Wrapping up a series on marriage and the family, it may seem a little odd to spend some time talking about legacy. After all, we’re getting into the practical nuts and bolts here right? We’ve been all about the everyday nitty-gritty, rubber-meets-the-road type of material that we can incorporate into our lives. And I’ve loved that about this series quite honestly. I believe it’s what we need to hear. I need hands-on stuff that I can grab hold of and start making part of my life. If anything, I go back and reread this material and other stuff I’ve heard lately on this topic. It all helps me “course correct” and realign myself to where I need be.
Let’s admit it: we need spiritual GPS in our lives.
But I can’t address a topic without leaving a footnote as to why all of this matters. Certainly through conferences, retreats, books, and seminars we have so much that helps us get through the day and be better Christians in the moment when it counts. But if we can go again to that 30,000 foot level, why does all of this matter? Why spend so much time renewing and transforming ourselves in the Word and literally making much of this a habit we embrace? Why invest so much time into solidifying marriages and families for Christ?
I believe it’s all about legacy and having a longview of life. I know some people bristle at the word “legacy” and have a hard time with the concept because they think it means something self-centered and self-focused. And I think for much of the world, that’s what a legacy is. It means trophies, awards, and other accolades which equate to remembering someone as something truly special. Guys, I do not care if this world remembers Derek Charles Johnson. Could not care 1%. But what I do care about is that what I'm a part of and what I pass on to my kids is something worth remembering. The only thing worth passing on that truly matters is Jesus. That’s what I hope will be said about me. That’s where we are ending this series today.
1. Be like Jesus
Churches and movements come and go. The last few years have brought an acceleration it seems in the passing of certain righteous men and women of God who were standard-bearers for the faith over the past century. Most notably, we lost Billy Graham this past year. With his death, it seemed like a very real part of America’s (and the world’s) faith culture was brought to a close. It was poignantly sad because as I looked around, I wondered to myself “Who will pick up the mantle of Billy Graham and continue this very crucial work?” I scratched my head in disbelief. There really was no other individual I could think of who could ever fill his shoes.
But in that reflection, I received a thought which I can only attribute as the leading of the Holy Spirit: “Billy Graham is not meant to be replaced. I don’t want another Billy Graham. I just want hearts and lives that are completely abandoned to Me and ready to obey My will.”
We aren’t meant to copy someone else. We aren’t meant to be imitations of anyone on this planet. The only reflection we should strive for is Christ. Whether or not we have “Billy Graham-type” ministries or results should not matter. As husbands and wives, we’ve already talked about being intertwined in Christ (Ecclesiastes 4:12) and we do that for His glory. Our marriage relationship points others to Him. In addition, our kids are our mission field. We model and display Christ to them, knowing that as they see truth, they will grow up with a desire for their own personal relationship with the Savior.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
2. Your twilight years are not wasted
A lot of times as we start to think about legacy and our contribution to the next generation, we put a time limit on how much effectiveness we will have. We calculate out how many years we really get to make an impact and then resign that at some point, we’ll hang it all up and it will be someone else’s job. We are a retirement-based culture. Because of that, often people stop doing certain things when they reach a certain age. Hear me out: I’m not at all against what retirement is and the concept of stepping into years of less laboring and enjoying greater freedom and rest. We all want that. But what we do is confuse this concept in 1 of 2 ways: We either see that our retirement becomes all about us and having as much enjoyment and pleasure as possible. OR we see retirement as a place we end up where our relevance and importance in the lives of others diminishes or becomes inconsequential.
Leaving a Christ-centered legacy means that we stay focused and finish strong. We “leave it all on the field” so to speak and take every moment we have to point to Jesus. If you are a senior or someone entering those “twilight years” of life (i.e. retirement and beyond), you are needed! Our churches and communities of faith need you. Your godly example can be foundational in ministries of every age-range and specificity. I love people who just get this and don’t assume their usefulness is over once they hit 65. You can still pour into younger generations and leave a mark that matters. Marriages and families need the godly wisdom that comes from your age and experience.
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4
3. Choose calling over comfort
When we look back over our lives, what will be the mark that will define us? If we’ve amassed vast sources of wealth and material things but do not have a family that serves the Lord or desires Him, what will we have gained? If we’ve done everything to fill our children’s lives with happiness and contentment but haven’t shown them the Gospel, how have we benefited them? In the process of doing life together in our marriages and families, we have to continually come back to this question: “What is it that truly matters?” Sometimes figuring out what matters, applying it, and living by it is hard. It’s easier to stay comfortable and live out a lukewarm faith. It’s easier not to attend church, not to read our Bibles and not to pray.
One thing I’ve found is that whenever I’ve wanted God to let me off the hook and give me an easier path, He has never stood in the way. It’s called free will and we can exercise it at any point. God didn’t create us to be robots, He created us with the ability to either serve Him or reject Him. Even after we choose to follow and then walk away, God extends grace. I’ve had many times where I’ve failed and have had to go back to the Lord and say “God I’m sorry. I’ve sought own my way and have doubted your goodness when the pressures of life rushed in. Forgive me.” I believe if we are honest before Him, God forgives us, restores us and sets us back onto a path that pursues Him.
When we choose comfort over calling, we also forfeit blessings that God has for us. We may never know the full weight of those blessings, but for me I don’t ever want to wander too far off and find out! I believe the blessing upon my marriage and family is a covering that exists as long as we seek Him. When we walk out from under that covering, God has to judge our disobedience and unfaithfulness. I wish to remain in the calling He has for me, even when it is difficult and every other option looks more appealing. Stay out of the place where it is safe; leave a legacy that is marked by calling over comfort.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
In closing this series, I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t say thank you to those who have gone before me and left a mark on my life; a mark which directly affects who I am, my marriage, and my family. I have the humble privilege of saying both sets of grandparents, both of my parents and so much of my extended family (and my wife’s family) are Christians. I don’t know where I’d be without them; their prayers and loving kindness have caused me to think so much about this idea of legacy. As life wears on and I get older, I know many of them will not always be there to talk to on the phone or get an encouraging note or e-mail from. And I know that part of what they’ve extended to me, I must extend to the generations that follow; most notably my own sons. I am grateful for what God has given. If you are similarly blessed, do not take it for granted. And if you are one of the only voices of faith in your family, consider this your charge to begin leaving a godly legacy that starts with you!
At the beginning of all of this, I said I wanted to focus on 3 things: to re-evaluate our priorities, to re-center ourselves on Christ, and to re-examine what truly matters. Guys, that’s still my heart. I can’t express how much we need to come back to the truth of God’s Word and make it the center of all that we say, do, and think. We get easily distracted by the cares of this world. But we cannot allow those things to hinder us any longer. So much is at stake and the Enemy would love to keep attacking the home by ruining marriages and families. But what if we started living this out? What if we started taking back the ground that’s been stolen? If we do, I believe God can bring something new and fresh that is so desperately needed within this world. It starts one home at a time. Will you join me?
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