This past Sunday, my pastor (and father) preached a message about leaving a life of legacy. He spoke from 2 Kings 13. The basis of his message was about how that, after Elisha’s death, there was a man that was being buried at the time that a group of raiders would come to town in the spring. 2 Kings 13:21 says, “Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.” During part of his message, he said “The way that you live now, long after you’re dead and gone, can bring life to people who experience your influence, because of the way that you live.” The way that Elisha lived for and trusted God affected this dead man. That’s a life of legacy.
I think that, if we are all really honest, no matter what you do for a living you want to make an impact. You want people to remember you. There’s something inside of you that drives you to do better, be better, try harder (in certain areas of your life), to make a difference, volunteer for a cause and even challenges you to give up your hard earned money to make a difference in other people. I think the same could be said of those people who carry out mass shootings of innocent people. They want people to remember them. The 2 boys, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who gunned down and killed 13 people and wounded 24 others in Columbine, Colorado in April of 1999 wanted to be remembered for something. Unfortunately for them, most people don’t remember their names. In fact, I remember Cassie Bernall, one of the students who was gunned down, because she said “yes”. I learned about Cassie a few weeks after the shooting in 1999 as the girl who was asked about her faith in God by Eric Harris as he had a gun to her head. When she simply answered “yes”, he pulled the trigger. I remember Cassie. I had to Google search who the shooters were. For me, she will be remembered for what she did and the way that she, in a moment of life or death, stood up for what she believed in and said “yes”.
How will you be remembered? Will you be known as the person who worked hard and always made it to work early and stayed late? Will you be remembered as the mom who kept the house clean and made some awesome meals? Will you be remembered for how much money you have (or don’t have)? Will you be remembered for the hours that you volunteered at church, the food bank, the hospital or the homeless shelter? Does that thought ever cross your mind? What will people say of you at your funeral….. or years after? This thought has lived deep in my mind for a few years now. I think that Satan loves to bring this up and try to make me believe that what I have done was for nothing. I believe that he thinks that if he says it enough that I’ll buy into it and believe the lies that he speaks. Unfortunately, many people do. Many people buy into the lies and end their lives because of what he says.
I believe that many pastors hear the lie and leave the ministry because they think that they’re not making a difference. Recently, I have thought about the 15 years that I spent in youth ministry. I am friends on social media with many of the students that I had the opportunity to pastor. Many of them are not living a life that would reflect what I saw God do in their lives when they were in church or youth ministry I was leading. I have seen student who literally brought in a pack of Marlboro Black cigarets during an all-nighter, laid them on the altar, prayed that God would take the desire away, asked for forgiveness and walked away a different kid that night. That student isn’t living a life that would reflect that decision. I have seen others who have found Christ during a service, camp, retreat or other event who was truly a different person in the days, weeks and months following that moment and they are not living a life that would reflect that time. Honestly, it makes me wonder what kind of difference I’m making. However, if I get too focused on a handful (or more) of the kids who aren’t living a life that reflects Christ, I will overlook the ones who have accepted a call to full time ministry and are making a difference in many other people’s lives. I think of Mandy who is leading worship in a church in Texas as an ordained elder in the church of the Nazarene. Or, Brennan who is an employee of a major insurance company and still serves others on missions trips and at youth group in his local church. I also think of other students who are making an impact in school systems, the corporate world and even stay-at-home moms doing their best to care and provide for their families.
But the thought still remains; how will I be remembered? Will it be what I said or how I lived? What I earned or what I gave? Where I worked or how I sacrificed? I think there comes a time in a persons life that they realize that the stuff does’t matter. It’s not about how much we can acquire, gain or earn. We won’t be remembered for that. I have been to a lot of funerals in my life. Never once has any family member ever been proud to stand up in front of their family and the crowed of friends of the deceased and bragged about the cars, money or possessions they had. They may mention those things but that’s not how they are remembered. Many times the deceased is remembered for what they did and how a moment in time made such a difference to them. How they took time to make a phone call, go out of their way to help or even sacrificed time and resources for the betterment of others.
For me, the idea of Restoration Farm is not something that will really ever gain me and my family any wealth. There’s no money in it. Actually, if I pitched this idea to a bank to get a loan, they would probably laugh me right out the front door! “So, what you’re saying Mr. Dennis is that you want to build small homes for pastors and their families to come, stay, relax for several days and not earn any money from them?!?!” (Insert mocking laughter here.) For us, it’s about leaving a legacy. It’s about the call to minister to a select few who are on the front lines, fighting to make an impact in souls for eternity. We want those people to be and do their best where God has them!
So, how will we do it? How will we make this kind of impact? How will we live a life that leaves a legacy? By being faithfully obedient. That’s all we know how to do. We know that being obedient goes against the grain in today’s society. Today, people, media and commercials scream, “Get up, go, take what’s yours!” No one out there is saying, “Be obedient.” “Listen to what God is saying.” “Follow Him.” “He will provide the way, you just need to follow.” Living a life of legacy is countercultural and so is following Jesus.
Lord, today I want to live a life worthy of the legacy you’re calling us to. I don’t know how it will all come about. I don’t know what it will look like exactly. But, what I do know is that when I am faithfully obedient to you, you will open doors that are physically impossible in man’s eyes. Help us to live in such a way that is obedient to your call and makes a huge impact in the lives and souls of many. Amen.