This passage from Psalm 71 jumped out at me from the lectionary. My daughter-in-law Alice is expecting our first grandchild around December 5. This thought has been very much on my mind this fall, though I didn't have the right words to express it before:
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
(Psalm 71:17-18 ESV)
I don't really believe the writer of this psalm is all that concerned that God will forsake him. In fact, quite the opposite. Earlier in the poem he says, For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together and say, “God has forsaken him." But he immediately reminds himself, "I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more." 1 Peter 1:8-9 says, "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." Our hope rises against all reason because we have believed in one we will never see face to face in this life. And so, the psalmist is far more concerned with praising God and being a public witness for him than he is about saving his own skin. That is why he says, ""do not forsake me until I proclaim your might to another generation."
Many are saying we have passed out of "The Church Age," and that the corporate church as we've known it for generations has already died. And in truth, fully three quarters of our American churches are really just waiting to discover who will be the last person in the building, whose sad duty it will be to turn out the lights and lock the door. It would be a mistake, however, to think that just because the Evangelical Movement has died (and it has), that therefore personal evangelism -- one person sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with another in such a way that the Holy Spirit draws that person to a saving knowledge of Christ -- has also died.
When I was a young believer someone once said the church is always one generation away from extinction. The only way the Body of the living Christ continues is through reproduction. Paul puts it this way, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV) There are four generations represented here: Paul, Timothy, the people Timothy teaches, and the people those people teach. While my salvation is assured, my task will never be finished until I have taught the next generation to teach the next generation how to know Christ. For someone about to become a grandfather, this cuts very close to home indeed.
Tim and Alice: while it would be a great joy if your children came and asked me or Jama or Alice's parents how they could know the Savior, it would be a joy greater still -- an unspeakable blessing -- if they should ask YOU how to know Christ. I have no fear you won't communicate that to them, and this gives me great peace. I may or may not be around to see it, but my life with the Lord would be complete here on earth if I lived to see one of them proclaiming Christ.
My hope is in Christ. But my vision is that one day it will be said of all of my children (Tim, Beth, Alice, your children and your children's children) that the outcome of your lives will be that, "people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:29)
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.