Robert Jeffress - Living With The End In Mind
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". We don't like to think about it much but the fact is we're all going to die someday. For some of us, death may be decades away. For others, the end is just around the corner. But regardless of how much time remains, the certainty of our death should impact the way we live every day. Today as we continue our study on the life of Elijah we'll discover that people who want to lead an extraordinary life live with the end in mind. We're looking at secret number seven for choosing the extraordinary life on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Many of you know both of my parents died at a relatively early age. In fact every year that I grow older, it seems younger and younger that they died. But it was interesting, both of them died within a few years of one another and they both almost had exactly the same circumstance that led to their deaths. They weren't feeling well, they went to the doctor, he ran some tests, decided to do some exploratory surgery on them. During the operation found they had inoperable cancer. He gave them each four months to live, and they died almost exactly to the date that the doctor predicted they would die.
But they also shared something else that was similar. Both my mom and dad went through a ritual the last few weeks of their life. They wanted to have one final goodbye to their family members and to their friends so they scheduled times to speak to them and then they had me take them on a tour, a road trip around Dallas and surrounding areas to some significant and important places in their lives. Both my mom and dad had me drive them to their favorite hamburger joint where we enjoyed one final meal together. They wanted to visit their childhood homes and so we drove there. They actually had me drive them to our family cemetery plot where they would be buried in a few weeks.
But at the top of the list, the places they wanted to visit, they wanted to visit places where they felt like they had made a lasting difference. And so my mom had me drive her to the high school where she had invested 30 years of her life, pouring her life into the lives of her students. Interestingly, my dad had me drive him to this church where he had joined first and then my mom and all of our family and this is one of the last places he wanted to come as well.
I've often thought if I got the news that I only had a few months to live what people would I wanna talk to? What would I say to them? What would I want them to remember? What sights would I go to visit where I felt like I had made an eternal difference? After I'm gone, where would I want my children and grandchildren to come and say, that's where dad, granddad made a lasting difference. What about you? If that time were to come for you, who would you wanna talk to? What would you say to them? Where could you point to and say you made a difference for eternity here? The fact is those people who want to live an extraordinary, significant life live their lives with one eye on the clock as it winds down to mark their departure date. And they keep the other eye on a calculator determining how to multiply their influence for the Kingdom of God. Simply put, significant people live their lives with the end in view.
One of the constant themes throughout scripture is death is inevitable for every one of us. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment". You are going to die, have you come to grips with that fact? You are going to die, you are not gonna live on this earth forever. We are all going to die and like my parents you may get advance warning of your death or it may come as a surprise to you. But it won't be a surprise to God. Do you know he has written down in indelible ink on his calendar the day, the hour of your death and nothing is going to change that. If you don't believe that, listen to what David said in Psalm 139:16. He said, "In thy book were all written, the days which were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them".
Before you drew your first breath, God wrote down on his calendar not only the day of your birth and the day of your death but he wrote down and scheduled all of the days in between those two events represented by that little dash between your birth date and your death date. All of your days are already written in God's book. And every second that passes moves you further and further to that date of your departure on God's calendar. What kind of legacy will you leave when that day comes? Lasting legacies are not built by spending countless hours scrolling through social media or in front of the glare of a television set. Lasting legacies aren't even built upon successful careers or great fortunes that you might amass. All of those things, 1 Corinthians 3:12 says will be nothing more than wood, hay, and straw in the final judgment of God. If somebody said the best use of our life right now is to spend it on something that will outlast it.
Today we've come to the final secret from Elijah's life for a significant and successful life. And that is significant people live their lives with the end in view. That is they're always thinking about the legacy they're going to leave behind. All of us are gonna leave a legacy behind. It may be a legacy of evil, it may be a legacy for good, it may be a legacy of making no difference whatsoever but if we're going to leave a lasting legacy for the Kingdom of God, it means we have to have the right perspective about life. Secondly, we have to utilize the right principle for living and thirdly, we have to embrace the right priority.
Today, we're going to talk about having the right perspective for a lasting legacy. And the perspective is simply this, your past is prologue to your future. If you wanna know what kind of legacy you're going to leave behind, just look at where you've already traveled in life. Legacies don't happen overnight. They're the cumulation, accumulation of many days and months and years, and if you wanna know what people are gonna remember about you, what legacy you're gonna live, take a moment and look at your past.
Did you know God was always encouraging the Israelites to stop and to look backwards at where they had been? To remind them that they weren't people who came from nowhere or no one, they had a past. In Isaiah 51:1 while the Israelites were in Babylon in captivity because of their disobedience, God encouraged his people to look back. He said, look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug. You didn't pop out of nowhere. Look at your past, he was saying. Later when the Israelites returned back to the land after their judgment, the people soon fell away from God. But there were a few godly Israelites who wanted to encourage the people to live godly lives and so these people encouraged the Israelites to make or to write down what they called a book of remembrance. It's found in Malachi 3:16.
It was interesting how Elijah spent the final day of his life. As we're gonna see today in 2 Kings 2, Elijah knew his time of departure had come so he took his protege, Elisha, on a trip. Not to their favorite hamburger joint but they went to several significant places in Elijah's life where Elijah learned some important lessons from God. These were not random places that Elijah went to. They were places that had deep, spiritual meaning both for Elijah and the Israelites. And I think they're representative of the things that we need to remind those we leave behind about regarding our life as well.
Notice the first place that Elijah took Elisha was a place called Gilgal. It was the place of beginning. Look at verse 1 of 2 Kings 2. And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Now according to Joshua 4:19, Gilgal was the first place that the Israelites camped out after they crossed the Jordan river into the Promised Land. And so Elijah wanted to go there to remind himself and Elisha that there was a spiritual beginning in our lives, a spiritual beginning in our nation and here it is. Is there a place or a time you can point to to those you leave behind and say, this is where, without a doubt, I trusted in Christ as my Savior and you can know for sure I'm in heaven because of that. We all need those Gilgals, those places of beginning.
Secondly, Elijah took Elisha to Bethel. This was a place of prayer. Look at verse 2. And Elijah said to Elisha, stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel. But Elisha said, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you. So they went down to Bethel. The name Bethel means house of God. And you remember this is the place where Abraham built a memorial. It was really a pile of rocks to God. It was a place he prayed, he sacrificed, after God made him the promise of being a great, great nation, Genesis 12:8, Bethel. It was a place of prayer, a place of communing with God. I'm sure as Elijah and Elisha walked down the streets of Bethel, they thought about not only Abraham's experience there, but I have to believe that Elijah probably told Elisha about the Bethels throughout Israel. Places, memorials, places of prayer where Elijah had poured out his heart to God. Part of our book of remembrance is being able to point out those Bethels, those places of prayer in our life.
The third sight that Elijah wanted to go before he was translated into heaven was to Jericho, which represented the place of battle. Look at verse 4 of 2 Kings 2. Elijah said to him, Elisha, please say here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho. But he said, as the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you. So they came to Jericho. Now you remember the significance of Jericho. Somebody had said that Jericho represented to the Israelites what Normandy represents to the Allied Forces. It was the place of conquest reclaiming battleground that had been forfeited to the enemy.
I think probably Elijah, as he talked to Elisha, not only recounted that story about Joshua to his young mentoree, but I think he probably also talked to Elisha quite honestly about his own Jerichos the own battles he had faced in his life. And I think part of the legacy you and I leave behind to our family, to our friends, is not to tell them everything but to tell them, honestly, some of the things we've struggled with, and honesty about those battles and how you overcame them with God's help. I think that's what Elijah did at Jericho, the place of battle.
And then finally he took Elisha to the Jordan river which represented the place of departure for Elijah. Look at verse 6. Then Elijah said to Elisha, please stay here for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan. And he said, as the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you. So the two of them went on. Now this is the place where God would catch Elijah up into the whirlwind and he would go to heaven. Let's look at the account of Elijah's departure beginning 2 Kings 2:8. And Elijah took his mantle. Now his mantle was not some big piece of wood or metal. It represented his cloak, an article of clothing. And Elijah took his mantle and folded it together, see, and struck the waters and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
Now it came about when they had crossed over that Elijah said to Elisha, ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you. And Elisha said, please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me. What was he asking for? He was referring to an Israelite inheritance law that said the firstborn should receive a double portion of the father's estate. Now Elisha didn't care about money but by asking for a double portion of God's spirit, he was saying, Elijah, I want to be your spiritual firstborn. I want to be your successor. That's what I'm asking for. And look at verse 10. And he said, you have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you: but if not, it shall not be so.
Now Elijah believed Elisha was to be his successor. God has said that. He had spent time training Elisha. But what he was saying to Elisha is, ultimately this is God's decision and the way you will know whether or not you are my successor is if you see me when I'm translated into heaven, then you will know you're the one to follow me. Verse 11, then it came about as they 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 Elisha saw Elijah no more.
Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces and then he took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him. As Elijah was being translated into heaven, his mantle, his cloak fell down. So Elisha took it up and he returned and he stood by the Bank of the Jordan and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and he struck the waters and said, where is the Lord, the God of Elijah? So he takes up this mantle, this cloak, and notice what he does with it. He struck the waters with it and they were divided here and there, and Elisha crossed over. That was a sign that in fact this mantle now belonged to Elisha and he would be the new prophet of God.
Now, this is what I want you to see. Preparing a legacy that lasts requires preparing those who we're going to leave behind. How do we prepare those we leave behind for our departure? Make sure, first of all, you can tell them with certainty you're going to a better place. Be sure you recount to them the circumstances that led to your trusting in Jesus as your Savior. That's the greatest legacy you can leave behind. Make sure you impress upon them what really matters in life. Only one life will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last. They'll remember that. They'll remember that. That is part of leaving a lasting legacy.
What lessons did Elijah leave for Elisha in those final moments he spent with him? Both by word and example, he impressed upon him two important principles that I want to leave you with today. Write these down. First of all, first of all, Elijah taught Elisha that God's power is not limited to a particular time or place. God's power is not limited to a particular time or place. Elijah was saying to Elisha, "Look, I'm about to go, but nothing of God is changing at all. The same God who protected me and empowered me is gonna do the same for you as well, and you can trust on him". The same thing is true for us today. The same God who was the God of Elijah and Elisha in 850 B.C. is the same God today in 2018.
Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. And even though 3000 years have elapsed since Elijah's life, in all of those years, God's power has not atrophied one iota. He as strong today as he was 3000 years ago. He's strong enough to take care of you, to watch out for you, to accomplish his purpose in your life. And that's why I say God's power is not limited to a particular time or a particular place.
Secondly, Elijah taught Elisha that God's power is not limited to a particular person. As we're gonna see next time, Elijah and Elisha weren't alone on this little trip down memory lane. There were some people, some prophets in real ease in the school of the prophets that we'll talk about who were following them around as well and they were at the Jordan and saw Elijah caught up into heaven. And look at verse 15, 2 Kings 2. Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw Elijah, they said, the spirit of Elijah now rests on Elisha. When they saw Elisha part the waters with that mantle that Elijah had left behind, they said, God is working through him just like he did through Elijah.
In Christian circles, we all get caught up in the cult of personality. We say, there'll never be another, and fill in the blank, whatever name you want to fill in there, a great Christian preacher, a great Christian leader. But as Chuck Swindoll says, when the man of God dies, nothing of God dies. God can work through anyone. Yes, God worked through Moses but he also worked through his successor, Joshua. Yes, God worked through David but also worked through his son, Solomon. Yes, God empowered Elijah but he also empowered Elisha. The same is true for you.
The best use of your life is to spend your life serving God, following him faithfully. But the time will come God will call you home and if you have prepared a successor, you have built a legacy that lasts, you have successfully passed on the baton of faith to your children, your grandchildren, to your friends, then the work of God goes on long after you have departed. To live your life with the end in view, to leave a legacy that lasts requires having the right perspective. But it also means utilizing the right principle for living and also embracing the right priority in living, both of which we're going to look at next time.