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TELL YOUR STORY
Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.
PSALM 71:17–18 NIV
Everyone on earth has a story to tell. Whether you realize it or not, your story is an instrument by which you speak to the next generation. If you want to have a positive impact on a future generation, all you have to do is tell your story.
Psalm 71 is not attributed to a specific biblical author, but since it is connected to Psalm 70 (which is clearly designated as one of the Davidic psalms), it is believed that Psalm 71 was also written by David. In this psalm, King David prayed a plea to God for an opportunity to speak to the next generation so that he may declare God's power to them, thereby giving them a testimony of the Creator of the universe. David had been walking with the Lord for a long time when he penned this psalm, and as he walked, his story developed.
In beseeching God for the opportunity to speak and to declare His might to the next generation in Psalm 71, David is essentially saying, "Man, have I got an amazing story to tell!" That would actually be one of the understatements of history, because David's riveting testimony is a crucial part of the story of modern Israel.
In David's prayer for a transgenerational ministry through the story about the marvelous deeds he witnessed God perform throughout his life so far, three elements are highlighted: timing, teaching, and testimony.
THE TIMING OF THE TEXT
David speaks during the season of his life when he is older. We can't be sure about his exact age, but he's in the twilight season of his life. He's an old man. More mature. He's not a shepherd boy anymore. He's not the little kid going after the bear. No longer the boy who took on the lion. Not the teenager with the five smooth stones and the slingshot who took out Goliath. He's now a seasoned, elderly saint. Yet he sees and prays for more years and for more time. Lord, give me another shot!
One of the most magnificent stage dramas I have ever seen is Lin-Manuel Miranda's production of Hamilton. This award-winning show about the times and tensions of the birth of America is uniquely presented in the rap genre. Many thought it would flop. However, it has proven to be one of the most successful Broadway productions ever. One of the signature songs in the musical features Alexander Hamilton and the cast declaring their refusal to miss the historical opportunity at freedom and the formation of a new country. Hamilton declares he has a shot at changing the world, a shot at changing life in the new land. With amazing musical virtuosity, he and the cast refuse to lose the chance to make history. He will take his shot.
We're gonna rise up! Time to take a shot! We're gonna rise up! Time to take a shot!
David was a psalmist, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't a rapper. Yet, here in his prayer, he says, Lord, I still have time to take a shot! A shot at the next generation. A shot at up-and-coming kingdom leaders. Lord, give me another shot!
I am writing this book after recently celebrating my seventieth birthday. I don't know if David was older or younger than me when he penned Psalm 71, but both he and I would qualify for the "senior saints" category. When my wife and I were at dinner, celebrating my birthday, I said to her, "Wow! Seventy! That's a lot of years." And she said, "Seventy is just a number." Yeah ... a BIG number! I'm sure I'm in the ballpark of David.
David speaks this prayer from the interesting perspective of three points of view:
1. He looks back at where he was — that is, turf upon which he has already trodden.
2. He looks around to where he is, in the here and now.
3. He looks forward to where he is going, wherever God may take him in the future.
By these three perspectives, David is taking us on a journey, a brief synopsis, of his life. He begins with his own birth. "From birth, I have relied on you," he says. "You brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you" (v. 6 NIV). God, from birth You have had Your hand on me. One version says, "You are he who took me from my mother's womb" (ESV), which is akin to the process of a midwife delivering a child. David paints a picture of his birth as though God Himself were the one actually delivering him from his mother's womb. The implication is that David is alive and has survived all he has because God has had His hand on David all the days of his life.
In the culture of that time, premature births and deaths at birth were not at all unusual. Sometimes the mother died at the birth of her baby. And sometimes both mother and child perished in the process. Because deaths at birth were not unusual, David doesn't take his own birth lightly or for granted. He says to God, "You were there. You had Your hand on me since I came from my mother's womb." In other words, I'm not here by accident. This is a key concept. God had His hand on David from the very beginning of his life, from when God brought him forth from his mother's womb.
My generation (which, in colloquial terms, is called the "baby boomers") is like no generation before in the history of the world. It has set a high mark for abortions. Countless lives didn't make it through the womb and on to viable, sentient vibrancy during this generation. We will never know how many of those lives might have made it to maturation had their parents only been told about, grasped, and accepted testimony about a Savior who could bring them through any challenge had they only been told His story. Alas, the boomer generation, which has more abilities and modes and mediums and platforms to tell and to hear stories than any generation in history — the best stories, the most powerful and impactful lessons, stories with the power to change entire lives — isn't being told as they could be and should be told about the power of God to impact individual lives as well as entire generations.
A preacher friend of mine, whom God has used in a unique way to bless countless people, has an incredible story. When his mother was carrying him in her womb, she tried to abort him. But the abortion failed. So, she tried a second time. And that attempt was also unsuccessful. Her son is now a preacher of the gospel, and souls are being saved through him. His testimony, like David's, shows how God had His hand on his life. This man didn't have to be here on earth. He could have gone from the womb straight to heaven. But God had a plan and a purpose for his life. A killing was planned. A killing was thwarted, once. Thwarted again. Then, a life — a bountiful, vibrant, powerful life — came forth from that which was intended for death. And that man's life ushered countless people from another type of death — a spiritual, God-less living death — and into the best kind of life. Now that's a story! I was marked for death, but God said, "You shall not die; you shall live to tell your story!"
King David had a story too. His powerful testimony is that he made it all the way. He might not have made it, but God had His hand on David from when he was a strapping young kid, all the way through a powerful living testimony of his life, and right into a ripe old age. Just like God had His hand on my preacher friend. And David lived and grew and learned and experienced and accomplished and prospered. He made it.
Likewise, your testimony is that you didn't have to be here. But you are. Which means that your testimony goes all the way back to your birth, because you're not here by accident: you are on earth by divine design, placed here by a graceful God for a purpose.
David says, "From my birth, You have had Your hand on me, God." Then he says, "From my youth, my confidence has been in You." Youth. The teenage years. The crazy season. Years when nobody could tell you anything, because you knew everything. You knew it all. You were tha bomb, king of the hill, author of your own life, and the world was your oyster. And you made certain choices, many of which you later may have wished you had never made, because one day in your future you finally came to understand that those choices didn't represent who you really wanted to be. The legacy you had been weaving and the examples you had been setting for the next generation were not what you wanted to represent. And what got you through it all was exactly what got David through his crazy season too: God's grace alone.
David says, "From my youth" — my teenage years — "God has had His hand on me." He says, "In my youth I learned that You were my hope." Here's an interesting thought: the Hebrew word for hope is the same word for rope. David's testimony is that in his crazy years, he learned that God was his rope. Not so much that God was the rope and David held on to Him, but that God was the rope that held on to David.
Have you ever let go of the rope? Have you ever been so crazy or lost hope to the point that you tried to cut your own rope? David said when he was crazy enough to turn from God or let God go, he discovered that he could only go so far, because his life was wrapped up, tied up, tangled up, and tethered to God because of His rope of love. What assurance!
What has God's rope yanked you out of? He has yanked me out of nightclubs, out of the wrong building, out of the wrong place at the wrong time, out of the wrong relationship, and on and on. When was the last time you thanked God for His "rope-yanking" ministry in your life? We've all been there. Take a moment and think about where you would be if He hadn't tugged you out of who knows where you shouldn't have been, whether you were there accidentally or deliberately. What if He had not yanked you out of the last place you were in that could have caused some serious problems in your life? What if He had not dragged you out of the last relationship you were in? Where would you have been had it not been for the Lord on your side?
Thank God for the rope of hope that saves our crazy selves!
To paraphrase Psalm 71:17, David is saying, "Lord, when I was crazy in my youth, You held on to me." God already knew that, of course, but David has come to the realization that God is his rope, his tether, and he is now processing it through the psalm as he prays, "Lord, You held on to me even when I tried to let go of You in those crazy times of my youth. You loved me enough not to let go of me." David's testimony is based on knowing that from his youth, once he claimed God as his Lord and Master, God latched on to him and refused to let go. As David looks at where he is in his life at the time he writes Psalm 71, he tells God what he has learned, what "you have taught me, [Lord]" (v. 17 NIV).
Some versions begin the following verse 18 with the word now. Look at how one Bible version translates this verse: "And now that I am old and gray, don't forsake me" (TLB). David had just finished saying in verse 7: "My success — at which so many stand amazed — is because you are my mighty protector" (TLB). It's as if David is saying, "Now I am as a wonder. I was a little baby. I was a crazy teenager. But now I'm a wonder. Now they marvel at me. Now I'm a miracle." He says this because God is his protector. He says that when people look at him now and see his success, all the player-haters stand amazed at how far he has come. "They tried to count me out a long time ago," David declares. "They didn't realize God had His hand on me. My ordinary life became extraordinary because of the extra in God's power." David is saying, I'm a miracle thanks to God's holding power.
You may not realize it, but there's a miracle in your home, at your workplace, in your church pews. You're a miracle because God kept His hand on you. When people look at you, if they can't understand the success you have, it's because they don't realize what a miraculous story you have to tell.
According to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the word miracle means "an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs." When the devil tells you that you will never make it, tell him you're a miracle. God has done something in your life that no one can explain in the natural. If you've ever gone back home to visit and come across folks who thought you would never amount to anything or said you wouldn't do something significant with your life, you need to learn to look at them and say, "Well, look at me now" — not to brag about who you are, but to point out the fact that He who lives within you is greater than he who is out to get you.
You have those "nobody but God" spots in your life that amount to a powerful testimony and a miraculous story to tell the next generation. We all have some "nobody but God" stories. All we need to do is deliberately recall them. You have some seasons in your life that you can point back to and say, "God alone did that."
When God blesses you, He doesn't do it in secret. He prepares a table before you. He sends out an invitation to all the haters who said you would never be there. And when they see your success, they can't explain it. So just tell them, "Nobody but God." Declare God's marvelous deeds in your life. Tell your story — and give God the glory in the story. People will not merely look at you differently; they'll look at God in a whole new light. They'll want some of whatever He did for you.
THE TEACHING IN THE TEXT
When David says, "O God, you have taught me" (v. 17 NLT), the timing is a crossroad in his life when he is looking back at the already while standing in the now and poised on the threshold of the yet to come, and he remembers: God has taught me!
There are several implications suggested in the word taught. The form of the word here means "to cause to learn." This means if you had not been taught, you could not have learned. For example, even when I have taught someone through my lectures or sermons or talks, I never assume that the person actually learned what I intended them to learn. All I can confidently assume is that I did the teaching. But the learning part of the equation does not take place without the active involvement of the learner. It's a two-way street.
David learned. He says, "You have taught me," which means, I've learned some things in my life.
Interestingly, the word for teach is also the word used for the phrase to teach warfare. It is the same word that is used to teach soldiers how to go to battle. David is essentially saying that God taught him as he was maturing, and specifically taught him how to do battle with the enemy. David says, "I have learned how to fight him." I have learned how to go to war.
When I was growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois, at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, the people of God would often sing songs like "I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord" or "I Am on the Battlefield for My Lord." One of the popular songs in the Christian hymnody was "Onward, Christian Soldiers," marching as to war. What's interesting about saints who sing about being Christian soldiers in the army of the Lord on the battlefield for God is that so many saints freak out when they get shot at! Here's a news flash: it is the job description of the enemy to shoot at us Christians! By taking potshots at us, the enemy is merely doing what the enemy does: he tries to get us out of the battle, to sideline us, wound us, make us casualties of war, render us useless in the plan of God. In fact, his goal really isn't merely to wound or hurt you. He wants to take you out! He comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).
Here's a third dimension of being taught: experience. The verb form used means to cause to learn, teach to war, and to experience. This means that when you say, "Lord, You have taught me something," you are actually saying, God, You have allowed me to experience something.
God always has a reason for teaching us. For example, teaching is driven by a purpose or an intention, such as wanting someone to learn a particular lesson. Or teaching might not be specifically intended, such as when one is taught by an experience or observation (which essentially becomes the "teacher" of the lesson). The constant is that there is an action — the teaching — followed by a quid pro quo reaction, the learning. In other words, when God has taught you about His love, it means you have experienced His love, you have learned about His love (whether or not you are aware of it or acknowledge it).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Passing the Generation Blessing"
Copyright © 2018 Kenneth C. Ulmer.
Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword LL Cool J xi
Introduction M. Rutledge McCall xv
1 Tell Your Story 1
2 Pass the Baton 17
3 Talk God Talk 35
4 Toss Your Mantle 49
5 Learn to Listen 67
6 Pray for Them 85
7 Fight for Them 97
8 Go to War 115
9 Take Them to the Mountain 143
10 Take the Stage 157
11 Know Your Limitations 183
12 Tell God's Story 207