In 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT) Paul writes to remind us of what will last forever:
“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
Most of us who are believers know that verse in one translation or another, but have you ever considered what that looks like or how those foundation stones are built or develop?
To gain a better understanding of the materials that go into building that foundation 1 Peter 1:25 (ESV) gives a significant clue:
“but the word of the Lord remains forever, And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”
So does Isaiah 40:8 (ESV) “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
Certainly faith, hope, and love are built in more than one way, from more than one source or experience, but undoubtedly God’s Word does more to point to, teach about, and show us these three attributes consistently than anything else. Perhaps that is because they are God’s reminders and lay a foundation from which our lives can build and grow.
If we neglect our physical bodies and fail to eat regularly and healthily, we grow weak and may become sick. If we neglect to ingest scripture regularly, the same happens in our spiritual lives. No matter how many great sermons we hear, no matter how grand our worship may be, and no matter how inspired our relationships aid us, I think what will last the longest will be the foundation of the Word.
That isn’t new news to most of us, but I was reminded of that this week when I visited a friend of nearly 45 years. She is 92 and lives in an assisted living facility. Her husband died eight years ago and her four grown children and their families are scattered across several states. She was formerly an elementary school teacher and also a Sunday School teacher.
She was waiting for me at the door when I arrived and kept a snappy pace with her walker as we went to her own apartment. Less than two years ago she had a hip replacement at an age most people could not have done one, but her health was good enough and the pain great enough that she chose to do so. She told me again on this visit how delighted she was to have made the choice because she has no pain now.
Before we even arrived at her apartment door, she looked at me and said, “I’m regressing.” She was talking about her memory and how often she now forgets things or cannot recall some things. She said it saddens her, but I reminded her that when I called to plan the visit she recognized my voice before I ever said my name.
As we visited and shared about how each of us is doing, a bit about children and grandchildren, there were times when she could not recall a name or some other piece of information. But throughout that conversation she often quoted scripture that fit the topic we were discussing. It flowed out of her without hesitation even though she did not always add the chapter or verse.
It was a powerful reminder to me of the foundation laid down in her life when she was a young girl. Scripture was something her parents had taught her and then encouraged her to pursue on her own as she learned to read and study. With the psalmist (Psalm 34:8) she had tasted and seen the Lord was good. Now, so many years later, she still holds to that truth. It has sustained her through each season of her life. The foundation was laid early and from it grew strong roots of faith, hope, and love.
Instrumental music of hymns and worship music surround her throughout her day from a playlist one of her sons has set up. Even that immerses her and brings to mind many favorite scriptures of hers.
It might be easy to say she is unique and of course she is, even as each of us is. But I believe what remains in us as age advances and health begins to fail is the spiritual foundation upon which our lives have been built.
My younger brother was mentally and physically handicapped as well as suffering from mental health issues before he died 17 years ago. He was difficult to care for a great deal of the time, but even then he could easily start singing verses of a hymn he recalled from childhood or finish a scripture that someone else might start to quote. He was quick to ask visitors to pray for him. Even in this vessel, the scriptural foundation was present when all else was crumbling.
Most parents will never see the mature fruit of this foundation they have the opportunity to build.
My friend’s parents have been gone for many years and mine died before my brother, but it is abundantly clear that what young parents invest results in a rich harvest.
The wisdom of Solomon is right:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)