Standing on Strong Shoulders

The inspiration behind the modern hymn ‘By Faith’.

Several years ago I turned to a wise and older friend for some much-needed advice. My friend humbly replied that while he didn’t have all the answers, he’d gladly offer his shoulders for me to stand on, so to speak, in order for me to gain perspective. He provided thoughtful counsel, and still does so on a regular basis.

Since then, the image of standing on someone’s shoulders often comes to mind, perhaps because of how rarely it seems to happen. Our culture is so fixed on chasing what’s most current that we often miss seeing how God has worked in past generations. We can learn, for example, from the incredible passion, conviction, priorities and art seen in the lives of the first hymn writers (while also realizing that even our newest ideas often can be traced to earlier origins). Creativity can take on new forms of expression and human insight can produce fresh fruit with each age, but none of us begin with a blank sheet of paper! We are in the middle of the story.

As God’s people, we need to lean on those who’ve gone before us.

Tonight we ate Mexican food with a pastor friend who shared how young members of his congregation are finding themselves in need of the older ones to demonstrate what it means to live and grow as men and women of God. As a young boy I observed my grandfather’s practice of arriving at church an hour before the service began to spend quiet time with the Lord in preparation for worship. Both examples demonstrate the impact one generation can have on the next. Scripture also reveals this:

“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving towards all he has made. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” Psalm 145:4, 13, 21

When I read this passage, I’m reminded that the praises and testimonies of one generation are to echo into the next. All ages serve and worship the same God, gather under the same gospel and add to the collective song that praises the faithfulness of God as each generation shares in his promises to us. We are part of something timeless, and the exercise of stretching our vision beyond ourselves leads us further down the road to an eternal perspective on all of life and our very reason for being.

In our own songwriting for the church, we often consider these questions:

  • Is there a musical vocabulary that might link generations and not separate them?
  • What thoughts were important to believers in the church from generations past?
  • Are the lyrics we sing expressing these overarching themes or dispelling both the challenge and relief that comes when considering the well-trodden path of faith?

These questions influenced the lyrics in “By Faith,” our song inspired by Hebrews chapter 11. We tried to tell the chapter’s overarching story and show how believers today are traveling on the same journey of faith as those throughout the ages who’ve walked before us. Our prayer is that our songs–and lives–will give something whole and bright to the those coming after us who are ready to take hold of it!

Watch a By Faith video, download sheetmusic and view other resources here


About gettymusic

Keith and Kristyn Getty have been at the forefront of the modern hymn movement over the past decade demonstrating the ability to successfully bridge the gap between the traditional and contemporary.
This entry was posted in By Faith, Hymns, Keith and Kristyn Getty and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Standing on Strong Shoulders

  1. Gloria Moses says:

    Rom.12:5- “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” What a powerful thought to realize that this is not just those currently here on earth, but all the saints throughout all time. We all belong to one another. Thank you, Keith and Kristyn, for your faithfulness in your vital function within the Body. Your music has ministered so profoundly to me personally. When *the race is finished and the work is done,* you’ll learn just how vast and how profound your impact was upon the entire Body. Thank you for your faith and your faithfulness.

  2. Megan says:

    A verse I love that goes hand and hand with this is Hebrews 13:7 that says ” Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
    and I’ve known that verse for years, but recently I kept reading in Hebrews 13 & found something incredible that I already knew, but never realized it in the light of the first verse, Hebrews 13: 8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
    So, because Jesus is the same He has always been, I CAN immitate the faith of those who have walked farther with Him than I have, because no matter how much “times have changed” Jesus hasn’t, He is good!

  3. marycathd says:

    Your modern hymns are unique in that they do just that–express timeless truths in timeless words and music. The impact, I’m sure, is beyond anything you can imagine, as God blesses and then multiplies the blessings for His glory. In the past year especially, God has used your music so powerfully in our lives to comfort and hold us to the course as we have forged through very deep waters. Your spirit of sharing your music for today’s church is also an open invitation to look at your hearts and see that you understand very clearly where your gifts came from and why God has so gifted you. Thank you for being faithful to Him in the ministry He has given you! I love the “Standing on Strong Shoulders” post! Beautiful!

  4. Dan Wilt says:


    Thanks for the gift of these rich words, and living insights. You are tending to vital gardens of faith as you walk this journey – you and Kristyn are a treasure among us.

    I look forward to our interview on Friday in Nashville. Peace and friendship to you.

  5. Pingback: Combing the Net – 8/25/2010 « Honey and Locusts

  6. Lyn Williams says:

    Keith and Kristyn, you two are a wonderful gift to the church. Our congregation in Melbourne, Australia love singing your songs. I personally have had many rich times of devotion in listening to your ‘Awaken the Dawn’ album and I am very grateful for how the singing of your songs and proclaiming the truths of the gospel have helped me through some challenging circumstances. This post about standing on the shoulders is a great reminder that each generation is part of God’s story and indeed we stand on the foundations of those who have gone before. God bless you both as inspire and minister to the Body of Christ across the world.

  7. Pingback: By Faith « East Nashville Rhythm

  8. lukesingapore says:

    Dear Keith and Kristyn,
    i’m a church pianist all the way from Singapore To me, your music is really a joy and encouragement, when i’m feeling down, or when my faith wavers, when i hear the beautiful songs of worship to our God, I feel a sense of warmth and invigoration. I pray that God sustain both of you (and your worship team), both physically and spiritually, and my church would be singing your songs often too 🙂

    Love, Luke

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