Made to last (2)
I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever. Psalm 45.17
Culture for the moment
A primary characteristic of pop culture is that it is not intended to last. Pop culture is for the moment, designed to capture a fleeting mood, form, or fashion, exploit it as fully as possible, and then move on. Pop culture’s lists of “Top10” or “Top 100” are always changing, whether we’re talking about songs, movies, TV programs, celebrities, or favorites of any kind.
Pop culture is transient; only occasionally does some aspect of pop culture demonstrate staying-power beyond a generation or so. But then, pop culture is not intended to last. It is intended to make money for those who produce it, by making entertainment for those who consume it. The entertainment value of pop culture is fleeting, just like the money pop culture generates for those who create it.
We’re considering what it takes to produce, not a momentary achievement, but a classic – whether some work that endures for generations or a life that touches others in ways that continue for years to come. And we’re looking to the Scriptures to guide us in how we ought to think about this question, since they alone are sufficient to equip us for every good work.
Not by accident
This much seems certain: We’re not likely to make something that lasts simply by accident. If we want to make a lasting contribution of life and work, then we need to make up our minds that this is our intention.
The psalmists who penned Psalm 45 understood that well. Their intention in composing this song was that it should be available for generations to come as a resource for praising the Lord.
The writer of Hebrews drew from this psalm to extol the greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1.8; cf. Ps.45.6, 7). The vision conveyed to the Apostle John included this psalm’s image of Christ the Conqueror riding out to further His Kingdom on earth as in heaven (Rev. 6.2; cf. Ps. 45.4, 5). The much-loved hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus,” is based on verse 2 of this psalm. And today we draw from this psalm to understand how we, too, can make a lasting contribution to the Kingdom of God and Christ.
The sons of Korah must be deeply gratified to see their desire for this psalm so amply fulfilled.
If we want to make something that lasts, we must make up our minds to do so. And this means devoting whatever we do to the praise and honor of God – that He might be known, adored, and obeyed, and that His blessings might reach to others for generations to come.
We see this same intentionality in the prophet Asaph, as he spoke for his generation in Psalm 78.1-7: “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they might set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments…”
Asaph was reminding his own generation, which was beginning to drift from the Lord, of the legacy bequeathed to them by their forebears and, hence, of their own duty in keeping that legacy alive. In all his psalms (50, 73-83) Asaph strove to call Israel from its decline into decadence to revival and renewal in the redemption of the Lord. Writing during the years of King Solomon, Asaph was clearly distressed to see the many compromises David’s son introduced into the kingdom (1 Kgs. 11.1-13). In his psalms Asaph did not always write about things – especially the state of Jerusalem and the temple – as they appeared on the outside, but as he saw them with prophetic vision. His words of warning went unheeded in his own day.
However, many generations later, at a time of similar national decline, King Hezekiah led his people to revival and renewal using the psalms of Asaph as a way of seeking the favor of the Lord through praise (2 Chron. 29.30).
Working for lasting impact
We may not be inclined to write songs, create works of art, or build institutions. But the works we do each day, and the words we speak, can have a lasting impact on people for the praise and glory of God. Each of us can think back to things said or done by others which have been life-changing for us. Each of us has words and deeds to offer that can have a similar effect on others.
The more we intend our words and works to be of lasting value, and the more we devote them to the praise and honor of God, the greater is the likelihood they will endure beyond the fleeting moment in which we proffer them.
God is able to show us the works He wants us to do, works that can bring glory to His Name for the generations that follow us (Ps. 90.16, 17). He is able to give us words of grace that can refresh the souls of others, so that they are able to refresh others as well (Col. 4.6; Philem. 7; 2 Cor. 1.3, 4).
By bringing the words and works of each day before the Lord in prayer, and dedicating them there to His glory and the blessings of those we serve, we may expect our efforts to make a lasting impact on others for the love and glory of God, especially if we are able, in all our doing and speaking, to make our intentions known – our desire to bring honor to the Lord.
If we intend our words and works to have lasting value, we will unite them with the purposes of God, submit them to the power of God, devote them to the honor and glory of God, and pursue them with the servant-like love of God.
Such words and works cannot fail to convey the truth and love of God, and these are surely not fleeting commodities, but blessings of eternal value and enduring worth.
For reflection: Is it your practice to devote each day’s words and works to the Lord? How do you prepare for going into your Personal Mission Field each day? Read the article, “One Body, One Struggle,” and reflect on how you might take a more intentional approach to doing work that lasts for the Lord and His glory in all your everyday activities.
For action: Talk with some Christian friends about things people have said or done for them which have had a lasting impact on their lives. What can you learn from their experience about words and deeds that last?