Morning Meditation, August 24, 2015
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2Timothy 4:6-7
My parents are still at the church I grew up in and the one they started 41 years ago. I was in that church last week for a funeral honoring our family’s friend Bill, a man who’d served as the Reston Bible Church mission’s director for nearly thirty years. He was sixty-one; The lives he touched are immeasurable.
The auditorium was packed with faces I’ve known since childhood. I can’t recall another time I’ve been in a room so thick with heritage. Sitting to my left were my favorite missionary couple who’d planted a church in Milan 31 years ago, the ones who brought me chocolate bars when I was a kid. I ran into a doctor and former elder who is now tending to his ailing wife with the same level of integrity with which he practiced medicine and church. Directly behind me sat a couple that planted a congregation in the next town over after meeting Christ at my parent’s church decades ago. Our family’s adopted uncle had flown up, his 81 year-old smile as contagious as the day he met the Lord, as the days he would take my sister and me to the ice cream parlor. My junior high youth leader was there, now with eight grown children of her own, still serving. The three year-olds I’d taught in Sunday school class when I was a sophomore are now twenty-somethings toting kids of their own, some biological and some from diverse parts of the world through adoption.
It was a sliver of heaven where the saints gathered and celebrated the only life worth living: one totally and completely sold out in service to the Lord. And it got me thinking about how a godly legacy starts, is sustained and secured. Because when I get to the end of my life, it’s all I will care about leaving.
Legacy begins with surrender
I’m not talking about our moment of salvation though this is vital to godly legacy. I’m talking about that time—or times—when we say to the Lord, You have me all the way. Not my way but your way. I’m ready to do what you ask and go where you take me. I’m in. In 2 Timothy Paul is writing near the end of his life, certainly remembering the moment he accepted God’s call to the Gentiles. Paul’s answering that call wasn’t what secured his salvation—that’s all God’s grace—but it is what began his legacy. Yesterday’s service made me want to forget being driven by temporal agendas or committed to fleeting successes. I want the Lord to pen my legacy and this comes at surrender.
Legacy is built over time
Paul uses the fitting metaphor of running a race because a race starts as quick as a gunshot but running that race takes endurance. And usually a lot of time. When I considered Bill’s life and the lives of those in that room I realized that all that heritage and ministry hadn’t happened over night. For some, legacy included lonely months on the mission field, estranged loved ones, sickness, persecution, strokes, even seasons marked with some pretty big sin—the kind the self-righteous like to point out—all dotting the pathway, but ultimately, everyone I know in that room is still running. They’re in the race. They haven’t given up.They’re on their way to finishing. They’re fighting that fight (because dear sisters, we’re in a fight). Every day they make a hundred choices for God, whether it be the sacrifice of prayer, the discipline of being in the Word, taking the extra minute to throw the football with their kids at the bus stop, forgiving an offense, and in so doing, one step at a time, their gait continues toward the finish line. None of us gets to helicopter in.
Legacy lasts for eternity
As I glanced at the faces around the room, baby’s flesh to grey heads, so many stories I knew intimately, immeasurable reaches of ministry along with some breathtaking blows, I saw a whole bunch of people saved by grace who’ve given their lives to tell others about that grace and disciple them in the ways of Jesus. When these saints go Home, when I go Home, when we’re all with Jesus, the legacy God’s scripted with our lives will still be at work. As Bill’s four children so richly stated, “We would not be followers of Jesus without our Mom and Dad, and our Mom and Dad would never have made it if not for knowing Christ.” Bill’s legacy will live on in his family and also in the countless lives he’s served, because what we do for Christ is eternal.
Sitting in that service reminded me that absolutely no agenda I’m holding onto can possibly rival the story God desires to write with a life fully surrendered to His purposes. I was encouraged to persevere because legacy doesn’t happen in an instant; Paul’s race boasted sufferings and triumphs and every mundane thing in between, but after a long earthly while, a legacy was built. His race was completed a step at a time, and so is ours. And after we finish our race God preserves the work. Godly legacy begins with surrender, is built over time and lasts for eternity.
Thank you Bill for inspiring us to live all-out for Christ. We do not trust in our ability to run this race, but we trust in the One who’s called us to it.