He died in a good old age [his seventy-first year], full of days (satisfied), riches and honor. Solomon his son reigned in his place. The time that he reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. Thus David the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel.
1 Chronicles 29: 26-28
As flawed people who try to walk with God, the best legacy we can leave our children is twofold: resources for success and honesty about our failures. When he died, David left both of these to his son Solomon.
Imagine being Solomon on the day David was buried. He could look back on his father’s stunning successes: killing Goliath, conquering the Philistines, leading the Mighty Men, and uniting the kingdom. But as he stood at the grave, Solomon also thought of his father’s tragic failures: adultery with Bathsheba, conspiring to murder Uriah, and the pride of numbering the people that led to thousands of needless deaths. A mixed bag for sure.
David, though, had been painfully honest about his sins. He confessed them to God and to the entire nation. He even memorialized them in psalms of confession and forgiveness so that his repentance would be an example for others- including his son- to follow for centuries to come.
As we prepare our children for the time when we leave the earth, we, too, need to leave a legacy of success and integrity. When we tell our kids about our successes, we need to be careful to give God credit for blessing us and giving us the abilities to succeed. And when we tell them about our failures, we need to share with them in an age-appropriate way, explaining the consequences we experienced, our deep remorse for being so foolish, and the refreshment of God’s forgiveness.
Which will mean the most to our children? Both are essential for them to have success and integrity in their own lives.
You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want out of life.
Most of the time when we think about legacy, we think about how some great person left a huge philanthropic endowment for some worthy cause. We usually don’t consider ourselves in such category so we don’t think much about our legacy. Oh we might give consideration to what material things we might leave behind for our children but that’s usually as far as we think. But what about the intangibles that make up our lives? What about our values, the lessons we’ve learned that could benefit our children and grandchildren, our faith, or the example we’ve been? Truthfully those are the best things we can leave behind.
Everyone leaves a legacy of some kind behind and we ought to give consideration to just what that legacy will be.
Often many people live for the moment, never giving any thought to the future. Paul was not one of those. He lived his life to carry out the mission of Christ more than that he lived to pass it on to the next generation and the one after that and the one after that. Here is how he describes his legacy:
“According to the [remarkable] grace of God which was given to me [to prepare me for my task], like a skillful master builder I laid a foundation, and now another is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be clearly shown [for what it is]; for the day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality and character and worth of each person’s work. If any person’s work which he has built [on this foundation, that is, any outcome of his effort] remains [and survives this test], he will receive a reward. But if any person’s work is burned up [by the test], he will suffer the loss [of his reward]; yet he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has barely escaped] through fire.”
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Paul is by no means saying that the work was finished by himself or any of the other apostles. In reality the work of God will never be complete until Jesus comes and gathers the church home. That means that we who are current members must consider what the future generations will have offered to them and whether the church will still continue in a relevant and positive way.
I am a beneficiary of the legacy passed down to me and you are too. The saints of old and the pastors and teachers who spoke into our lives provided us a foundation of faith upon which to build our lives. They gave of themselves and planted principles in us that continue to work in us today. The point of living to leave a legacy means that we ought to spend more time planning for the future than we do enjoying the present. I know that sounds strange for some of us because we’d like the church to continue exactly as it has been in our lives. We forget that the church we know probably isn’t the church our grandparents knew and it certainly isn’t the church of the first century. What would our lives be like if nothing ever changed and our children and grandchildren didn’t have all the advantages they currently have? Suppose we insisted that they replicate our lives to the exact detail? Remember how life was before remotes, cell phones, the internet, and HVAC? It that really how we want ourselves or future generations to live? Don’t we enjoy all the benefits of these things and how they make life better for us? Doesn’t every parent want a better life for their child? Shouldn’t we desire that the church we leave to our children be one that is relevant and provides them means to connect to God and to experience the same life transformation we’ve experienced.
I have no doubt that Paul wouldn’t have dreamed of preaching on TV or radio or livestream. He probably couldn’t conceive of a missionary journey that took hours rather than months to reach the mission field. It would probably been far beyond his imagination that some day the manuscripts he was penning by candle light from a dungeon would someday be available electronically and accessible in almost every known language on a device you can hold in your hand. But I believe he would have been excited to know that the accessibility to the Word of God was working in the expansion of the Gospel. I’m sure the early Christians would stand in awe that we gather in designated buildings to worship and fellowship. I can’t imagine what would go through their minds when they heard electric guitars and electronic pianos, but I bet that when they saw people worshipping and more importantly people coming to know Christ, they would rejoice.
That leaves us with a question, doesn’t it? Will we leave a passion for worship, a desire to know God, and a heart for the lost? Will our legacy give them a desire to make a relationship with God the most important thing in their lives? We could leave buildings and programs and methods, but they might not be enough to insure that they come to know Christ. The problem with leaving things behind is that we often try to project our desires on our children. Let me explain. A dear gentleman I knew was an avid Dale Earnhardt fan and had a large memorabilia collection. When he passed away the children gave that collection away. Although it was a joy and delight for him, it meant nothing to the kids. I, myself, have the entire Louis Amour collection of westerns. They have brought me many hours of pleasure but none of my children have any desire to read them much less own them. You see they may not want those kind of things but I’m happy when I hear them and see them say and practice the principles and values that Sherry and I tried to instill in them. I must confess that how those principles work in them aren’t quite how we applied them but the outcome is good. The legacy the church leaves behind must provide the tools for future generations through whatever means to connect with God. We are the evidence that well-prepared legacies live on. I’m sure that one of the reasons that Solomon was so wise is due in part to the legacy he received from his father.
What’s going to be your legacy? What will your children and grandchildren remember you for? I hope at the top of the list is that you were a committed Christ follower.
Dr. John Thompson