But some people know their last time, a few months to live. What places would you want to visit where you had made an eternal difference? Who would you want to see and talk with one last time? Those who want to live an extraordinary life realize that the best use of their finite time on earth is to spend it on those things that are infinite-that will outlast life on earth. Significant people spend their days with one eye on the clock, counting down to the day of their departure, and the other eye on the calculator, determining how to multiply their influence for the glory of God and the good of others.
Significant people live their lives with the end in view.
Death: Certain...and Soon
The one constant in human history is death. Heb 9:27 declared, "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." The Greek word for "appointment" means, "to be laid away" or "reserved." In the context, we could think of it like this: our lives are on layaway until death comes to claim them. And your time is coming.
You may get advance notice about the timing of your departure, or it may sneak up on you without warning. But make no mistake about it: God has already written on His calendar in indelible ink the date of your death. David declared, "In Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them" (Ps 139:16). Before you were born, God predetermined the day of your birth and the day of your death-and all the days represented by the tiny dash between those two milestone events. Every second that ticks away moves you closer and closer to the fixed time of your departure. What will you leave behind when the inevitable departure day arrives?
Lasting legacies are not made by squandering time on worthless pursuits-watching mindless television or scrolling through social media. From God's perspective, significant lives are not even built on the foundation of material wealth or vocational success, which in the end will be nothing more than "wood, hay, straw" (1Cor 3:12). Elijah left a solid legacy that continued long after he departed this world. Most of us tend to live in the present tense. But if we want a lasting legacy like Elijah's, then we must learn how to think in the future tense. Doing that requires embracing the right perspective, the right principle, and the right priority.
The Right Perspective: Take the Long View of Your Life
Most of us are addicted to instantaneous results. This is true whether we are building a house, a business, or a family. We want things to be done right every time. And we want it done right now.
The problem with this mind-set is that speedy often leads to sloppy. And sloppy does not make the kind of impact we want to make in life. Significance is not microwaveable. It is simmered and slow-cooked over a generation. It takes a lifetime to build a legacy. You obviously want to leave a positive legacy that outlasts you. To see how well your legacy is coming along, you need to look into your past-to see where you have traveled in life and determine if you need to make any course corrections while you still have time. And then you need to look into your future-to see if you have established a solid foundation others can build on.
Remembering Your Past will Prepare You for the Future
Every person is the lengthening shadow of his past. We all come from somewhere and from someone. And the people and place of our past help shape our present and our future. God knew this and often told the people of Israel to remember their past-that they were once slaves whom God had emancipated. He instructed them to build memorials as reminders of His faithfulness in the past so they might have confidence of His faithfulness in the past so they might have confidence of His faithfulness in the future.
While the Israelites were in bondage to the Babylonians, Isaiah encouraged them to recall God's promise to bless Abraham and his descendants: "Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug" (Isa 51:1). Later, after the Israelites were back in the promised land, they began to rebel against the Lord again. However, a groups of Jews who feared the Lord determined to maintain a righteous life in the midst of unrighteousness. One way they did this was to create a "book of remembrance," a journal recounting God's faithfulness, mercy, and grace in their past (Mal 3:16). Reflecting on their history and writing down God's past favors would give them confidence for the future.
When we come to the final day of Elijah's earthly life-a day Elijah knew was coming-we watch as Elijah takes his protege Elisha on a tour of spiritually significant places in the prophet's life and in the history of Israel. Elijah was leaving Elisha with a verbal book of remembrance-a map of where God showed Himself faithful to Elijah and to the nation. There was nothing random about these locations. Each represented a significant event in Israel's history and reminded Elijah of key moments in his relationship with God: Gilgal (the place of beginning), Bethel (the place of prayer), Jericho (the place of battle), the Jordan River (the place of departure). The Jordan was the place of Elijah's translation from earth to heaven.
Since Adam and Eve's rebellion in the Garden of Eden, every human being has experienced physical death-with two exceptions: Enoch (Gen 5:22-24) and Elijah. Enoch and Elijah stepped over the threshold of heaven without ever tasting of death. "As Elijah and Elisha were going along and talking, 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" (2Ki 2:11).
Instead of focusing on why God may have chosen to exempt Elijah from physical death, I want to center on how Elijah a godly legacy for the one he would leave behind: Of all the words Elijah had spoken to his protege, none would be more memorable than the prophecy made before Elijah was caught up into heaven, assuring Elisha that he, too, would experience the power of God's Spirit. Part of leaving an enduring legacy is preparing those closest to you for your inevitable departure from this life. Some say "When I'm gone, don't grieve for me. I will be in a better place." Others say "Be faithful in the ministry of God has given you...." Others say to their children, "Live God-centered lives." Foundational to leaving a legacy of significance is preparing those closest to you for your inevitable death. Paul said, "to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord" (2Cor 5:8).