Outlive Your Life - Part One
September 1, 2023 | View PDF
This series on “Legacy: Outlive Your Life” will be a three part series focused on what I call “The Big Three Life/Legacy Questions”:
1.The Heart Question: Is my heart growing bigger?
2.The Joy Question: Is my joy going deeper?
3.The Passion Question: Is my passion getting hotter?
In part one we will focus on the heart question.
Is my heart growing bigger?
In other words, is my love for God and for others growing bigger?
Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” -John 15:12
And the disciple named John wrote, “Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
Is you heart growing bigger towards God, your spouse and family, your friends, others and especially those in need?
Your heart is either growing bigger or it is shrinking. Perhaps, it could also be plateauing. If it is growing bigger that means you are experiencing deeper empathy, care and concern for others. If your heart is growing bigger, you can more easily express love and care for other people in your life and for those in need.
If your heart is shrinking, your heart may be growing callous and hard towards others and their needs, hurts and struggles. The Bible talks a lot about people with hard hearts towards God and other people. It is actually pretty easy to get a hardened heart that feels like it is shrinking and growing colder. Our hearts grow hard, cold and callous towards others when we feel hurt, betrayed, abused or offended. When this happens to us, we sometimes withdraw from people, and we do not want to invest the emotional energy and time for fear of getting hurt again. Our hearts begin to shrink and become hardened as time goes on.
Your heart may also plateau. This happens when when we experience no feelings at all towards God or others. We may go through seasons where we feel nothing at all. We feel apathetic. We are numb and have no feelings of empathy or concern for others. This is also a very unhealthy place to linger for long periods. It can be the beginning stages of a shrinking heart that is becoming hardened and cold as ice.
This heart question is the very most important question and is a top three question we need to ask ourselves regularly. If our love for God and for others is not growing, then we are missing the whole point of life and why God created us in the first place. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13, I can have all the gifts and talents in the world and can fathom all mysteries and have all the knowledge available to humankind, but if I do not have love I am nothing. I can have the faith to move mountains, give all I have to the poor and even sacrifice my life to save others, but if I do not have love, I gain nothing.
So, if you want to live and leave a legacy, start by focusing on this question everyday and asking God to help you grow a bigger and bigger heart ….a more loving heart. You cannot fake love. You cannot fake a big heart. People know if you really love and care for them. And the one thing people will remember most about you is the love you have for them. There is an old saying that I have found to be so true. “People don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care.” The most important thing about you is how you love.
Recently, I lead a mission team, along with my wife, to Honduras. We had 15 people from our church who went to serve at a ministry called Forgotten Children’s Ministry located at Finca Grace or Grace Farm just North of Tegucigalpa. I serve on the Board of this great ministry that rescues children off the streets of Tegucigalpa. Many of these children are in danger on being sold into sex trafficking or they are living in abusive conditions where they experience neglect and trauma.
There are a number of activities team members participate in while on a mission team to Forgotten Children’s Ministry. We spend time with and invest in the children. We do repair or building projects on the campus. And we go out to serve in various impoverished communities near Grace Farm or adjacent to the massive trash dump of the city of Tegucigalpa. The slums around this area are expansive and are some of the worst living conditions I have ever seen. The people that live around this garbage dump work in the dump rummaging through the trash piles to collect plastic bottles, glass, metal or anything of value to sell to make a living.
When we visit the houses in these neighborhoods, we come with translators and with gifts of rice and beans. We introduce ourselves, ask about them and their families and inquire as to how we can pray for them. We also offer to pray with them and for them. Often, many of these folks will invite Jesus Christ into their lives for the first time. It can be a very humbling experience to say the least.
One day on the recent trip while we were visiting these neighborhoods around the city dump, we came to a man’s house. He was probably in his thirties and, when I first saw him, I prejudged him. He looked like a gang member or a drug dealer to me. I whispered to my wife, “let me check this guy out first before our group goes into his house.” Our team had divided into smaller groups of 5 to 6. I asked if we could visit him and to my surprise he said “yes”. I entered the house first to check it out and make sure it was safe. I immediately noticed his right arm was shaking, and that he obviously had a disability of some kind. Our team warmly introduced themselves and ask about him. He said he lived alone and worked in the dump, because he couldn’t get another job due to his disability as he pointed to his arm.
He looked nervous but warmed up to us when he realized we were interested and concerned about him. He shared with us about himself and that he lived alone. We offered him a gift of rice and beans which he was glad to receive. One of our team asked him if he believed in God, and he said he did. We then asked if he had ever invited the Lord into his life. He said no but was open to doing so. We led him in a prayer to invite Christ to be his Lord and Savior. After he prayed that prayer he said with tears in his eyes, “heaven has come to my house today.” It was a powerful and beautiful experience for all of us. Tears came to my eyes as I realized I had misjudged this humble man. After I hugged him goodbye, I headed for the door and the Lord whispered to me, “Lester, keep your heart growing bigger.” I knew what he meant. We must be intentional about our hearts growing bigger. We must constantly be asking that heart question, “Is my heart growing bigger?” I have been in the ministry for 40 years. I have served on countless mission teams and seen tremendous needs in many countries and right here at home. I have preached about “loving others as Christ has loved us.” But I still needed to be reminded to keep loving others. Keep caring about other peoples needs. Keep seeking a big heart that has room to love and care for others. This man’s name was Joshua John, and I never will forget him or his face.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:31-41, that whenever you offer water to the thirsty, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick or welcome the homeless, we do it unto him. So, as I looked into Joshua John’s face that day, he looked like Jesus to me in distressing disguise. And I will always remember Jesus’ whisper, “Lester, keep your heart growing bigger!”
If you want to live and leave a legacy, keep asking yourself that question, “Is my heart growing bigger?”
Dr. Lester Spencer
President Pro Tem
Alabama Emerald Coast Conference of the Global Methodist Church