What Will be Your Legacy?

In Al Sanders book, “Crisis in Morality”, he compares the descendants of an atheist called Max Jukes to the offspring of a well known preacher that lived during Mr. Juke’s lifetime called Jonathan Edwards. Here is what he wrote:

“Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes . . . But praise the Lord, it works both ways! There is a record of a great American man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a godly girl. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 296 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries.”

Clearly Sanders example demonstrates that a man’s legacy not only impacts the immediate future but has impact on generations to come.  Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word legacy as “something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past.”  Often men fail to think about the legacy they will leave behind until it is too late to worry about the legacy they have left behind.  Too often the world has turned a blind eye to men consumed by sin simply because of some talent or skill they possess.  We idolize athletes, business icons, politicians, musicians, physicians and others for their accomplishments yet their lives are often filled with behavior and habits that are far from being acceptable to God.  God’s men must constantly consider the legacy they will leave behind … and a man’s character, or the lack thereof, will be the driving force behind his legacy!  The good news is God provides us the guidebook of all guides; it is called the Holy Bible!

Proverbs tells us “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”   In a society consumed by possessions, God’s men must stay focused on their character rather than their material possessions.  William Hershey Davis, former professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said “Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next. The circumstances amid which you live determine your reputation; the truth you believe determines your character. Reputation is what you are supposed to be; Character is what you are. Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community; Character is what you have when you go away. Reputation is made in a moment; Character is built in a lifetime. Reputation grows like a mushroom; Character grows like an oak. Your reputation is learned in an hour; your character does not come to light for years. A single newspaper report gives your reputation; a life of toil gives you your character. Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor; Character makes you happy or makes you miserable. Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone; Character is what angels say about you before the throne of God. Your character is what God knows you to be. Your reputation is what men think you are.”  Where will YOUR legacy come … from your character or your reputation?

Second Chronicles gives us a good example of how a man can go about creating the right legacy.  “The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.”   Principles we can learn from this example are: don’t consult the world for answers but seek after God and follow His directions; if we follow the first principle we are in a position to serve God; and as a result of our obedience God will pour out His blessings on us.  Jehoshaphat’s life certainly fits the quote that biographer C. W. Hall shares from Samuel Logan Brengle (the Commissioner of the Salvation Army) which states “The final estimate of men shows that history cares not an iota for the rank or title a man has borne, or the office he has held, but only the quality of his deeds and the character of his mind and heart.”

Peter gives God’s men some excellent advice regarding our legacy when he said “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Pay careful attention to Peter’s advice regarding these qualities and their importance to our effectiveness and productivity for our Lord and Savior.  We must recognize that these are not the qualities that worldly men promote and they will be rejected by those driven by the “me” focus of our society.  Nonetheless, these are critical qualities to a Godly man’s legacy.  Renowned pastor, teacher, and author C. H Spurgeon said “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”

Pastor and author John MacArthur says “The thing that reveals character is involuntary response, not planned response. Your character isn’t manifest by what you prepare to do. It’s manifested by what you’re not prepared for and how you react to that, that involuntary reaction. That shows your character. We can all plan for those spiritual experiences, to some extent. It’s those things that catch us off guard and reveal the real weakness of our hearts that tell us who we really are.” 

Once again Peter gives us valuable guidance on how we accomplish what MacArthur describes as “what you’re not prepared for and how you react to that, the involuntary reaction.”  Peter says “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.”    Being holy means that God has set us apart for a specific purpose and for anything to be holy God must be present.  As Jesus said “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”   Just as Jesus did, God’s men need to devote themselves to carrying out His plan for their lives.  To do this requires dependence on the Holy Spirit and obedience to God’s direction.  The Apostle Paul tells us “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”   A man committed to living his life this way will build a powerful legacy that will impact generations to come.  So, what will be your legacy? 

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All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible (1984 edition)
1 Proverbs 22:1
2 Chronicles 17:3-6
3 1 Peter 1:5-8
4 1 Peter 1:13-16
5 John 8:28
6 2 Timothy 1:13-14

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