1 As the time of King David’s death approached, he gave this charge to his son Solomon:
2 “I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man.
3 Observe the requirements of the LORD your God and follow all his ways. Keep each of the laws, commands, regulations, and stipulations written in the law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go.
4 If you do this, then the LORD will keep the promise he made to me: ‘If your descendants live as they should and follow me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.'” I Kings 2: 1-4 (NLT)
This blog series is called “Connecting the Dots.” In it I am going to explore how people of faith approach life differently than those who do not follow Jesus.
Let’s begin with the final scene and work backwards from there. To do that, we open with a dying King David’s instructions at the end of his life to his son and successor Solomon. David had been king for forty years and had lived long enough to see how both good decisions and bad decisions play out. He had stayed loyal to God and displayed an incredible capacity for God; that is what defined his legacy. He expanded the territory of Israel and was handing to his son a more stable kingdom than was handed to him; that is what defined his reign. But he had also committed a great sin by murdering one of his thirty best soldiers to steal his wife, had shed a lot of blood and had been a terrible father. These are the things that defined his personal life. To say David’s legacy was a mixed bag would be one of the great understatements of the Bible!
As you read the David narrative and read his Psalms, there is an undeniable cause and effect going on that provides for us both an inspirational and a cautionary tale. David loved God and David loved worship but he could not quite figure out how those huge positives could inform, guide and shape the other aspects of his life. That is one thing I like about being fifty-three years old, you look over your life at the decisions you have made and you can see how they played out. There is really nowhere to hide, at fifty-three, we are mentally, vocationally, relationally, spiritually and physically the sum of our decisions. If the sum of your decisions has brought you to a good place on this day, praise God and keep on keeping on! But if they have brought you to a difficult place, I have some hope for you today!
Let’s explore David’s instructions to Solomon:
1) David was concerned about legacy Gave this charge to his son For me, this is all tied up in a name. My dad was the first serious Christian of the Sunfield Bishops. His life redefined the name and it was handed to me. I will do my best with that name and hand it to Zec who will hand it to Elijah and Isaac. There is nothing more valuable than a good name and David knew it. It is the task of every man to improve on the name we were given!
2) David told Solomon to man up Take courage and be a man Christianity is not for the weak of heart. Joshua said over and over, “Be strong and of good courage” because serving God in a fallen world will require plenty of both. Being a godly man is hard. Being a good husband is hard. Being a good father is hard. So get over it, cowboy up and get at it. I saw a great sign this week, it read, “Father Day celebrates faithful fathers. To all you deadbeat dads, we will celebrate you on April Fools Day.” Bam! Man up, accept responsibility, work hard, stop making excuses, give sacrificially, get it done, love God, love people and if you have not done any of this to this point, you can start today!
3) David told Solomon to follow God explicitly Follow all his ways David followed most of God’s laws but the ones he refused to follow cost him dearly. He was really good at “not having any gods before me” but much weaker on “thou shall not commit adultery.” My dad used to tell me when I was a teen-ager, “It takes a lifetime to gain a good reputation and one night to lose it.” You can do 99% of everything right but that 1% mistake can cost you everything! The second you forget that reality, you are in real trouble.
4) David offered spiritual advice Keep each law and command (you can’t keep 2000 commands so keep one and repeat 2000 times) You can’t keep the law if you don’t know the law and you won’t have the strength to live what you know until you know God. A godly legacy will not be produced by our strength, we are not that strong; it will be empowered by a God who gives us strength to keep one command at a time! Don’t think in terms of getting everything right, that is impossible, just get what is in front of you right and then repeat!
5) David linked cause and effect If you abide by this charge, our family will forever sit on the throne David knew that we reap what we sow. If you sow weeds in with the crop, the weeds will always win. But if you sow good seed, you have nothing to look forward to but good things! David knew that he had sowed too many weeds in with the crop; it did not detract from his legacy but it detracted from the quality of his life. He hoped his son would do better.
As we embark upon our journey, I would like to begin at the end. Where do I want to end up? Here is my life statement at fifty-three. I want to leave a legacy for Christ that lasts beyond my lifetime. I want to be remembered as a man who had passion for connecting people to Jesus Christ, kept his promises, loved his family, was a good friend, was true to his word and was relentless concerning what God called him to do. With that we have a beginning and an ending on the table, it is time to start the car and pull out of the driveway.
I have an app on my phone simply called Navigation. It somehow knows where I am (which seems creepy); I tell it where I want to go and it tells me how to get from here to there. There is something that fascinates me about the driving instructions it offers; they are significantly more detailed at the end than they are in the middle. It appears having a good finish is the most complicated parts of any journey. You don’t just have to get close, you have to get THERE!
Legacy is much more the sum of a million small decisions than the effects of one great decision. Legacy is cumulative in its effect and is determined by where you end up, not where you started. Here are some core values that guide me in the pursuit of legacy. First of all my mission. I exist to connect people with Jesus Christ. For me, anything that interferes with, damages or limits that mission is a temptation and a snare. That is why I am not going to give you every thought I have on politics, current events or social issues. What I am going to do is help you connect with Jesus Christ and understand the Bible so you can form your own positions on politics, current events and social issues.
Here are some reflections on legacy I have picked up over the years that always seem to lead me where I really want to go.
A Navigation Map to Legacy
1) Do the right things the right way and you will get the right results in the right time We reap what we sow but we don’t reap today what we sow today…
2) Remember you can’t change yesterday
3) Remember you can define tomorrow Right now forward!
4) Be faithful in the mundane of the middle
5) How you start is not nearly as important as how you finish
6) Remember you are a new creation
7) Come clean on sin
8) Get help where you need it
9) Trusting God in small things is trusting God in large things
10) Remember Satan wants to destroy you
A few years back I received a letter informing me that the writer wishes our church and especially its Senior Pastor took more stands on social issues and political positions. I get that, I really do. As I was considering the content of the letter, something struck me. In a day and time when churches and denominations all across America are defining themselves by their stands on social issues. Jesus didn’t do that at all…ever. In fact, one of the great disappointments concerning Jesus in his own time was that in an Israel obsessed with the current reality of Roman occupation, Jesus didn’t have a thing to say about the greatest political issue of his day. When they tried to force him to offer political commentary publicly, to speak to the issues of the day, he asked whose face was pressed upon on a silver coin and replied, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” I am guessing he got lots of letters.
Jesus flat out refused to allow his culture to set his agenda. Had Jesus spent his time teaching on culturally “relevant” things like current events, politics or social issues, his central message would not have transcended his culture. Jesus dealt with really big things like hope, faith, justice, love, hate, forgiveness, hypocrisy, truth and salvation. It was his genius. He knew that once you answer the big questions (your core values), the smaller ones get really easy (how to live those out). Unlike modern religious culture today worldwide, Jesus never gave in to the tyranny of the urgent…or the pressure of the culture. I won’t either. I believe that if we deal faithfully with the timeless aspects of the Gospel, those with an expiration date will find their proper place.
And I am convinced that if this is where we make our collective stand on Christ and Christ alone, our individual legacies will be assured. I close with the words of Edward Mote, penned in 1834:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL since 1997.