Robert Jeffress - Leaving A Legacy That Lasts
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome, again, to Pathway to Victory. Each of us is given a fixed amount of time on this earth. Some people will get more time than others, but regardless of how long we live, the legacy we leave behind has the potential to influence generations to come. Today, as we conclude our series called "Choosing the Extraordinary Life", I want to challenge you to leverage your time and resources to make an eternal impact. My message is titled: "Leaving a Legacy that Lasts" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Last time we began looking at Elijah's seventh and final secret for living a significant and successful life. And that is this, successful people live their lives with the end in view. That is, they realize how short their time is here on earth and they're thinking about and preparing for leaving a legacy that lasts. The best use of our life is to spend it on something that will outlast it. And nobody illustrates that better than the central character of our study, the prophet Elijah.
Last time we said that to have a legacy that lasts involves three components. We have to embrace the right perspective of life, the right principle of life, secondly, and the right priority in life. Last time we began looking at the right perspective in life and we simply said people who leave a significant legacy realize that legacies aren't built on a single episode in your life or through that of success or failure. It's built over the long term. And that's why it's good, every now and then, to stop and look back at where you've been in life to see where you're going. Elijah did that on the final day of his life. He took his protege Elisha around with him and pointed out key places in his past where God taught him important lessons.
But secondly, and this is what we're gonna look at today, building a legacy that lasts means that we embrace the right principle for living. And the principle is this. God measures significance by faithfulness, not by success. Let me say it again. God measures significance by faithfulness, not by success. 1 Corinthians 4:2 says God requires of a steward that he or she be found what? Faithful. That's what God is looking for. Not success, he's looking for faithfulness.
Now to understand what faithfulness is, let's contrast it to success. Today, when we talk about success, successful people, we're thinking about results that are instantaneous and visible to everybody. By that measure, Elijah was a tremendous failure when you think about it. I mean, Elijah certainly was no overnight sensation. He spent years in hiding before people even knew who he was. And as far as visible results, yeah, he had that episode on Mount Carmel, the battle against the prophets of Baal and Asherah. And for a few moments he enjoyed success. It looked like there was gonna be a great national revival as a result of his efforts. But quickly, the Israelites, most of them, turned back to worshiping Baal. And within just a few generations after Elijah died, what happened? Israel was overrun by the Assyrians because of their ungodliness. They were taken captive and the few that remained ended up intermarrying with the foreigners that were in the land and became the Samaritans that the Jews hated.
So by worldly standards, Elijah wasn't a success, but in God's eyes, he was significant because he was faithful. Let me give you this definition of faithfulness because it's what God evaluates our lives by. Faithfulness means consistently following God's calling for your life and leaving the results to him. By that measure, Elijah was faithful. Yes, he had that episode in the cave when he went and hid from God's calling, but that was one episode. His life was an example of what Eugene Peterson calls a long obedience in the same direction. That's what faithfulness is. Moving forward in God's plan for your life in spite of the headwinds of opposition or little visible results. What does it mean to be faithful? Well to be faithful means being willing to sweat the small stuff in life. And by that, I mean doing the little things with excellence that God has called you to do.
Jesus said the same thing in Luke 16 verses 10 and 11. Remember his words? He said he who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much. And he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. If therefore you have been faithful in the use of unrighteous money, who will entrust true riches to you? Well what Jesus was saying is this. He was talking in the context of money. He said whatever money God has lent to you, because any money we have is just on loan to us from God. He said money is a test. God gives us money as a test to see how faithful we are. If we don't faithfully use that little thing called money, do you think God is gonna give us true riches to oversee one day in heaven?
What he was saying is the little things God gives us to do or to handle are a test to see whether or not we can handle the bigger responsibilities in life. And that's why we need to be faithful in doing those small things. Really there are two reasons we oughta do the small things in life with excellence. Reason number one, small things, when added together, become big things. You realize that? Small things, when they are added together, become big things. Did you know if a 22 year old begins the discipline of saving $100 a month, just $100 a month, by the time he's age 70, if he's earned an average rate of return, that $100 a month will have grown to almost two million dollars. And if he's put it in a Roth IRA, he will have that money tax free. Just $100 a month. No more than that, you'll have several million dollars.
Little things, when added together, become big things. That's the same way in other areas of life. Just 10 minutes a day reading God's word. 10 minutes a day talking to your Heavenly Father. 10 minutes a day sitting and listening to your mate. Those small activities will yield huge dividends in your spiritual life, in your relationship, over a long period of time. That's one reason to be faithful in small things. Small things, when added together, become big things. But there's a second reason for faithfulness in small things and that is God uses small assignments as tests for bigger assignments. God will use smaller assignments as tests for bigger assignments. We just saw Jesus saying how we handle the small things in life determines what we're gonna do in eternity. But sometimes how we handle the small assignments determine the assignments we're gonna gain in this life as well.
Elijah spent the last day of his life, Second Kings says, doing what he'd always been doing, faithfully fulfilling the assignment God had given him. Pouring into the life of his protege, Elisha. Going around to the significant sides and pouring in to the sons of the prophets that we'll talk about in just a few moments. Those who wanna live a life of significance, value faithfulness in small things until the moment God calls them home. Successful people, significant people, are people who understand the principle that God values faithfulness more than he does success.
Third and finally, successful people not only embrace the right perspective and the right principle, they also embrace the right priority in life. And that is people. Significant people build their lives around other people. Throughout this series on Elijah I've talked about one of my two mentors in life, Dr. Howard Hendricks from Dallas theological seminary, he's now in heaven. I asked him one time, prof, why did you give up being a pastor? He said it's simple. I got tired of referring who could and couldn't have a key to the church kitchen. And life's too short for that. I have a feeling there's another reason. He understood that the best way to have a legacy that lasts would be to influence the influencers. To teach and train preachers and when you look over his 40 plus years of teaching, some of the people who have come through his classes and all claimed him as a model of ministry, Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, Chuck Swindol, Bruce Wilkinson, there's no telling how many millions of lives were influenced because of prof Hendricks faithfulness in investing in people.
I don't know if prof ever read these words from Theodore Roosevelt's father, but these words of wisdom Roosevelt gave his son are worth remembering. He said all that gives me most pleasure in retrospect is being connected with other people. And evidence that we are not placed here to live exclusively for ourselves. Elijah understood that. And that's why it's significant that throughout his life, but especially on the last day of his life, 2 Kings 2 records it, that he spent those 24 hours investing in people. First of all, he encouraged other people. That's one way he poured into the lives of others, by encouraging them.
Turn over to 2 Kings 2 for just a moment. Remember when Elijah was having his pity party for himself and said I'm the only one left who's faithful, and God said basically get over yourself, Elijah, you're not the only one. There are 7000 in Israel who have not bended their knee toward Baal yet. Well among those 7000 who still had not succumb to idolatry, was a group of men known as the sons of the prophets. These were prophets in training, if you would. And they had seminaries, learning institutes, where they were being trained as prophets of Jehovah. One was located at Bethel and the other was located at Jericho. So it's no accident that when Elijah made his road trip, before he went to heaven on that last day, two of the four places he went were Bethel and Jericho. He went to the seminaries to have one final word with these would be and up and coming prophets.
Look at 2 Kings 2:3 then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, "Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from you over today"? "Yes, I know". And then in verse five when they came to Jericho, the sons of the prophets said the same thing. "Hey, Elisha, did you know today's the big day when Elijah's gonna be called up into heaven"? We have no idea how they knew that, but they knew it. And Elijah wanted to come as a guest lecturer for that day at both seminaries to share with those students.
When I was younger in ministry, I used to think that people were a means to an end. God had put people in my church to help me achieve the goals that we had. No, people are not the means to an end, they are the end. And the life that counts for eternity is one that is spent investing in the lives of people. And one way we do that is by encouraging the people God has put in our path. You know, the longer I live, the more I realize everybody needs encouragement. I remember our friend Jimmy Draper, I heard him say this years ago. He said, "be nice to everybody because everybody's having a hard time". Those are great words. Everybody needs to be encouraged.
And Elijah encouraged those sons of the prophets. But he not only encouraged other people, he mentored other people. And when we talk about having the right priority, people, we mean mentoring people. What is mentoring? It is pouring your life into the life of somebody else. Somebody that you identify, who you think is gonna make a significant impact on the world, to spend time with them, encouraging them but also training them, teaching them, the life lessons that you have learned throughout your life. We're all called to mentor, to pour our lives into other people.
What does it take to do that? Let me just give you three keys for effective mentoring. Because I believe God has placed somebody in your path, somebody with extraordinary potential who is worth the investment of your time. First of all, the mentor must take the initiative. Don't sit around waiting for somebody to ring your doorbell or call you or text you and say "hey, would you mentor me"? No, the mentor takes the initiative. That's exactly what Elijah did. After following God's direction, 1 Kings 19:19 says "Elijah went over to Elisha and threw his cloak across his shoulders and walked away". When you're looking for somebody to mentor, think about it, who has the potential to make a real significant impact for the Kingdom of God long after I'm gone? It may be a child, a grandchild. It may be somebody you work with. But God places those people in our paths, we need to take the initiative with them.
Secondly, the mentor must be available. Again, 1 Kings 19:21 says then Elisha went with Elijah as his assistant. Elijah was willing to spend time, to make time, to be available with Elisha. Now you may be thinking, "Well, you know, I just don't have time to do this. I've got too much responsibility at work or with my family or here at the church. I don't have some time to spend with some mentoree. How am I gonna do that"? Well just think about it. There are times you can carve out to have a casual conversation with somebody that you're trying to pour into. Take time to take somebody along with you. Maybe not go on a trip but you know, to run an errand, and talk to them about the things that matter. You'll make an impression upon them.
The mentor must be available. And thirdly, the mentor must serve as a model of godliness. No, people tend to forget what they hear but they rarely forget what they see. We don't know how much time Elisha and Elijah spent together but apparently it was enough time that Elisha learned a lot by watching Elijah in difficult circumstances.
You know, talking about Dr. Hendricks, probably the most important lesson he taught me was one he had no idea he was teaching me. In fact, he was asleep in another room when he was teaching me this lesson. Amy and I had gone with him and his wife jean to a speaking engagement in New Braunfels, Texas. In the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep, and so I got up and I got dressed and I went back down to the conference room where we had been earlier that evening. Of course it was empty. There was the lectern where Dr. Hendricks had been speaking from and oddly, his Bible was still on that lectern and he had left it there accidentally. And I thought maybe I'd find a verse or two that he had underlined or highlighted that might have something to say to me.
And when I opened that Bible, I'm telling you just about every verse of every page was underlined. Every margin on every page of the Bible had notes, handwritten notes on it. Passages had been color coded, different colors of ink. And at that moment, I understood the power behind his life. He was a man of one book, the Bible. And that was the secret for his power, his effectiveness, in ministry. If somebody were to open your Bible, if somebody were just to spend a day going around with you, what would they learn about your life? People long forget what we say, but they never forget what they see.
You know, in the spiritual realm, mentoring means pouring your life into somebody who will carry that baton of faith and in turn pour their life into somebody else who will in turn pour their lives into someone else. And that's what Paul had in mind in 2 Timothy 2:2 this is how the Christian message is to spread. He said the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these things to faithful, don't get hung up on the word men, it means people. Entrust these things to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.
Go back to 2 Kings 2:11. These final moments between Elijah, the mentor, and Elisha, verse 11, this is so thrilling. Then it came about, as they, Elisha and Elijah were going along and talking that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them and Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. And Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen"! And he saw Elijah no more. Then Elisha took hold of his own clothes and tore them into pieces and then he also took up the mantle, the cloak of Elijah, that fell from Elijah and he returned and he stood by the Bank of the Jordan.
I want you to think about Elijah for just a moment. Can you imagine that experience of being caught up in the whirlwind into heaven? I imagine Elijah, as he was caught up into heaven, had his eyes fixed on the glories that awaited him. But don't you think for just a moment he looked back down at the ground he was leaving? I think he did. And I imagine as he looked back down to the ground, he thought by God's grace, I have lived an extraordinary life. And by God's grace, I have left a legacy of faith and he's standing there, there he is right there, on the Banks of the Jordan river. If you come to the end of your life, and you find yourself being called up to meet the Lord in heaven and you're able to look back and say by God's grace I've lived a truly extraordinary life, and by his grace I've left a legacy of faith, and there he is, there she is, there they are, then you will have unlocked the secret for a successful, and more importantly, a significant life.