Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.Lin-Manuel Miranda
Living in the light of eternity changes your priorities.Rick Warren
Longevity, love, loss, joy, infirmity and disease, personal relationships. All of these and many others, one would hope, will help to bring wisdom and discernment to an individual. Perceptions change over time. Memory often fades but also often comes stunningly back with shining brilliance. It is at these times that an attitude of gratitude to the Lord should be foremost in one’s mind.
Blessings from the Lord should not just be counted, they should be enumerated and elaborated. Opening one’s memory with true hindsight reveals just some of the times God actively intervened in one’s life. It would amaze us if we truly knew how many times the Lord has blessed us without our recognizing it. It helps to bring the realization that God is incomprehensible and infinitely immeasurable in His love, power, purity, perfection, and compassion.
This life, however, eventually comes to an end. How we will be remembered is summed up in the word “legacy.” Billy Graham wrote, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
What will I be doing when He calls me home? What will I have accomplished for Him in my time here on earth? What marks will I have made for the Lord that are truly enduring? In short, what is my legacy?
You Can’t Take It With You
Someone once said that they have yet to see a funeral with a U-Haul in the procession. Historically we know that the ancient Egyptian pharaohs built immense tombs and after their deaths had themselves buried with valuables for the afterlife. We also know that almost every one of those tombs was looted by grave robbers. In the one exception, King Tutankhamun’s tomb, the valuables were discovered, and they now reside in museums, not with him in eternity.
In order to fully appreciate the transitory nature of this life, one need only go to a cemetery. A simple walk through the grave markers will reveal those who have passed on, along with any memory of them. In truth, once another generation has passed, the overwhelming majority of us will not be remembered. Precious few among the billions of those who have lived are remembered. Statues have been erected to some and (as has been evident recently) societal changes can lead to their toppling. Many have been eulogized as having a name that will be forever remembered. Shutruk-Nakhunte (king of Elam 1184-1155 BC), Annie Edson Taylor (first to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel), and Percy Julian (pioneer of chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants), were all famous in their time—but hardly anyone remembers them today.
In other words, if one truly examines one’s potential legacy, we are almost all eventually delible or erasable. Happily, that is not the end of the story—only the end with respect to this world. What really matters in the long run is leaving a legacy that counts: making an indelible mark, on eternity.
Giants of the Faith
Steps that can lead to that eternal indelible mark can be accomplished in so many ways, especially prayer—for those for who requested it and those who didn’t, for revival, intercession and awakening, for the Lord’s kingdom to come, and for whomever and whatever the Holy Spirit leads one to remember before the throne. When Christians stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ, so many will be astounded at those regarded as giants of the faith. The “little widows and widowers” who constantly approached the throne on behalf of individuals, loved ones, their community, and causes, even for those who didn’t know they were being lifted up, have used their status as prayer warriors to the glory of the kingdom. Their crowns of reward will be numerous.
We can also open the door to creating an ineffaceable impact, by sharing the news of the salvation offered by Jesus Christ with family and others. There is always the opportunity to plant seeds in the hope of leading others to salvation through Christ. By standing firm in the faith and exhibiting the joy, confidence, and fruitfulness of our belief in the Lord Jesus, our words and actions can do so much. This includes not just being an example of the faith, but also in living it out and giving all credit to Him who provides for us and who has saved us. Christians should preach Christ through their actions as well as with their words.
All Christians should obviously do their best to help the poor and unfortunate in His name. It is both commanded and can be eternally fruitful. So many opportunities avail themselves in not only the day-to-day world, but more so in this land of plenty. One need not feel the obligation to become an overseas missionary in order to accomplish this, but everyday actions can also be helpful. One simple example might be by positively interacting with the homeless whom we so often see at intersections or on street corners with their signs telling us of their plight. We could provide them with some money, but we must also tell him or her that we are doing it in Jesus’s name and in the hope that they know of His love for them.
Opportunities to Witness
Once when I was on a trip to Washington, D.C. with my youngest daughter, a homeless couple asked us for money from their seat on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, I snapped at them. Immediately, I recognized the Holy Spirit letting me know that that was not my mission in this life. I took my daughter’s hand, went to a nearby store, bought two sandwiches and bottles of water, and walked back to the couple to give them. I apologized and told them that I did so because I am a Christian and that is what we do to honor the Lord. As we walked away, I pointed to the WWJD bracelet that I wore, and my ten-year-old little girl winked at me and smiled knowingly. In doing this, I am assured that in this small way, I might have provided a fixed impact for Christ with those two souls, not to mention hers.
Those examples demonstrate how many incidental occasions in daily life can provide us with the opportunity to witness and perhaps begin the process of leaving that mark. We must also know that our Lord has put these opportunities in front of us because He knows our capabilities and wants us to not only do His will, but to want to do His will. In short, encounters like this actually show how much Jesus believes in us.
God has given us the means to acquire the wisdom and discernment to become aware of how to make our mark. The Holy Spirit provides the prodding and guidance, if not the words. The point is that we are never on an island in our life of faith. This should give us confidence and strengthen our approach, along with the courage to make our ineradicable stamp on glory.
I have been blessed by seeing all three of my children accept Christ as their savior and watching as they were baptized. I had the incomparable honor of baptizing my wife. There is also a gift I received from a dear sister-in-law as she was dying of cancer. We knew it was getting close to the end. As one of her last acts, she called me and told me she had something to say. I will never forget her words: “I want to thank you for bringing Jesus Christ into my life.” All I had consciously done was to stand firm in my faith as I talked with her throughout the years about how Christ changed my life, how He has guided me, and how I could see His work in her life.
As I remember those words of hers and the salvation of my family, I am profoundly humbled. The Holy Spirit within me brings me great joy, for I have in a small way helped to make a mark on eternity that cannot and will not be removed.
In the end, all that will be left of consequence, from the story of our lives, will be what we did for Him. Those details and actions will be our indelible marks. That being the case, we must seize every opportunity our lives provide.