Leave Nothing For The Next Life

This is the rough draft of Pastor Steve’s message, '“The Last Arrow” on February 10th, 2019. You can also watch the message here. We hope you find this helpful as you pursue your next steps in Christ.

“Keisa and I had our honeymoon in the Pocono Mountains over 28 years ago.  We stayed at this honey moon resort and had our own personal cabin in the woods.  On this resort was this recreational facility loaded with all kinds of activities.  You could go swimming or ice skating. You could sit by the fire or play ping pong. They even had an archery  range. So, we were game! I remember shooting a bow and arrow when I was a boy scout as part of some outing and bade I needed to earn.  So, we spent part of the day hitting targets. And believe it or not, it’s not that easy. It’s not that easy to pull that arrow back. It’s not that easy to maintain that tension in the bow when you pull it back.  In fact, when you release the arrow, it’s not that easy hitting the actual target. I think we spent the day launching arrows and missing a great deal of targets along the way.

What happened on that archery range, I believe, is a good analogy of life.  Life, like archer, can be both fun and it can be tough. Hitting the target of what matters most can bring moments of joy and fulfillment.  But missing the target can bring moments of frustration. Or how about giving up on shooting the arrow all together. Aren’t there times in life where we don’t even pick up the bow because we just plain give up.  So, what would it take to hit the the most important targets in life? And what would it mean to not give up?

I read a book a few months ago that captivated my attention that addresses this very issue.  It’s ‘The Last Arrow” by Erwin McManus. Have you ever read a book that is like, ‘eh, no biggie?’  But have you ever read a book that you just can’t put down? That was the case with this book. I didn’t want to put it down.  I was writing in it like crazy. I felt like it was challenging me and in turn I felt like it was something I needed to teach on.   So we created this series from the ground up and we are going to be talking about it for the next six weeks in groups as well.

If I were to summarize this series, here is where we where we will be going.  “Our hope is that you would never surrender, that you never settle and that you would save nothing or the next life.”   That statement screams purpose The statement demands perseverance.  That statement shows

There is this story in the OT, which honestly, I haven’t seen in a long time  It seems almost obscure and forgotten in some of the events in the OT. There are to key players.  Elisha, a prophet of God and Jehoash, the king of Israel. Where Elisha was a stand-up guy, and a God follower,  Jehoash was not. He was corrupt. What we will find with this story is how relevant it is to us today in 2019. As we venture through it I hope you see two things.  One is we a peek into God’s activity and how he works in our worlds. I think that’s something we want to know. Secondly, we will see how our response to God is key.  Our response either can open to the greatest possibilities that God has for us or our response can cause us to miss out on what God wants to do in and through us.

So, let’s start with some context in the book of 2 Kings 13.  If you don’t know where that is at, 2 Kings is 12 books into the OT.  Jehoash is leading Israel and they are at war with Judah. And what Jehoash can count on is that they have Elisha on their side.  Elisha is sick and Jehoash approaches him out of respect and a bit of personal desperation because he knows they can’t win without Elisha.  Jehoash knows that God’s favor rests on Israel as long as Israel and Jehoash follow Elisha. So, this evil king sucks up to Elisha.

Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”  2 Kings 13:14

In other words, Elisha, we are going to lose without you. We need you.  Elisha responds with what seems to be an unusual challenge to Jehoash.

Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. 16 “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. 17 “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot.  2 Kings 13:15-17

Jehoash grabs the arrows.  He does what Elisha says and he shoots one out the window.

The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”  2 Kings 13:17

Hey Jehoash, guess what? Because of your obedience in this moment, God is going to give you victory over your enemy.  The arrow you shot in faith, it represents God’s victory over your enemy. God will do his part, bring the victory since you did you part, you shot the arrow out in faith.   Then this is where it gets puzzling. Take a look.

18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”  20 Elisha died and was buried.  2 Kings 13:18-20

Wait, wait, wait!  A lot just happened.  He takes the rest of the arrows in his quiver and strikes them in the ground but then he gets chastised.  He didn’t strike the arrows enough. He stopped and it makes Elisha angry and now Jehoash will not have a complete victory.  Then after all of that, it says Elisha dies. What?

Let’s pick that apart for a moment because when we read that, there are probably some thoughts that come to mind.  Thoughts like, well how did Jehoash know? How did he know how many times to strike the arrows? I mean, the prophet kind of left it open-ended.  If he didn’t want him to stop, then maybe Elisha should have told him, ‘hey strike it 6 times or keep striking and don’t give up’. And how could this man’s future be so tied to this event and his choice?  The victory had everything to do with how he responded. Doesn’t seem fair.

Scripture does not qualify those questions of ours but there is something we can see clearly.  This story and its implications all revolve around this moment when he stops.  When he quits striking the arrow.  You see, there is a direct correlation to the victory and Jehoash's response.  A promise of complete victory was on the table but it was only partially realized because Jehoash gave a partial effort.  You could say that God had gave him this full promise of victory but he missed out on it because he Jehoash didn’t give his all.  He gave up early. He quit.

Here is the connection for us.   I believe there are moments in our lives where God wants to do some incredible things in our lives but we sell God short.  In fact, there are loads of promises of God that are revealed in scripture for us as Jesus followers. Things that we can experience in our lives because of what God has done for us.  But often we don’t fully realize those blessings in our lives because we give up too early. We miss out on the fullness of what God wants to do in us because we quit too early. So that leads me to this question.  What would it take for us to save nothing for the next life?   What would it take for us to strike the last arrow? What would it take for us to live a life with minimal regrets?

When I was a kid, I remember my dad said something like this, ‘Son, it’s important to finish what you start.” Have you ever said that to your kids? I grew up with that in my home. Another statement he would say was something along these lines, ‘Son, it’s not fully done until it’s fully done.”  Why did my dad say that? Because as kids, we were notorious for starting something but not finishing it. He wanted us to know that doing something required doing it and doing it and doing it until it was done.  

You know what is funny?  Now I say the same things to my kids.  You can ask them. I’ll see homework left all over the dining room table.  I’ll see that someone made a smoothie and cleaned most of it up but there is still one banana peel on the cupboard.  I’ll have a conversation with one of our kids after a tough game where they didn’t play as much as they wanted. And out of my mouth, ‘hey, it’s important to finish what you start.  

So, as we proceed through this series and into discussion in our life groups, here is a good question to think through.  Is there something in my life that I have given up on too early?  Pick any area.  In our marriages or in our parenting.  In our business or in our finances? In my addiction or in my faith.  In my fitness or my prayer life. Is there something I have quit at and I shouldn’t have?  Maybe I was one step of faith away? Maybe one act of obedience away? Maybe one conversation away?  Something I didn’t fully obey God in or truth him in?

When we read this story, there are few key ideas that we can’t escape.  How do I live a life where I save nothing for the next life? First, When I can’t control it, I simply trust God.  Now I know that might be new for some of us. We are seeking.  We are new to faith. But the goal in following Christ is trusting him with all parts of our life.  Trusting him when life doesn’t make sense. Trusting him when maybe he doesn’t make sense. He is the God of the universe and he has our backs.  In this case Elisha is saying, ‘Jehoash, launch the arrow. Do what God says and trust him with the results. Trust him in the battle.

Our second thought, When I can control it, I take full responsibility.   God puts arrows in all of our hands and we are called to strike.  And too often we blame God for not working when in reality, he’s waiting of us to obey.  He’s waiting for us to take care of what he has put in our hands. Whatever that arrow is.  Our integrity. Our family. Our gift of leadership or prayer. He puts things in our hands and expect us to do our part.  And when we do our part, he moves. Isn’t that the issue here with Jehoash? God put the arrows in his hand. A guaranteed victory and he gave up.  He stopped striking the arrow. Every follower of Christ is called to be responsible with the arrows God puts in our hands. We are called to be active and do our part.  

There is this classic scene from a movie that was a big deal when I was a teenager.  How many of you remember Dead Poets Society? In this movie, Robin Williams is a teacher and he’s trying to motivate his new class of students to live fully.  To leave nothing for the next life. Here is what happens.

What takes place in that clip, honestly is how God desires all of us to live.  To trust him. To do our part. And over the weeks, we are going to flush out what that means.  But here is a great starting conversation. Last, I must live with a sense of urgency.  What is urgency?  Urgency is importance requiring swift action.   Let’s break that down.  Importance. We all have things in our lives that are important to us.  And I would say that the things that are most important to us in life are often the things we are most passionate about.   What are you passionate about? Let’s start with the personal. How about making sure that our spouse feels valued? Making sure I secure a job that I love.  Helping my kids know Jesus and make wise decisions.

Then there are concepts or ideas we are passionate about.  We are passionate as a church about helping people know Christ.  Maybe you are passionate about life in the womb? Maybe you are passionate about stopping sex trafficking?  Maybe you are passionate about keeping families whole like our partners at Better Families. The point is, we all  have very personal things that are important to us. That we are passionate about.

What was the other part of that definition of urgency?  Requiring swift action. That means decisiveness. That means doing.  Passion requires action to make it happens. What is important requires urgency on our part.  I’m passionate about a healthy marriage do I put a date night consistently on the calendar. I’m passionate about reaching my friends for Christ so I live my faith in front of them.  You are passionate about seeing families reunited so you give you time to Better Families as a mentor.

But here is the challenge for us.  Often the most important things to us, don’t get the urgency from us.  The things we care about the most, lack the actions. Why? Busyness. Regrets form the past.  Relational messes that we created. Fear. The fear of change. The fear of being rejected. The fear of failing.   And what causes us to not strike the arrow to the fullest is that we truly lack urgency. The action that proves our passions.  

“Leadership is about bringing urgency to the things that matter most.”  Erwin McManus

I want to jump from the OT to the NT  and look at what Jesus said. Jesus shows us the power of urgency.  

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Matthew 24:36

For those of us that are newer to faith, Jesus is speaking of a future time where he will return to earth.  It’s called the second coming of Christ. Jesus will redeem history and every injustice. No one knows when Christ will return, only God the Father.  Then, Jesus gives us a picture of what that will look like. Check it out.

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  Matthew 24:37-41

It will happen so suddenly that people are doing life and have no idea.   So Jesus gives these words of focus.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  Matthew 24:42

Because no one knows the day or the hour that Christ will return, we live a life of watching.  Not hiding away waiting for God to return. Not this insecure and paranoid way of living. Instead, Jesus is saying is that we are called to live a life of passion and urgency like today could be THE DAY.  I’m going to live my life like today like it’s my last. I’m going to love others today like it’s the last chance that I will get. I’m going to strike the arrows that God puts in my hand and strike and strike and strike and not give up.  That’s urgency. Passion with action!

What if we actually lived that way?  A few weeks back, I was working on my range hood.  I was trying to replace a part where the fan switch broke.  I bought the part and was trying to unplug wires and plug them into this new part.  So, I went out to the garage and flipped off the current that ran to that part. A success!  I went back in and started to pull a wire or two that went to this switch. I wasn’t having success connecting the new part.  In the middle of that, one of the girls said that the lights weren’t working in their room. Easy, I switch off two breakers.  I’ll just turn that breaker back on. I did that and then went back to the range.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I switched on both breakers.  I went back to the hood. Grabbed the part and the grey wire I think, and shazam!  I screamed, ‘Ow’ and freaked out my family that was in the kitchen. I just received a significant shock.  I touched the wire and I felt the power. I was passionate about not getting shocked. That was very important to me.  So I checked and checked and checked the breaker after that point. There was urgent action connected to the importance of not getting shocked.  Are you with me so far?

When I was thinking about this concept of passion and urgency, that experience with those wires came to mind.  Here is what I wrote down and I hope it connects with you today. .

“If passion is the wire that carries the current then urgency is the current that runs through the wire.  One is the conduit, the other is the power. Passion without urgency is powerless. Urgency without passion has no direction.”  Pastor Steve Gill

In other words, you can be passionate about all kinds of things but if you are not urgent, active with those passions that God has give you, then your passions will never be realized.   The opposite is true as well. You can be a doer. A person of action. A person who walks in tune with God’s spirit in your lie. But if you have no real passion to focus those, then you expend energy  with no real result. I believe both paths lead to regrets.

So, what if you and I were to live a life with passion and urgency?  What if we were to leave nothing for tomorrow or the next day? What if we took the arrows that God places in our hands and kept striking? Think about it, you can’t save those arrows for a rainy day.  You can’t take your arrows or anything really with you when you leave this earth. So why not? Why not live your life honoring God to the fullest? Passion with urgency!

If you are passionate about a healthy marriage, awesome.  Put some urgency to it. If you marriage is dying then urgency telling someone.  Urgency is getting into counseling to begin go fix what is broke. Strike the arrow.   If you are passionate about your neighbors knowing Christ, put some urgency to it today.  Invite them over for coffee and get to know them. Strike the arrow. If you are passionate about personal health, do something.  Have some urgency. Do what it takes to eat better. Get to the gym and start a routine no matter what. Strike the arrow. If you are passionate about being out of debt and being a giving person, then put some urgency to it.  Talk to a Christ centered financial planner. Read up. Do what it takes to be the person that God wants you to be when it comes to the money he’s blessed you with. Urgency is striking the arrow!

Maybe you are sitting here today and simply feel like giving up.  Can I urge you to stay engaged. Don’t quit. Don’t fade into the sunset.  Maybe you are sitting here today and you have just given up hope on God. Don’t quit on God.  Maybe you are tired, worn and frustrated with the cards that life has given you, don’t give up.  Maybe you don’t feel joy. You don’t feel hope. You don’t feel love or loved in this moment. Don’t give up.  Maybe you have gotten to a place where you don’t think God can use you or do anything through you.

“Am I the kind of person who strikes three times and then stops, or am I the kind of person who, when commanded to strike my arrows, keeps striking and striking and striking until there are no arrows left?”  Erwin McManus

Let’s pray.”