Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler grew up together in Sacramento, California, where they attended the same Christian high school. Skarlatos and Stone are now serving in the American military. Sadler is in college; his father is a Baptist pastor. The three decided to vacation together in Europe. Last Friday, they boarded a high-speed train with 500 other passengers traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.
They had no idea they would make history.
When a gunman on the train opened fire, they tackled and subdued him. A British consultant named Chris Norman joined them. Yesterday, the four received the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest recognition. French President Francois Hollande: “Here are four men who with the help of others acted not just to save their own lives but who also came to help others and saved the lives of others.” According to President Hollande, their instinctual reaction helped prevent “true carnage.” (For more on the train heroes, see Ryan Denison’s Heroes derail terrorist’s plans on French train.)
We seldom know the future significance of present actions. When a small skirmish broke out at Lexington, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775, few knew that the American War for Independence had begun. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914, no one knew that what we call World War I had begun. When the transistor was invented in 1947, few knew it would spark the beginning of the computer age.
We never know the eternal significance of present faithfulness. (Tweet this) In fact, God says we cannot: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). We cannot see the soul, or know how God is working in human hearts. If we cannot understand what he is doing today, how can we understand what he is doing eternally?
No one who left a spiritual legacy knew they were doing so. When Moses gave Israel the laws of God, he did not know he was building a cultural foundation for civilizations around the world. When Paul wrote letters to churches and friends, he didn’t know they would be read by billions of people across the world 20 centuries later.
When Luther posted a list of 95 discussion topics to the door of his village church, he didn’t know he was helping begin the Protestant Reformation. When Jim Elliott wrote in his private journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” he didn’t know he would be martyred and that his credo would echo for generations to come.
If you want your life to be significant, don’t seek significance but service. The Lord warned, “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5). Rather, seek to serve. Seek to love your Lord and your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). And your life will count, in heaven and on earth.
Because we are made in God’s image, we instinctively recognize true greatness as service to others. France awarded its highest honor not to tycoons who made a fortune in business or politicians who were elected to high office, but to men who risked their lives to save other lives.
Charles Spurgeon advised, “Write your name on hearts, not headstones. Write your epitaph on the lives of those you influence and it will be eternal.” Will the epitaph you write today be eternal?