Are we making a difference by an enduring contribution?

One of our basic human needs is to feel that we have made a meaningful and enduring achievement or contribution. We want to know that we have accomplished something and that our lives have somehow made a difference. This area is a tough one to measure, especially the enduring aspect, since we won’t be here to observe anything; we’ll be gone.

On July 4, 1870 Martha Scarborough celebrated Independence Day by giving birth to a son, Lee. When Lee was 8, Martha and her husband George, a part-time Baptist preacher, moved to Texas to raise cattle and share Christ. They lived in a dugout to begin with, then later a small log cabin. George and Martha dreamed of building a nice house on a nearby hill. They saved frugally, and when Lee was 16 years old, they had saved enough money to proceed with the building of their dream home.

One day, after a hard day’s work, George asked Martha to walk with him to stake out where they would build. Arm in arm, they strolled to the top of the hill. They had waited a long time for this moment. George carefully selected the most suitable location and drove the stakes. Martha, however, turned toward him and tearfully said, “George, I appreciate your desire to build me a new home in this beautiful setting, but there is a greater need. Let’s keep living in the old house and put this money towards a college education for Lee. We will never be able to do both and I would rather invest the money in our son.”

George was visibly disappointed and spoke little for several days. Finally, early one morning, following an intensive time of prayer, he agreed. They never built their new house. But in 1888, Lee left home to attend Baylor College in Waco, Texas. He became an influential servant of Christ, Southern Baptist leader, writer, seminary president, pastor, evangelist, and business leader. He was instrumental in building colleges, seminaries, churches, hospitals, and mission stations around the world.

Many years later a young man was struggling about what he should preach on for his first sermon. He found the material he needed from a book of sermons that Lee Scarborough had written. That young preacher’s name was Billy Graham.

In the search for lasting achievement and to really make a difference, there is no substitute for simply doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, and leaving the results to God.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…they rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation 14:13).

— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church