A message presented Sunday, August 9, 2020 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
Many of you probably know about Dick Goddard’s passing this past week at age 89. He was a larger-than-life television personality who was on the air for 55 years predicting the weather in northeast Ohio, and he was also a notable advocate for dogs and cats. He mentioned in an interview, “I promote animal welfare, that’s my goal, and before I go to the theme park in the sky, I want to do all I can for the four-footers.” 1 He will always be remembered as an advocate for the proper treatment of pets. I met Dick once about twenty years ago in a random encounter at Barnes & Noble, and he was as polite and engaging as many have said about him over the years.
It was no secret that Dick’s health was failing. He was in a nursing home in Florida and his daughter was looking after him. It is my hope that, in death, he did indeed reach the Theme Park that he was referring to in his interview.
I can’t help but think of another person that lived her life in such a way that she was dedicated to serving others. My wife and I returned from vacation earlier this year, and it was time for us to get our taxes done. We were able to meet with our tax advisor, Marlyn, on Friday, March 20. I remember that Lynn and I had talked about just getting back from our vacation, and I had asked Marlyn if she was going on vacation later in the year. She smiled and gave essentially a non-answer to the question.
We both found out later that our appointment was one of the last appointments she was able to keep. Marlyn died two weeks later on or around April 4. She was going to be 80 years old in July. There was no indication that Marlyn was in ill health, but it turns out that she had terminal cancer.
We received the call from a person who works in Marlyn’s office, and she told us that Marlyn had dispersed her list of clients and wanted to make sure that they were all well taken care of after she was gone. She had dedicated her life work to prepare tax returns in the best way possible for all of her clients. She was magnificent.
So, I’ve just shared examples of two people who were dedicated to a life of service for others, and that, even in death, they will be remembered for what they had accomplished, and will perhaps even inspire others to do their very best to serve others. If you haven’t picked up on this, please note that the act of service is a godly attribute.
My subject for this week is not just about someone’s passing, but more about life and what you decide to do with it. It is important for each one of us to consider this as we live for today and for every day forward. This message is about your legacy.
What is the legacy that you want people to know about you?
What is your legacy?
First, let’s define the word “legacy” to allow for the proper introspection. A legacy, for our purposes, is something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past. A synonym of legacy is “heritage.” 2
So what is your legacy?
One song, as I write this, immediately popped into my head. (And this is dangerous.)
The Temptations had a very famous song with amazing music and incredible lyrics called “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” It was a Top 100 hit for the Temptations that won 3 Grammy Awards.
The complete song was over 11 minutes long, and I won’t play the song here (if you don’t know the song, you can listen to it on YouTube for free), but I’ll share some tidbits from the song’s lyrics 3 of what people had to say about Papa that made up his legacy:
- One of the children never met him and heard nothing but bad things about him.
- Another child said he had heard that Papa never worked a day in his life.
- Another child said he had three children outside of his marriage and second wife. (If you think that is strange, remember the legacy of CBS News commentator Charles Kuralt.)
- Papa was a store front preacher who was taking advantage of his followers financially.
- He used to beg, borrow and steal to pay his bills.
- He was a womanizer and drank to excess.
- …and when he died, all that he left the family was basically nothing.
If you listen very closely here, you just might associate what you hear about Papa with a number of men in our society who have failed to take responsibility for their actions or their own families. And yes, this is an indictment.
This thing about legacy starts with the behavior of men because they are, according to God’s standard, the earthly example for every person to follow. Look at what Paul is stating here in his letter to the church at Corinth:
1 Corinthians 11:1-3 ESV
1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
The legacy of a man starts ultimately with his behavior and actions, and every person in that man’s life is supposed to look to him as the example, just as Jesus Christ is to be the example for the man.
The man is supposed to be the head of the family or the head of the household, and his involvement, or lack of it, has a generational effect. It affects the wife, the children, the grandchildren, your friends and extended family.
A wonderful, meaningful legacy has a positive ripple effect on our families and on society—everyone within the person’s sphere of influence. Its impact is far-reaching and God-approved.
Great legacies endure and are not constrained over time.
And why wouldn’t they endure? God Himself, through His instruction, wants His mighty works and deeds to be conveyed from generation to generation, so that people remember what He has done and to not forget about them, which leads to ultimately forgetting about Him.
Psalm 78:4 ESV
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 145:4 ESV
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
So, getting back to the question of your legacy…what do you want to be known for? Well, let’s look to what man should be doing as the earthly example before others. We are to look to the example of Jesus Christ. And please understand that everyone, including women, are to look to Christ for guidance as to how one is to live.
Galatians 3:28-29 ESV
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Here’s another question for everyone…do you know what your purpose is? If you know your purpose in Jesus Christ, He will enable you to carry out your purpose. You will need to do the work, of course, and die to self as you live for Christ, but this is how you build a legacy. It is not just to build your reputation, but to proclaim the glory of Jesus Christ in your words and actions. Your lifestyle is to reflect that of Jesus Christ.
Christ is our example as to how we are to love others.
Christ is our example as to how we are to serve others.
Christ is our example as to how we are to minister to others.
Matthew 5:16 ESV
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Proverbs 22:1 ESV
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Now, I want to give emphasis that your legacy is not about how great you are as a person. The good name and good works are specifically about your efforts of service that do not glorify you but glorify the name of Jesus Christ.
The Enabler that resides within you, as a believer in Jesus Christ, is the Holy Spirit. He gives you what you need to succeed.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
James 3:17 ESV
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
If you are following the Spirit, you will be creating a legacy as a follower of Jesus Christ that glorifies Him. All of this is rooted in your obedience to Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Romans 12:1 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
I said all of this to pass on an important reminder that the time we spend here on earth is very valuable. As we live for Christ, we are called to live for a purpose. This is how you build a legacy in Jesus Christ.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Listen to the Holy Spirit and follow Him.
Obey the Words of Jesus Christ.
Know your purpose as a believer in Jesus Christ.
Build your legacy in Jesus Christ—not just for the rest of your life, but indeed for all eternity.
If you want to trust in Jesus Christ in all of this, now is the time.
© 2020 Melvin Gaines
1 From website. Retrieved August 5, 2020 from https://fox8.com/news/dick-goddard-legendary-fox-8-meteorologist-dies-at-89/
2 legacy. (n.d.). In The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition. Retrieved from https://www.wordnik.com/words/legacy
3 From website. Retrieved August 5, 2020 from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/temptations/papawasarollinstone.html