Leaving a Legacy

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”   C.T. Studd

A legacy is a gift each of us has the opportunity to leave behind.  It is typically thought of as anything of value that is handed down from one predecessor or ancestor to those who remain.  There are many dimensions to a legacy both spiritual and natural. 

The theme of legacy is interwoven throughout the Bible.  The patriarchs were very conscious of the legacy that they would leave behind and sought to pass on the gift of God’s promises to their succeeding generations.  Both Isaac and Jacob gathered their offspring to their side and prayed God’s blessing upon them, gave prophetic predictions and granted them their respective inheritances.

Jesus entire life and ministry was focused on leaving the greatest legacy ever granted, the gift of eternal life.  The last supper, when He gathered His disciples the night before He died, is unquestionably the most poignant and powerful gifting of legacy every recorded.

Since legacy is meant to be something of enduring value, a spiritual legacy, which has the potential to be a blessing for all eternity, is of course the most valuable legacy anyone can leave behind.  For followers of Jesus Christ, our spiritual legacy is salvation and resurrection life which we receive from Him, secured through His sinless life and death for all human kind. 

Such a spiritual legacy is a very unique gift because it promises the continuation of our relationship with those we love beyond this life into eternity.  It guarantees the blessed reunion in heaven with Christ one day of all who share that same life of faith in Him.  What greater gift can anyone give than the assurance that they will be in heaven waiting for those they love?  That their goodbye is not “goodbye forever” but simply a “goodbye until we meet again.”

It is important therefore when we think about our legacy to first and foremost consider the spiritual legacy we want to leave behind.  William James had this in mind when he wrote “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”  The only guarantee any of us have of something of value outlasting us and positively impacting succeeding generations is a life of faith in Christ.  The highest and greatest use of our lives therefore is to spend it living for and serving Him. 

Charles Thomas (CT) Studd, born into a wealthy English family in the latter part of the 19th century, educated at Cambridge and celebrated as one of that nation’s best cricket players, upon conversion left it all behind to become a missionary first to China and later to India and Africa.  When his father died, CT gave his entire earthly inheritance away and his famous quote rings with the same clarion call as it did when he penned it well over one hundred years ago.  “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Over the years I have had the privilege of officiating at a number of funerals, mostly for people I have known and occasionally for those whom I never met.  In both cases one of the curious things I have noticed during the times given for sharing reminiscences about the deceased is the nature of the often humorous anecdotal stories about their idiosyncrasies.  What has struck me is that of all the things that could be shared, particularly related to some positive legacy, spiritual or natural, for which that the person would have undoubtedly wanted to be remembered, instead many people shared a memorable slice of trivia from that persons’ life.  While such sharing is endearing to those who knew and loved the deceased, it probably does not adequately represent the cherished and enduring legacy that person labored to leave. 

There are many aspects to a person’s natural legacy that can be both admired and emulated.  Beyond tangible property and/or money, there are the cherished memories and imitable qualities of a person’s unique gifts, traits, habits, abilities, likes, dislikes, traditions and accomplishments. When treasured and sought after by those who survive, these constitute a natural legacy that has the potential to be imparted by God to the desired recipients. 

An illustration of this spiritual principle is the story the passing of Elijah’s legacy to his disciple Elisha.  When Elisha specifically asked for the legacy of a double portion anointing from his mentor Elijah, God graciously granted it.  Elijah’s mantle, a symbol of that legacy, fell to Elisha as Elijah was swept up into heaven in a fiery chariot.  With alacrity, Elisha picked it up and the rest is history.  The record of his miracles reveal a literal doubling of the number of Elijah’s.

Whether we are laboring to leave a Godly legacy, or seeking one from a precious relative or friend whom God is calling home, we need to be conscientious and proactive in faith about it.  Legacies are like footprints in the sands of time.  Their value is in the fact that they went in the right direction and created a path others want to follow.  “You can’t leave a footprint that lasts if you’re always walking on tiptoe.”  (Marion Blakey)  

A Godly legacy demands a no holds barred commitment to follow Christ and walking that out by living an exemplary Christian life.  If you were to die right now, today, what aspects of your legacy would you want others to value and inherit?  What would they say about your legacy and what would they do with it?

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