35 – Leaving a Legacy of Faith
Rebecca Ann Shuler penned the following words:
Johnnie came over and sat until bed time. We always enjoy his visits. I thank God for my dear children and hope to see all of them faithful servants of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This may not seem particularly insightful. You may have said prayers like this for your family. But this prayer is especially meaningful to me for one reason – it was written by my great, great grandmother over 80 years ago. Johnnie, her son and my great-grandfather, grew up with a heritage of faith. And that heritage has been handed down to me.
I know that without the prayers and faith of those who have gone before me I could never be the person that I am today. These faithful men and women laid a foundation upon which my life is built. They sowed and I have reaped.
I often wonder, how can I pass on this heritage of faith to those who come after me? How can you have the kind of impact that makes a lasting difference in the lives of your family and friends?
THE POWER OF SHARED MEMORIES
God knows how important it is that we remember what He has done for us, because He knows how prone we are to forget. So God often gives us reminders, like the one He gave to Israel after they crossed the Jordan River.
When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight. … In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. … These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. Joshua 4:1-3, 5, 6
God knew that the people needed to remember that it was His power that made a way for them to cross the Jordan River, so He had them gather rocks and build a memorial. This memorial would be a lasting testimony to them and to their descendants who came after them.
The truth is that everybody needs some rocks to build on. God wants us to look back and see the ways that He has been faithful to us. We also should make sure that we place some “rocks” into the lives of our friends and families, so that they too can look back and remember what God has done.
Let’s look at four rocks that can help you leave a lasting legacy.
1: THE BIBLE
The Bible is the word of God. As fallen men, we cannot stay on track without it. It’s not just that it is a good idea to read and study the Bible – it’s our only hope.
The first rock that we can leave behind is to make the Bible a part of our family’s everyday life. This means that we need to talk about the importance of the Bible as well as show that we depend on it as the word of God.
Consider having regular devotions with your family where you read the Bible together and talk about what it means. Perhaps you could reread the sermon text Sunday afternoon and discuss how it applies to your life.
We also should show that the Bible makes a difference in the choices we make. When you are facing a tough decision, share the Biblical passages and principles you think have a bearing on the situation. Get your family’s feedback, then let them see how you prayerfully arrive at a decision that best fulfills what the Bible teaches.
2: THE CHURCH
What percentage of the cultural forces around us, such as television and other media, are influencing us for good? What percentage are having a negative influence?
If we want to leave a lasting legacy, we must counteract the forces that are having a negative impact on our families. The second “rock” that you can leave behind is to actively involve your family in church.
The church is the community that is ordained by God to be the living picture of His kingdom on earth. The church is the place where we join together with other believers for corporate worship. It’s also the primary place where we learn who God is and how He wants us to live.
The church is the place where we establish our most-important friendships. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” This has become even more important as people abandon Judeo-Christian ethics and the consequences for sin become more immediate. Thirty years ago, a young girl who had sex might have gotten pregnant. In this era of AIDS she might die.
Finally, the church is the place where we should find our most significant ministry. We can involve our wives, children and grandchildren in ministry opportunities that allow them to experience the joy of sacrifice.
Some of the most significant events of my teenage years were the opportunities I had to serve others, such as re-roofing an elderly widow’s house in the hot Florida sun. My involvement in the church is a rock upon which my life is built.
3: THE LORD’S DAY
Our culture discourages a proper attitude towards the Lord’s Day. Sunday has become just like any other day of the week. Malls, grocery stores and restaurants are all open. Manufacturing plants have weekend shifts that require employees to work on Sundays. And many executives look at Sunday as the one day the office is quiet so they can get work done.
But God tells us something different. He established the principle of the Sabbath during creation when He rested on the seventh day. Then He reaffirmed the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments.
Jesus himself upheld the Sabbath as long as it is rightly understood. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28). The Sabbath was never meant to be an onerous burden placed on men, but neither was it to be ignored. The Sabbath was meant to be a blessing to man.
The third “rock” that you can leave behind is to treat Sunday as special. How can the Lord’s Day be more of a blessing in your life and the life of your family? Here are a few ideas…
Involve your family in mercy ministry. Younger children can help you bake cookies and take them to an elderly neighbor. Older children might do yard work or volunteer at a homeless shelter.
Compile a list of special activities and allow a different family member to select one each week.
Read a good Christian novel or a missionary biography aloud together with your family, such as one of the Chronicles of Narnia or the story of Hudson Taylor.
4: MEMORIES AND TRADITIONS
Every person goes through periods in their lives that become defining moments. These times leave a lasting imprint. A defining moment causes you to see the world in a whole new light.
Many times defining moments are thrust upon us by forces beyond our control. But we can also plan events and traditions that God can use as defining moments in the lives of others. The fourth “rock” that you can leave behind is to create special memories and meaningful traditions.
God does this for us. He gave the children of Israel the Passover celebration and other holy days. Jesus gave us the last supper that serves as an ongoing reminder to us.
We can create lasting memories in the lives of our families. Consider adopting an annual tradition that focuses on Christmas or Easter. The Jesse Tree is a wonderful 25 day celebration that tells the entire story of redemption while placing ornaments on a tree. Resurrection Eggs™ allow you to teach the meaning of Easter in a creative way*.
Create special memories by planning unique events. Recently, my wife’s mother, along with her sister and two brothers, planned a Family Camp for all of their grandchildren. 22 of these grandchildren gathered in the North Georgia mountains for a week of singing, games, activities, and Bible study. But most of all it was an opportunity for my wife’s mother, aunt, and uncles to pass on the heritage of faith that they had been given by their parents. One of my wife’s cousins said, “This was wonderful! It was a tremendous experience for my children – I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
All of these “rocks” have one thing in common. They all stress things that God has done for us. We can’t have a lasting impact based on our own accomplishments. Instead, we leave a legacy when we point others to what God has done for us. By doing this, we increase their faith in God and help create a strong foundation on which they can build their lives.
David Delk is the Executive Director of Man in the Mirror.
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