Leaving a Legacy

Legacy. What will remain when I am gone? What impact will my life have made on the grand scheme of things? Some focus on leaving an inheritance to their family: houses, cars, property, wealth, or maybe even the family jewels!

I have been thinking a lot lately about this idea of leaving a legacy. Becoming a widow changes something in our thinking about what is important to leave behind. We begin to realize that the things we value in this life are not the things that hold true value eternally. I have observed that as we age, our possessions decrease until often there isn’t much left that we could call valuable.

My grandfather, a wonderful minister of the Gospel for many years, died having lived his last few years in a nursing home. His “wealth” was reduced to several boxes of personal belongings. I happen to have the bookcase he bought for his office when he first became a pastor around 1930, and it’s likely precious only to me! (Note: my grandma went through a season of refinishing every piece of furniture they owned – including the above-mentioned bookcase!)

My parents and Dave’s parents – all of whom lived to be 90 or more – had very little left in the way of worldly possessions when they finished their journey. I have my Mom’s wedding gown from 1946, and my Dad’s favorite hat that he wore until the day he died. Probably most precious to me are the family Bibles that date back to the 1800’s. These things have no intrinsic value, only the memories they hold for me.

Before cancer struck, Dave was active and living life – and he had the stuff to prove it! Every hobby had its own set of tools and equipment: camping, fishing, welding, woodworking, auto mechanics, home repair. And that didn’t even begin to touch all the books and sermon notes and an office full of ministry contacts, cassette tapes, and CDs. After the first “sorting”, I still moved twenty-one boxes of sermon notes and teachings with me! He had two drawers full of extension cords and power supplies for old computers. And then there were the two file drawers full of maps. Yes, maps! I could have found my way around anyplace in the world, including the Canadian Wilderness and Mexico City!!

So, going through what was left to represent the lives of four parents and a husband in the last six years has prompted me to think about what I want to leave behind. One Christmas when I was a small girl, I received an autograph book. At 8 years old, I went around collecting “autographs” from all my friends and family! Trust me, it was kind of a “thing” back then! I will never forget something my Grandma Howison wrote in my little autograph book before she signed her name: “Only one life and this too shall pass. Only what’s done for Jesus will last.” I wish I still had that little book, as it would be one of my most precious treasures.

What are the things of value that we truly want to leave when our time here is complete? The idea of a Legacy focuses on building into the next generation and passing on things of lasting value to those who will come after us. What are the things of most value and how do we go about passing them on?

Stories of God at Work

We need to leave the stories of what God has done in our lives, in the history of the family, and in the lives of others close to us. Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Are you taking advantage of those teaching moments to tell your children and grandchildren about how God has worked in your life? Have you gathered stories from the family history to share with your kids and grandkids? We have pictures and information back more than five generations from our family on both sides. Our descendants need to see themselves on a continuum of something much larger than they are. How did God work to bring your family to this country? Were there pastors or missionaries in your family line?

Guiding truths

We can leave our families guiding truths by which they can live their lives. We can do this both by instruction (talking with them) and by setting an example by the way we live.

Deuteronomy 6.5-7: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

This is not a matter of preaching to others, but rather a lifestyle demonstrating what it means to serve the Lord and walk according to His principles.

Opportunities to Serve and Bless Others

What memories are you creating? What will people remember about you? Are you taking your children and grandchildren with you when you go to serve or minister to someone else? Do they see you expressing the love of God and kindness to others? What words will they remember you speaking? What Kingdom experiences are you giving them?

1 Peter 4.10: Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Generational Blessing

Without going into great detail at this point, suffice it to say that the Bible has much to say about generational blessings and curses. How we respond to God in our lives has great impact on our future generations.

One example of this is the well-known American revivalist and theologian, Jonathan Edwards. He lived during the 1700’s and was instrumental in the Spiritual Enlightening period in early America, serving as president of Princeton University at one point. There have been many interesting studies done in this area of generational blessings, but let’s look at Jonathan Edwards’ family as a case in point. From Jonathan Edwards’ 1,394 studied descendants came 1 American Vice-President, 3 senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 30 judges, 13 college presidents, 65 college professors, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 military officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 prominent authors, and 80 other public officials.

Deuteronomy 7:9 – “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”

Steve Green has done a wonderful song that expresses the heart of every Believer as to how we want to be remembered. You can listen to “Find Us Faithful” at this link: Find Us Faithful – Steve Green [With Lyrics] – YouTube

Have a wonderful week, and know that your comments are always welcome here or you can email me at sheryl@freshhope.us

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