Living Your Legacy

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way” (Phil. 3:13-15a).

What will your legacy be? At some point in our lives, we no doubt will think about what we will leave behind for others, especially for our children and grandchildren. What will come to mind when they think of the lives we’ve lived, the things they remember us having said to them in the course of a lifetime? What will come to mind when they reflect back on how we faced life? Will it be more than photographs, money, or the things we surrounded ourselves with in life?

Certainly nothing is wrong with providing for the needs of family, of mementos reminding them of time spent together. But is that all we will leave them? We are created in the image of God, which means we are spiritual as well as physical beings. Life is not to be lived just for the flesh but for eternity. No legacy for life is complete without leaving a legacy of godliness, of spiritual values and teaching, of an example that was set for eternity. In the above passage, Paul emphasizes this as his goal for living, the goal all who are mature in their faith should have and seek. When he sums up his life for Timothy later, he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). No doubt, when Timothy’s life went on without Paul’s physical presence, he would not only recall times they spent together, but his teaching, his example. His legacy to Timothy was to live for eternal life.

As I think back on the life of my parents, I remember the sacrifices they made for us to have what we needed in life, as well as time spent with them, their joys and sorrows, but most importantly our shared faith. I understand God’s will for my life today because of their legacy of spiritual teaching and godly influence. Their love of God and His Son was part of the love they instilled in me. That love is real in me because of the truth they led me to in Scripture, so that my confidence would be in God, which was where their confidence was as well. To have my dad’s Bible, and hold it in my hands today, not only reminds me of our lives together then, but of life eternal which he shared with me from it.

In our society, it seems few are concerned about a spiritual legacy anymore. The assumption is we all will go to heaven, no matter how we have lived. Whatever rationalizations are offered for such a view, it is a lie of Satan too many believe. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we take nothing else from his words, we understand submission to his will is fundamental in living the Christian life, and without it we cannot please him. Life in the flesh is to be lived by faith in the Son of God, whose legacy to us is his sacrificial love (Gal. 2:20).  

When we consider the life of Christ, lived in complete surrender to the will of the Father, and the lives of his faithful followers recorded in Scripture, how can we logically suppose that lives committed only to selfish desires and physical pursuits will please God? What a tragic legacy to leave for others. As we consider a new year before us, and the changes we can make for good, may our love for God, our faith in Christ, our devotion to Scripture and living a sanctified life make a difference in us, in our legacy. Let us press on toward the prize. May life be Christ so death will be gain. First and foremost of all, let your legacy be not just earthly memories, but also a heavenly influence. “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” (Prov. 20:6-7).

μαράνα θᾶ (1 Cor. 16:22)