An Immortal Legacy
I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.
Does what we do for God really matter? Sometimes we wonder. We look around at others who don’t care about God but seem to be getting ahead far faster than we are,many we get discouraged. We need to remember that for all of eternity, God will honor every moment we trust Him, every word we say to communicate His truth, and every move we make to follow His leading. All these things are not only done for Hi, but done by Him as He works in our hearts. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is forgotten.
If we live for the applause of people, we often will be disappointed. But if we live with a deep reverence for the One who is both King and Savior, we realize that He is the One who ultimately holds the measuring stick and determines which kind of life has real value.
We all leave a legacy, but God determines the eternal value of our lives. We can live each day with the confidence that God will one day measure our lives and give them a grade. On that day, some who appeared to be really successful might find they weren’t so hot after all, and God will smile at some who were faithful and loving but overlooked.
The greatest investment you can make in this world is in God’s Word and God’s people. They are two things that last forever and pay eternal dividends.
Living with eternity in view versus living for the now moment changes our goals, views and priorities. When we only live for now or this life, we make temporary things seem to be permanent. For most people, the focus of getting through the week, accomplishing what is necessary to provide the lifestyle that’s important to us and enjoying all the benefits we can afford. Far too many have short term goals. We plan for the next year, the next vacation, or what we will do when we retire.
Jesus tells the story of such a person. He tells of a man who was so caught up in his life in this world that he forgot to make provision for eternity. He kept growing larger crops which required bigger barns which required larger crops that required bigger barns. We, too, can get so enthralled by all this world has to offer that we forget eternity awaits.
One of the stories Jesus told provides a powerful lesson of life in this world in comparison to life in eternity:
“Now there was a certain rich man who was habitually dressed in expensive purple and fine linen, and celebrated lived joyously in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, covered with sores. He [eagerly] longed to eat the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores Now it happened that the poor man died and his spirit was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (paradise); and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (paradise). And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in severe agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things [all the comforts and delights], and Lazarus likewise bad things [all the discomforts and distresses]; but now he is comforted here [in paradise], while you are in severe agony. And besides all this, between us and you [people] a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to come over from here to you will not be able, and none may cross over from there to us.’ So the rich man said, ‘Then, father [Abraham], I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them witness to them, so that they too will not come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have [the Scriptures given by] Moses and the [writings of the] Prophets; let them listen to them.’ He replied, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent [they will change their old way of thinking and seek God and His righteousness].’ And he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to [the messages of] Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Luke 16: 19-31
Were someone to view the life of the rich man they might conclude that he had everything. They would be sure that his family would fare well for he had much wealth. Perhaps they would define his legacy as leaving his family well off. On the other hand, those who passed by Lazarus would have looked upon him with disgust or pity. They would have seen someone who certainly had little of the things of the world. They certainly would have categorized him as a failure in comparison to the rich man. But they could only see this life and this moment in time. Jesus pulls back the curtain and gives us a view from eternity. In eternity, Lazarus had wealth beyond compare. Listen to how Jesus described Lazarus’ future. In eternity, he was met and carried by the angels to paradise. Gone was his suffering, his lack, and his want. Every need was supplied and Jesus said the “he is comforted in paradise.” Now consider the rich man in eternity. Jesus tells us that the rich man died and was buried. More than likely Lazarus had no funeral. He most likely was carted to the wall and thrown into the refuse pile. No doubt the family and friends of the rich man threw him a fine funeral service. His accomplishments were lauded, his life eulogized, and his body was laid to rest in the family sepulcher. But no angels escorted him. Instead Jesus said that he was buried and his next awareness was in Hades, being in torment with no relief. At that moment, I’m sure he would have given all he had for a little relief but that was no longer possible. His view and values had a radical transformation. His concern for his family was no longer that they had things but that they would not share his eternity. Oh what a grievous day it will be for those who spent their lives chasing all this world has to offer and forgot to care for the greatest treasure known to humanity- eternity.
In the story of the man who was focused on increase and bigger barns, Jesus said that after spending the evening planning his new barn, the man went to bed and died. All his planning was in vain, but worse still because he had made no provision for eternity, he was lost forever.
Scripture teaches us moderation. There’s nothing wrong with having things, enjoying life, living the dream unless they come at the expense of our souls which will be billed in eternity. God loves to bless us with things to enjoy but His one great desire is that we will be with Him forever in eternity.
Making following Christ our first priority might cause us to miss a few things in this life but when we arrive in eternity, we will see how cheap it was to give them up.
All of us will leave our children some kind of legacy. The question is whether the legacy will be temporary or eternal. While it’s good to give our children a better life than maybe we had, and it’s good to provide them experiences, and it’s great to make sure they enjoy life as much as they can but if we choose those things at the expense of making sure they find and have a relationship with God, what will they say to us in eternity. The greatest gift we can ever give our children is to give them as much exposure to Christ and the Gospel as possible. For Christians, the greatest legacy is when our children and grandchildren become Christ followers themselves.
Please indulge this old preacher for a moment. With all my heart, I beg ,plead with us that of all the things we give our families that we give them Jesus and a witness of faith. Unless we somehow make following Christ our priority and see to it that our families, our children and grandchildren make following Christ their priorities, our eternities won’t be as fulfilling as they could be. We must become more aware of eternity and that we are truly pilgrims only passing through this world. The psalmist tells us that this life is but a vapor and like the grass soon withers away. Paul says that if in this life only, men have hope, they are truly most miserable. I don’t know about you but when that day comes and family and friends gather to remember my passing, I hope they say, “There is a man who followed Christ and he set an example for us to follow.” I’m not concerned if they can find any great achievements or some great work or some measure of wealth. More than anything, I hope they remember that the most important thing in life is making sure we are prepared for eternity.
Those who put eternity at the top of their priorities will make life choices that reflect such priority. There is a cost in preparing for eternity but I believe those who are enjoying eternity with Jesus would say it was worth it all.
Dr. John Thompson