Leaving a worthy legacy

October 20, 2013

For most of us, life here will soon be over – at the longest, it will not last very long. How will we be remembered? What words, phrases, deeds, accomplishments will be associated with our passing from this life? Time to die is getting closer every day. That being true what kind of legacy will we leave?

A legacy is something passed down from a previous generation or ancestor. My desk dictionary defines legacy as “money or property left to someone by a will; bequest” or “anything handed down from, or as from an ancestor.” It is simply what we leave behind after we are gone to be a blessing or curse for those who receive it.

Our legacy is what we inherit from others or what we leave for others. For example, I am deeply indebted for the legacy I received from my parents. What they left for me was mostly by way of teaching and example. Kitty and I feel that way about her parents and her “Aunt Mary.”

An inheritance is never to be limited to money received from the family. That is expressed in Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. You will learn a lot by reading it all. As to the value of an inheritance passed down to you underscore verse 11, in this long list of meditations on the Excellencies of the Word of God, which states: “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.”

I have been blessed by the legacy of books received from my parents, Kitty’s parents, my grandparents and from teachers, pastors and professors who passed on to me things that had been important to them. Dr. Gene W. Newberry, my graduate school professor and later an outstanding seminary dean, had a great sense of humor. He brought to every class a story that would elicit laughter. He gave me several of his books on humor.

Two of America’s greatest preachers shared many of their books, books they had written, with me. I treasured and learned from the books of Dr. W. Dale Oldham and Dr. R. G. Lee.

Preachers, teachers, politicians, writers, professors, bankers, parents, grandparents, coaches and friends leave a legacy for us. We are better people because of the legacy they left.

I have read stories in books and newspapers and heard newscasts about presidents, governors, politicians, military generals, athletes, educators and business executives “working on their legacy.” The copy for some of these successful people is now being prepared for their obituary. It is being said of others every time they do something that is sensible, “They are working hard on their legacy.” Too many are blundering in failure. Success is a stranger in their story.

The big fisherman, whom we know today as St. Peter, failed miserably during part of his life. His legacy, after years of failure, was a prime example of how people can really be changed. In I Peter 1:4, he wrote about “An inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”

Bill Armstrong, who taught me to play four different sports in grades eight and nine, was a superb example of a Christian gentleman by word and example. He gained national fame as a basketball coach in California. At his funeral, I read from the New Testament his beloved mother gave to him on Christmas 1937, when he was a young man. He left a legacy that prompts highly successful business and professional men to honor him because he left a life-changing example for them.

Think about your legacy. How will others remember you in years to come?

— © 2013 Wm. C. Ellis

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