Living a life marked by significance requires the right perspective: taking the long view of life. Significant people also embrace the right principle: long-term faithfulness is more valuable than immediate, visible success. Finally, Elijah's life illustrates the importance of focusing on the right priority in life. Elijah understood that the way to influence the world is by influencing people. Those who want to live significant lives grasp the futility of building their lives around things like money, homes, positions, or achievements, because they are ultimately lost, stolen, destroyed, or diminished in value. However, people-both Christians and non-Christians-have a shelf life of "forever." Those who have trusted in Christ will exist forever in heaven, while those who have rejected God's offer of forgiveness will exist forever in hell. People who live life with the end in view understand that their best chance for making an impact on the world is to invest in the lives of people-lives that will go on and on and on.
Elijah spent his final day on earth with the people who would carry on his legacy-Elisha and the sons of the prophets. But Elijah did more than just hang out with these men. He used his limited time intentionally: encouraging them and mentoring them.
Let's talk about the leaving spiritual legacy.
Spend Your Life Encouraging Others
When Billy Graham was asked whether one person's courageous acts could inspire others to be courageous, he said, "Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened." This was certainly true during the days of Elijah. Even though Obadiah hid one hundred prophets in caves and the Lord preserved seven thousand who did not bow to Baal, Elijah often described himself as a long prophet. But no prophet who is bold and uncompromising remains alone for long. In time, Elijah's courage encouraged others-especially on the last day of his life.
Among the 7,000 Israelites who did not worship Baal was a group of future leaders known as the "sons of the prophets" (2Ki 2:3, 5, 7). As least two seminaries were formed to train these would be prophets: one at Bethel and one at Jericho. The curriculum must have been outstanding, since these students knew that Elijah's final day had come. At both campuses, the sons of the prophets asked Elisha, "Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?" (vv.3.5). "Yes, I know," was Elisha's reply.
We have already seen that God commanded Elijah to cross over the Jordan River, where the whirlwind whooshed him away. So why did the Lord command Elijah to visit Bethel and Jericho? Why not send Elijah immediately to the Jordan, either to preach a great sermon to the Israelites or to take an early departure to heaven? God knew that the best way for Elijah to spend his limited time on earth was to influence the influencers in this case the up and coming prophets of Israel.
Elijah's time with the sons of the prophets-especially on the last day of his life-tells me that people are the best investment of my time.
Spend Your Life Mentoring Others
Elijah knew that if the good works he had done in Israel was to endure, he needed a protege into whom he could pour his life. For Elijah, that someone was Elisha. In your life, that someone may be your child or another younger person you believe has the potential to make a significant difference in the world, especially after you are gone.
The mentor must be available.Elisha "went with Elijah as his assistant" (v.21). That speaks of a relationship where these two men spent considerable time together. Mentoring takes time. Many people think they do not have the time to mentor someone. Their calendars are overflowing with appointments and endless responsibilities. But mentoring another person does not have to take extra time. You have to eat lunch, don't you? Spend time with someone over lunch, share your life, your victories, your defeats, how the Lord has been faithful to you, and what the Lord is teaching you. Of if you running an errand or taking a short trip, then it might be appropriate to invite your protege to join you.
The mentor must serve as a model of godliness. People tend to forget what they hear, but they rarely forget what they see. Mentors become a kind of spiritual and ethical mold their proteges are poured into. We do not know how much time elapsed from Elisha's call to follow Elijah and Elijah's departure, but enough time must have passed for Elisha to note how Elijah handled some very difficult and delicate situations. Those lessons proved invaluable to Elisha when he began his own ministry. What would someone learn if they hung around you long enough-or opened your Bible while you were asleep? Would they learn how important God's Word is in living a significant life? Would they learn how to pray when a crisis came crashing down? Would they learn what it means to be a faithful spouse and a loving parent? Would they learn how to share the gospel with an unbeliever?
The possibilities of what someone could learn from you are endless, if you make yourself available and are willing to share your life with another person. In the business wold, mentoring is about success-about helping another person reach his or her career goals. But in the spiritual world, mentoring is about significance-about making a spiritual difference in another person's life, so that person in turn might make a difference in another person's life. Paul put it like this: "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2Tim 2:2). Paul was outlining for his protege Timothy the multiplying impact of mentoring: one life poured into anther life, who in turn pours his life into another life, and on and on it goes.
I often wondered what went through Elijah's mind as he felt that mighty gust of wind lift him off his feet and carry him skyward. I am sure the anticipation of what heaven was like flashed through his mind. But I wonder if Elijah looked down-even for a moment-and saw Elisha looking up and thought, By God's grace I have lived an extraordinary life. Not only that but I am also leaving a legacy of faith-and there he is, standing along the banks of the Jordan. If you come to the end of your life and look back, while looking ahead to the glories of heaven, and come to a similar conclusion, then I would say you have lived an extraordinary life-a life of true significance.