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Ways to Leave a Godly & Meaningful Legacy

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There is a bumper sticker that reads “Live your life so the preacher doesn’t have to lie at your funeral.” While that sounds funny (and possibly a little unsettling), it’s actually not terrible advice. The Bible is very clear about the fact that each of us are going to die at some point. Hebrews 9:27 teaches us that “it is appointed for man to die once.” There is no way to get around the fact that at some point we are all going to take our last breath and transition from the temporary to the eternal. The decisions that we make today will have a direct impact on the way that people remember us after we’re gone.

The 11th chapter of Hebrews is often referred to as “The Hall of Faith.” Within those 40 verses, the writer of Hebrews runs through a list of heroes of the Christian faith who left behind a Godly legacy. It’s important to note that none of them were perfect people. They all had their issues and their baggage, but the legacy that they left wasn’t one of sin and shame. Instead, it was a legacy of faith. Let’s take a look at a few of those men and women and how they shaped their own legacy.

Abel

Hebrews 11:4 (ESV)
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

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If you ask most people to tell you something about Abel, they’ll probably tell you that he was the first murder victim in the Bible, having been killed in a fit of jealous rage by his brother, Cain. But that’s not the way that God remembered Abel’s legacy in the Hall of Faith.

Genesis 4 tells the story of Cain and Abel, each of whom brought a sacrifice to God. Abel, who was a shepherd brought the absolute best of his flock while Cain, a gardener brought what was left of his harvest. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s which launched Cain into a rage. He killed his brother out of jealousy. But the writer of Hebrews said that though Abel died “he still speaks.” What did Abel continue to say?

Abel’s legacy continued to speak on his behalf, because He left a legacy of giving God the best of what he had. That’s the type of legacy that we should seek to leave as well. God no longer requires animal sacrifices, but we are called to offer a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15). We praise God through giving Him the absolute best that we have. We offer our time, our heart, our talents and our lives in service to God.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for your friends and family to look back at your life one day and say that you constantly put God first in everything that you did? That’s the type of legacy that Abel left behind, and that’s why his legacy continued to speak thousands of years after he was gone.

Noah

Hebrews 11:7 (ESV)
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

While many of us may have heard the story of Noah and the ark from the time we were young, that’s not true for everyone. If you’re not familiar with the story, it can be found in chapters 6-8 of Genesis. To summarize, the world had become increasingly sinful and wicked. In fact, things were so terrible that there were only eight righteous-living people left on Earth! Noah, his wife, their three sons and daughters-in-law were the only Godly people left. God was so disgusted by the social climate of the day that He decided to flood the entire planet and start over.

Since Noah and his family were faithful, God spoke to Noah and told him to build a boat, gather his family and the animals and prepare the coming storm. Noah didn’t question things. In fact, he went straight to work building the ark exactly the way that God told him to. For 40 days and 40 nights rains poured out of the sky. While the earth flooded, Noah, his family and the animals that God supernaturally brought to him were safe.

As incredible as that story is, there’s something about Noah’s faith that makes it even more incredible: it had never rained before. The first drop of rain that fell on day one of the storm was the first drop of rain that had ever fallen. Noah obeyed God even though what God said was going to happen had never happened before! That’s the legacy that Noah left behind.

While God may not instruct you to build an ark and gather thousands of animals and your family, you can still leave a legacy of faith and obedience. Maybe God is leading you to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or in a ministry in your church. No, it may not be something as remarkable as building a boat and enduring an apocalyptic-level storm, you can still leave a legacy of obedience.

Rahab

Hebrews 11:31 (ESV)
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Isn’t it great to know that our past doesn’t dictate the legacy that we can leave? If most of us were being honest, we would acknowledge that our past is filled with some stories that we’d rather not have told at our funeral. The same could be said about Rahab, who is perhaps the most unlikely name to find in the Hall of Faith. Go ahead and read the verse again. Her name was Rahab and she was a prostitute.

Before Joshua led the children of Israel around the walls of Jericho in Joshua chapter 6, he sent spies to check out the land in Joshua chapter 2. The first person that they met when the arrived in town for their covert operation was Rahab. Rahab, the prostitute. It didn’t take long for their arrival to get back to the King of Jericho who quickly sent officers to Rahab’s house to find out why the Israelite spies had come to the city. Instead of turning them in, the Bible teaches us that she hid the spies!

Joshua 2:8-9(ESV)
Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.”

Rahab changed her legacy with one simple decision. She landed in the Hall of Faith based on her belief that God was able to deliver Jericho into the hand of His people.

Your past may not look like Rahab’s, or it might. Whatever your past looks like, God offers the incredible opportunity to change your legacy. A life that has been submitted to Him is a life that is changed forever. If He could change Rahab’s legacy, He can change yours. That’s what so amazing about grace!

Each of us are able to write our own legacy and can rest in the confidence of how we will be remembered just like Paul did. In his last epistle, a letter to Timothy, Paul wrote about his own confidence in the legacy that he was leaving behind:

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who love his appearing.

Paul knew that when he was gone, Timothy and his other friends would be able to say that he had fought a good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. We can rest in the same promise if we live our lives in accordance with God’s will.

A Closing Prayer:

God, help me to leave behind a legacy that points my loved ones to you. Help me to walk in faith and obedience to Your Word. Instead of being remembered for the mistakes I’ve made, I want to be remembered for the good I do. Show me opportunities to be faithful to You and give me the courage to take advantage of them. In Christ’s name, Amen!

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