Where I wanted to go with last week’s post reminded me of something from a little series I wrote a decade ago entitled ‘Thoughts Inspired by Psalms’, my first attempt at a series of opinion pieces. The first piece was translated into Czech and published in the national newsletter of the Czech Salvation Army (looking back now, it is probably the weakest of them all and most in need of revision, I have learned a lot since then). This is the second:
Psalm 28: 3-5 (NLT)
3 Don’t drag me away with the wicked- with those who do evil-
those who speak friendly words to their neighbours while planning evil in their hearts.
4 Give them the punishment they so richly deserve!
Measure it out in proportion to their wickedness.
Pay them back for all their evil deeds!
Give them a taste of what they have done to others.
5 They care nothing for what the LORD has done or for what his hands have made.
So he will tear them down like old buildings, and they will never be rebuilt.
For those of you following the ice hockey world championships, you will know that they are being played in the Czech Republic (or were played there long ago in the now forgotten year of 2004, depending on when you read this :)) The brand new main stadium in Prague is right next to my old route to work. (it’s right next to my new route as well, but the new one is underground) I used to go past this old abandoned factory complex every working day. It was a wreck of a place, the crumbling brickwork all exposed, virtually every window broken, all the machinery inside worn out , rusted or long since moved elsewhere.
Then one day they started to knock it down. Day by day as I went past there was less of it standing until the whole site was flat and cleared of rubble. Then a huge hole was dug in the middle of this vast empty area, and massive foundations laid. I soon found out that this was going to be a magnificent new stadium, and various people waxed lyrical about how beautiful it would be, a great monument to the glory of the nation, a real project for the future. It really is magnificent, all shiny and new, no doubt serving it’s purpose very well for a long time to come (we plan on going there to watch a league match one day), but while it was being built I thought about the factory complex that was knocked down. It was built during the Communist regime, and new factories were always a great source of pride to the Communist authorities. An official saw the site and said (something like), “Let’s tear up the ground and lay massive foundations. We’ll build a great factory, a real project for the future that will bring glory to our great socialist nation.” A couple of years ago, an official looked at the site and said, “Those old crumbling buildings are no good to anyone. Let’s tear them down and build a great stadium, a real project for the future that will bring glory to our nation.” Who’s to say that in another sixty to eight years, someone won’t look at the site and say, “That old crumbling stadium is no good to anyone. Let’s tear it down and build…”
So working on great (or small) projects in this world can be very satisfying and beneficial, and the results can be very impressive, but in the long run, they’ll become just another ruin. The most important building work you can do it that which has eternal consequences, as in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NIV):
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
So be careful how you build, and what you pour your energy into, and, to get back to the original text, don’t worry about successful evil people. At the moment they may look powerful, magnificent and a force for the future, but inside they are crumbling away, and as it says in verse 5 above, one day God will look down on the site and say, “this old ruin of a man is no good to anyone. Let’s tear him down and build up a man after my own heart to replace him, with my Son as his mighty foundation. A man with a real future, a man for the glory of my kingdom.” Sometimes (not always) the one torn down and the one built up are the same person, only a new creation.
(feel free to replace ‘man’ with ‘woman’ in that last paragraph, I in no way intend for it to apply only to males)
So, continuing from last week, assuming you have taken up the offer, then comes the other aspect of Judgement Day, when the positive aspects of what we have done are revealed and rewarded, even those things that seemed so minor, we hardly even noticed ourselves doing them:
- Quite words of comfort and compassion that helped a hurting soul through a dark time in their lives.
- A kind act or gesture that gave a despairing heart a glimpse of the vast amount of light there still is in the world, no matter how often it goes ignored.
- A stand you took against a vicious bully that stopped him from doing further harm, perhaps even made him reconsider the direction his life was taking.
- A point you made that opened someone’s eyes and began them on a journey of seeking the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may make them.
- A prayer you prayed whose answer you never saw in this life.
- The legacy you left behind and the long-term impact it had.
I’m reminded of the Story of Sir Nicholas Winton, who is very well known in this country for his heroic efforts to get endangered children out of Nazi-controlled territory to safety in England just before World War Two broke out. However, when he went back to England as soon as the war broke out, he told no-one about his exploits, and no-one there knew about his heroism until an episode of the television show ‘That’s Life!’, broadcast in 1988.
I imagine the positive side of Judgement Day (as hinted at in the two parables in Matthew 25:14-46) will be something similar, only on a grander scale. Isn’t that something worth looking forward to?
Unless, of course, you don’t do anything of (ever)lasting value with your life…
Next in the series: The Joy of Mercy