A leader of mine last week at conference made a comment during one of our class discussions. He said that giving His life to see a movement of young people rise up, to become disciples of Jesus , in the United Kingdom, was a tombstone statement. A life of sacrifice. A calling that He would give himself entirely to even if he didn’t get to see the impact of the seeds he has been sowing.
I know it was only a statement that he made in passing but the words rang in my head and heart and continue to do so. I kept asking myself, “Lord what is my tombstone statement?” It is a continuous echoing that won’t leave me alone. I read of St. Patrick and how he came from a posh English family and was taken captive in Ireland and made to work as slave. He didn’t believe in God initially but met Him in his brokenness and despair. It started with an encounter with God. Six years of hard labor and God started transforming his heart.
“Outwardly nothing had changed for Patrick. He was still a captive in a harsh and foreign land, but he saw life differently. The land of his captivity had become his land of freedom in God. The slave of men had become a son of God.”- He returned to England and still heard the cries of the broken he left behind. He couldn’t leave the cries unheard, so he went back to Ireland and becomes the trigger for a movement bringing the gospel to Europe. Over time he started to understand what his tombstone statement was and gave his life to it.
Or we have John Wesley who started the Methodist movement in Britain. He started off as a missionary to the states and came back to the UK feeling defeated. He didn’t know if he himself understood grace. He then had an encounter with God that radically changed him. His tombstone statement was to “establish a movement of people who learned to obey Christ and walk as He did.” When the church wouldn’t receive him he stood on his fathers grave and yelled, “the whole world is my parish.” He wrote in his journal, ” the devil himself desires nothing more than this, that the people of any place should be half awakened and then left to themselves to fall asleep again. Therefore I determine by the grace of God not to strike one stroke in any place where I cannot follow the blow.” He created structure that ushered the movement forward.
These movements started with individuals that encountered God in a profound way. Brokenness and despair but also the transforming love of God that they couldn’t hold or keep to themselves. They had to share it with the world. And they would give up anything that was worldly for the sake of thier tombstone statements.
I look at these examples and the movements didn’t start with clever ideas. It started with God doing something incredible in their lives. It started with sacrifice, it started in failure and disappointment. But in that God changed a heart and therefore changed countless of lives that encountered these men.
Sometimes I can be so committed to serving God and less committed with my dialogue with Him. I can be so caught up in the busy with the church things, the good things, that my relationship with Him can fall by the wayside. It’s like being Martha when God just desires for me to be Mary. I’m learning a lot from Mary these days. She made experiencing Jesus the highest priority of her life. Between sitting at Jesus feet, Lazarus dying and Jesus showing up late, and then the Resurrection, she needed to know Him, really know Him and His character to see her through these trials. That woman was such an example of a disciple.
I believe God is creating movement here in the lives of the young people in this nation. I believe that this could be a tombstone statement for me. To give my life entirely to plant seeds and see it come into being. There is definitely a tension that I am working through. My initial commitment was for a year, and now five plus years later, I am still here. God is breaking my heart for these young people but also breaking me of anything that the world would define as successful in this life. It is easy for me to slip into a mindset that is rooted with pride. I think well God, I have given this up, and that up surely that should be enough right?
No, that isn’t right. I am brought back to this truth over and over when I am wrestling through the tension
“Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.”
I haven’t gotten to the other side with the tombstone statement but what I do know is knowing and experiencing Christ and extending Him to others will be my purpose wherever that may be. I also believe that movement and revolution starts inside of us.
So…..what is your tombstone statement?