Episode 1. Where's Your Life Headed?
Life on this earth is no dress rehearsal. We get just the one chance at it and when it’s gone it’s gone. So … what sort of a legacy do you want to leave behind when your life is gone? And … …
Life on this earth is no dress rehearsal. We get just the one chance at it and when it’s gone it’s gone. So … what sort of a legacy do you want to leave behind when your life is gone? And … are you living the sort of life, that will indeed deliver the legacy you’re after?
At the End of the Day
Right now, there are just over 7 billion people living on planet earth; a number that’s going up every day. Today, just under 360,000 babies will be born into the world. And just over 150,000 people will die. So the net population growth of people on planet earth is around 210,000 a day, or around 75 million people a year.
They’re big numbers to contemplate, especially when all that you and I see is the small subsection of that 7 billion people that live around where we live. And in all of human history, they tell us that just over 100 billion people have been born on the earth and each of those 100 billion people have left a legacy. For many of them, their most obvious legacy is the children they left behind, who have had their own children, who in turn had children and so the human legacy of people is the most obvious thing they leave behind.
You and I are descended from an incredibly long line of people – the vast majority that we will never have heard of. Suffice to say that our DNA, the genes laid down on each strand is a complex pea soup made up of the legacy of an incalculable number of people. So that’s the most obvious legacy that most people leave behind.
But there’s also the legacy of our lives. The impacts that we’ve had on the people around us – impacts that ripple laterally across to other people, and vertically down through generations. As an extreme example, it’s reasonable to expect that both historically, and emotionally, Adolf Hitler has had quite a different impact on the world, compared to, say, Mother Theresa. Would you agree? Some people have left astounding legacies behind them – and others have left terrible ones.
And then just ordinary folk like you and me, we leave behind legacies too. Some leave behind a good legacy. Others not so good. Others leave behind a terrible legacy of abuse and hatred that reverberates down through many generations to come.
It’s worth stopping to think about these things for a while isn’t it, because the question that all this stuff causes me to ask of myself is this: what sort of a legacy will I end up leaving behind? And you – what about you? What sort of legacy will you end up leaving behind? Hmm? Have you ever wondered that?
The impact that we have on the people closest to us? Our parents, our spouse, our children, our friends, our work colleagues, our neighbours, our community. What sort of a legacy will you and I leave behind for them, hmm? That’s the question and that’s why today, we’re kicking off a new series of messages that I’ve called, “Living a Life that Leaves a Lasting Legacy of Love”. Bit of a mouthful I know – but I guess my central premise here is that if we want to leave something good behind, then we have to live the sort of life that’s going to achieve that outcome.
And the greatest legacy that we can leave behind is a Lasting Legacy of Love. You and I are each a mixed bag. We have some good attributes, some particular strengths in our make up, handed down in our DNA, shaped and refined by our experiences. And then … we have some weakness, some not so nice things about who we are. The question is which of those is going to shape the legacy that we live? The answer is, the ones that we allow to dominate in our lives.
Each of us will leave some legacy, something that we imprint on our children. If you’re a person who is constantly afraid, a worrier then chances are that a great deal of that is going to rub off on your children. On the other hand, if you’re a real encourager – someone who is always building other people up – then that is going to totally change how your children see themselves; an impact that will go down through the generations.
So it’s how we live our lives that impacts not just our children, but many other people around us. The smallest act of kindness can change a life. The smallest act of service can totally transform someone’s world – and that my friend is something that can ripple on across the world, down through the generations in a way that we simply cannot comprehend.
And this isn’t just Berni rambling on. It’s exactly what God says in His Word, the Bible. Have a listen. In the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:5,6 God says this:
You shall not bow down to worship false gods, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of their parents to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
It’s true. You see it all the time. Sin ripples down a few generations. A man who is an alcoholic, is likely to have an alcoholic son. A man who beats his wife or his children, is likely to produce a son who does exactly the same. Our sin impacts not just us and our immediate family it impacts the legacy that ripples down to generations to come.
But note please here the grace and the mercy and the power of what God’s saying. Our unfaithfulness to God only goes down three or four generations. But if we’re faithful to Him, if we worship Him and live our lives – as best we can – for Him, then the fruit of that faithfulness means that God shows His steadfast love to the thousandth generation. That’s a way of saying forever. A thousand generations is like around 25,000 years.
My friend it may be that you are dealing with the generational impact of the sin of your parents, your grandparents. It may be that there is a spiritual hold over you – of violence, of low self-esteem, of fear, of timidity, of pride – generational sin that has been handed down to you from your ancestors. But God’s Word is clear – you and I can break that cycle – by repenting, turning our lives around, worshiping and honouring God.
And that’s what we’re going to be talking about in this series. Breaking the power of generational sin, and leaving a lasting Legacy of Love.
Drowning in a Sea of Emotions
It’s great to want to have a positive impact in this world. It’s fantastic for us to want to leave behind a lasting legacy of love But – and here’s the BIG BUT – we can’t live the sort of life that’s going to leave that lasting, if we’re drowning in negative emotions.
I recently went out to my Facebook friends and asked them, what sort of negative emotions should I talk about on the program. Are you sitting down? Here’s what they came up with:
Bitterness, anger, disappointment, fear, low self-esteem, envy, lust, cynicism, bad body image, pride, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, greed, regret, guilt, shame, being money hungry, hate, prejudice, judgement, self–pity, worry, self-loathing, jealousy, possessiveness, being untrusting, being unable to share, unable to delegate, unable to open up, fear of being vulnerable, inability to love ….
Hey, that’s not a bad list. I’m sure that you can think of a few more too. Someone who’s caught up in continual disappointment is like someone who’s carrying their own personal rain cloud with them 24/7. Someone who has a poor self-image is likely to be untrusting and unable to share their emotions.
When we’re caught up in those negative emotions, we simply aren’t going to be able to shine a ray of love into someone else’s life. When we’re caught up in those negative emotions, when we’re drowning in them we aren’t going to be able to live the sort of life that leaves a lasting legacy of love in the lives of those with whom we come into contact.
And these negative emotions feed off one another. Let me come back to disappointment. If you’re someone who is constantly disappointed with people, situations, your circumstances, your lot in life, how you look, the things you’re not able to do – whatever it is – how are you going to view the world.
Well, first up, you’re going to be envious of everyone who has something that you don’t. Secondly, you’re going to be overly critical of people – often the passive-aggressive sort of person is talking criticism and discontent to themselves all the time. And when that’s the stuff you’re feeding on, you’ll start loathing yourself, you’ll be angry with yourself and with the rest of the world, you’ll pity yourself, you’ll worry about how you’re ever going to feel better and you can find yourself on a path towards depression.
How’s that for a chain reaction?! But it’s true isn’t it? This is the self life, the inner life that many people live. They are literally drowning in a sea of negative emotions. Can I ask you – what negative emotions are eating away at you right now? What negative emotions are pumping poison through your system? What negative emotions are you struggling with – wondering what the answer is? Wondering what the solution is? Wondering where to turn and what to do? Hmm?
There’s an old Proverb that comes from the Bible, Proverbs 17:22:
A joyful heat is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
That’s a terrible picture – that picture of dried up bones. The hardest thing to do with negative emotions is to admit them to ourselves. I used to be driven by greed and pride and anger. I would never admit them to myself.
I kind of knew about the anger, but constantly justified it to myself. But the greed – I didn’t even realise that I was greedy. And pride – well it wasn’t pride, it’s just that I was smarter than the rest of you. It’s just that I was quicker than the rest of you, more competent than the rest of you. And because I’m naturally good with words, and not afraid to act, I was a right pain in the you know what!
My friend the hardest thing is to admit them to ourselves – but when we do – when we take a good, hard look in the mirror and say – yep in that list that Berni prattled off on the radio today, three of those, no, actually four of those describe me – when we get to that point, now, all of a sudden, we can do something about them. Do you want to hear that rather depressing list again? Here it is.
Bitterness, anger, disappointment, fear, low self-esteem, envy, lust, cynicism, bad body image, pride, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, greed, regret, guilt, shame, being money hungry, hate, prejudice, judgement, self–pity, worry, self-loathing, jealousy, possessiveness, being untrusting, being unable to share, unable to delegate, unable to open up, fear of being vulnerable, inability to love …
Which ones amongst that little lot do you own? Because the moment you own them, admit them, say “Yep, that’s me”, you can begin to disarm their power over your life and over your legacy. My friend Jesus came to set you free from each and every negative emotion that robs you of your life, of your love and of your legacy. The very first time Jesus got up to preach in the local synagogue at the beginning of His public ministry, he unrolled the scroll to the book of Isaiah, chapter 61 and this is what He read to the assembled masses. He was telling them why He, the son of God, had come to this earth:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion — to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, he mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
My friend He came to set you free, to restore you to wholeness, to bind up your broken heart, to proclaim His favour upon you, to comfort you, to give you a garland instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. Do you get it! Jesus, came, for, you! And He can take away every negative emotion, He can plant you as an ok of righteousness to display His glory, and He can restore your devastations. It’s Jesus living in and through us that gives us the power to overcome those negative emotions and to live the sort of life that’s going to leave a lasting legacy of love.
On a Clear Day
Yep, on a clear day, you can see forever. Have you ever been on the top of a mountain on a day when the sun is shining? When there’s not a cloud in the sky? When there’s no mist or smog to obscure the view. You can see a long, long way on days like that – from a vantage point like that.
In fact, those are the two things that impact how far we can see. How clear the day is, and how high up we are.
For instance, if you’re an average height, say just under 6 foot, at ground level, you’ll be able to see for around 2.9 miles or 4.7 km before the curvature of the earth takes the view away from you. But if you’re up on a mountaintop at say 15,000 feet or about 5,000 metres, you’ll be able to see almost 150 miles that’s about 240 km. So altitude has a lot to do with it, as does obviously the clarity of the atmosphere.
And the same is true in life. And that’s what we’re going to explore today and it all has to do with vision. It’s all about altitude and clarity of vision. But all too often in life, we don’t have all that many mountaintop experiences do we? When we’re down in the trenches, battling to make it through each day with all the pressures and challenges and the emotions and all that stuff, it’s easy to lose sight of where we’re going. And we become completely immersed in it. You do that day after day, month after month, year in and year out – and you find yourself wandering aimlessly around the forest trying to remember now where was it that I was heading again?
Down here in the trenches, it’s actually about a hundred times more difficult than it looks from up on a mountaintop. And that’s how it is in life because in our lives, we’re down on the field, in the middle of the action, tired, emotional, confronted with challenges and positioned so that it’s really hard to see the big picture. The big picture for most of us looks something like this. When we get to the end of our lives we want to look back on a life that’s had an impact for good. We want to look back on a life that’s touched other people’s lives in a positive way, where we’ve used our gifts and abilities to make a real difference in this world, whatever that difference is.
And we want to look back on a life that we know is going to leave a lasting legacy of love in the lives of the people we leave behind when we depart this world. That’s pretty much it. When all is said and done, that’s what most of us want out of life – that sense of fulfilment at having done the best we could with who we were made to be and what we were given.
But down here in the trenches – oh, how easy it is to lose sight of that. Oh, how easy it is simply to plod along each day doing the things we know we have to do to get by. Doing the things that we have to do to earn a living, bring up our children – without a sense of purpose or direction. Without that vision from up on high – a vision for the future. A vision for where we want to end up … at the end.
We suffer from pressures, stresses, emotional conflict, illnesses, tiredness, exhaustion. Everything I’ve mentioned so far you’re getting right? And so there we are slogging through it all – you’re in the middle of your jungle right now, carving out a path, exploring the next thing. Working hard at it. So in the middle of your battles, your life – let me ask you – when was the last time you sat on a mountaintop and looked out and wondered – “What’s the vision for my life. Where do I want to end up?”
If you’re like most of us, the answer is, “Not in a long while”, because all those immediate, urgent things crowd out any sense of a vision. Altitude and clarity is what’s required. Rising up above our circumstances, being still, thinking, looking, planning, dreaming about the sort of life you want to have ended up living by the time you get to the end of it – whenever that may be, right? Come on.
This is the one life you get to live on this earth. And it’s time to set it on a course; to have a vision for your life, what it’s about, what impact you’re meant to have, how you want to live it and what legacy you want to live behind. Without vision, people perish. Without vision, you and I can end up having lived a wasted life. Tragedy. Tragedy. Tragedy!
And I’m not talking here about an arrogant, self-serving vision for your life. I’m talking here about the sort of vision that comes from God – who after all made you who you are, and has already figured out what He wants you to do with who you are. James writes this in the NT:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
A vision without God in the picture is a boast. For me – the vision for my life is all about discovering the plan that God has already set His heart upon. He knows the plans He has for us – that’s what He says in Jeremiah 29:11 – and they’re good plans. Fantastic plans. I live as busy a life as any. There are so many things that conspire to crowd out any sense of the plan God has for my life.
That’s why most mornings, while everyone is still asleep, you’ll find me alone, quietly, sitting in my study – my favourite comfy chair – reading my Bible, speaking with God, hearing what He has to say. Being encouraged by Him, strengthened by Him, led by Him.
And in my heart of hearts, I know what His plans for me are. It’s a vision that’s crystal clear in my head and in my heart. It’s the plan He has for me and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
So – what’s God’s plan for you? Have you asked Him? Is that vision before you? Without vision, people perish.