by medical doctors that he was to die in a couple of hours; and on that sick bed awaiting death, an evangelist came and preached the word of God to him and he gave his life to Christ, but it was too late for him to render services to God because he was just at the gate of death. Out of his regrets and remorse he wept 'must I go an empty handed, not one day of service to give my saviour'. The good thing however is that he did not eventually go empty handed because this his song has led to winning of many souls for Christ. The question is rather for you and I 'must you, must I go an empty handed'? Let's talk about this when we meet by and by.

Chinedu Sunday

Aba, Abia, Nigeria

This hymn moves my nerves to the work of soul winning! I need great passion for souls.

Victor Chinecherem Umah

Port Harcourt, River, Nigeria

This song must I go and empty handed, is a touching song that can melt a Stony heart, it moved me for personal evangelism because it reminds me of eternity, a day will come when we shall meet our savior, are we going to meet him with nothing.

Every believer must know that a day of judgement is coming, it could come now unannounced, what will be our report to our creator? May God help us to meet Him prepared Amen.

Nath Isiodu

Upper Darby, PA, United States

This wonderful song on evangelism deeply touched me and the entire Church emotionally as I preached on personal evangelism. I sang this song for almost two hours in tears before the service commenced. Ruminate over the wordings! Yes a crown of fruitfulness await us in Heaven as we greet the Master with the souls we won here. I pray you never go to Heave barren. we have every opportunity to embark on personal which is the easiest and simplest way of winning souls these days.

Joy Onyekachi Nowobodo

Abuja, FCT, Nigeria

Must I go, and empty-handed, reminds me of life after death, may we not go back to Him with an empty hand, and may He gives us the grace to win souls for kingdom in JESUS NAME.

Rev. Samuel Ehimen

Austin, TX, United States

Whenever I preached on evangelism, this is the song I sing with the Church. I always shed tears. The song is very touching. I pray all that sing this song will go out for soul winning. You will not have rest until you win souls for the Master Jesus, amen.

If Jesus tarries His coming, we shall meet again.

Jesus is the answer to your problems, amen.


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

I love how the piano is played in this site. I wish I could somehow download every song here.


Portharcaunt, Rivers, Nigeria

The song, must I go an emty handed, is a song of remenbarce for you to know, born into this world was not just coming, but you are on a message to believe and return to he who Send you. Each time I remember this song, oh brothers and sister, I feel sad and bitter.

Adefi, Adegbola Tolu

Ile Ife, Osun/Nigeria, Nigeria

I learnt this song while in High School back in the 1990s. The story behind its composition was narrated to us then. This morning, I am slated for a Gideon International message in a local church in Ipetumode near Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria. I am motivated to use the story behind the song and the words of the hymn to encourage the congregation to give their service to Christ while they still may. I had to refresh my memory of the story behind the song and I searched for it. Incidentally, I came across this comment section and decided to drop this comment. Let us all give of our best and serve our Lord while we still may.

Chika Nwogwugwu

New Rochelle, New York, United States

This is one of those songs that make me wonder the type of inspiration the composers have. I thank God immensely for these composers who have touched our darkened hearts with His love. And may you as the song says, "strive for souls while still you may".

Once there was a young girl who fell into sin and contracted tuberculosis. She was dying in the hospital. An old servant of the Lord preached the gospel to her, telling her that the Lord Jesus had borne all her sin and persuading her to confess her sins, repent, and accept Jesus as her Savior. At first this girl resisted. She wondered how the Lord could forgive a sinner like herself. However, after she accepted the Lord, she was saved and became very happy, and peace filled her heart. After a few days, this old servant went to see her again. He was surprised to find her with a very sad face and very sorrowful. The servant asked her, "Why? Do not let Satan cheat you." She said, "No, I know that my sins have been forgiven." "Then why are you so sorrowful?" She answered sadly, "My years and days are almost finished. I am lying here, and I am about to die. When I stand in front of the Lord, the Lord may reckon me as saved. But what do I have to bring to Him? I can only tell the Lord that I have come empty-handed! How can I face my Lord with empty hands?" Truly, if the Lord takes you today, what do you have to bring to Him? Have you ever saved a soul? That is why this sister was very sad. The old servant said to her, "Sister, do not worry. I will take what you have just said and will write a song right next to your bed to encourage others to preach the gospel. In this way, all those who preach the gospel and save souls because of this song will share their rewards with you." He wrote the now well-known song: "Must I go, and empty-handed, /Thus my dear Redeemer meet?" Because of this song, many were touched to go out to preach the gospel. That is what the Lord means when He says, "I will restore to you the years/That the swarming locust has eaten, /The licking locust and the consuming locust and the cutting locust." Therefore, let us testify for Him today, serve Him, and recover the zeal which was in the beginning.

We must remember that one day we will all stand before the Lord. How will we give an account of ourselves, if our hands are empty? Hymns, #930 says, "'Must I go and empty-handed,' / Thus my dear Redeemer meet? / Not one day of service give Him, / Lay no trophy at His feet?" This hymn gives a vivid description of how pricked our hearts should feel. We should not wait for others to ask whether our friends and relatives are saved. I am afraid that when God asks us, even the angels will condemn us. This understanding will change our living. In the past we had our friends and relatives over for dinner and politely laughed and conversed with them, but we never preached the gospel to them. How can we repay our debt of the gospel to them?

The story behind the writing of this hymn is very touching. A number of years ago, a certain saint was dying and was full of regret for not having brought anyone to the Lord. A servant of the Lord told this saint that he would write a hymn that would help others in the coming years to rise up to take the time while they are still living to save sinners. The matter of saving sinners is something which all of us need to seriously consider. If we were to go to meet the Lord this very day, what would our condition be related to this matter?

This hymn was written long ago in America by Charles C. Luther. It was translated into Chinese at an early date and was widely sung among Chinese Christians. The story behind this hymn concerns an American sister who lived an ordinary Christian life. While she was on her deathbed, she suddenly felt that she had failed the Lord and was ashamed to meet Him because she had not led one person to Him in her lifetime. Therefore, she was exceedingly sorrowful. Her pastor, who was Charles C. Luther, not knowing how to comfort her, wrote this hymn to express her sentiments. When I was young, every time I attended a gospel revival meeting, we would sing this hymn. The tune can easily arouse one's spirit. Even though the original Chinese translation was poor, each time after we sang the hymn, there would always be people walking up to the front in tears and consecrating themselves for the gospel.

Later when I was compiling our hymnal, I spent much time considering whether this particular hymn is suitable to be included. Because our emphasis has always been on such high topics as the Spirit, life, Christ, and the church, I felt that the content and thought of this hymn were rather ordinary and therefore did not deserve to be included. However, because I had obtained a deep impression from this hymn, I truly liked it and could not forget it. Moreover, there is something special about the tune that can easily stir up the believer's spirit for gospel preaching. Therefore, I decided to do my best to improve the translation and to include it in the hymnal.

This hymn says that when a believer dies and goes to meet the Lord, he should not be empty-handed but should offer some trophies to Him. We preach the gospel not in fear of death but because we do not want to meet the Lord empty-handed. That we are saved is not a problem, but we still need to live an overcoming life that we may have trophies to offer to the Lord. Paul said that the believers whom he led to salvation were his hope, joy, and crown of boasting before the Lord (1 Thes. 2:19-20). If when you meet the Lord, you see that everyone else is bringing a herd of lambs and you alone are empty-handed, you will feel sad and ashamed. However, if you also bring with you a good number of lambs, your feeling and joy will be indescribable.

According to this hymn, while we believers are alive, it is day, and when we die, we enter into the dark night, that is, the night of death (stanza 4). We must work while it is day, for when night comes, no one can work (John 9:4). Therefore, while it is still day, before the night falls, we should work actively to save many souls that we may bring with us to offer to the Lord. Although the spiritual meaning of this hymn is not very deep, it has its value in practicality.