Legacy is for old people. This is what I thought when I was a young adult. It was not that I wasn’t ambitious. Quite the opposite. And my ambition determined the legacy that I was building. It always does. Your legacy is what people say about you when you are not around. As legacy ages, it becomes more narrowly focused. The details fade away. Only the headlines remain until, eventually, there is only one headline left. Your legacy.
There is a thought that we shouldn’t worry about legacy. Indeed, our beliefs about Jesus Christ may lead us to conclude that following Him is all that matters. Could this be our legacy? What we are remembered for. “What was Sally like.” “Sally? Oh, she was a Christ-follower. That’s what you need to know about Sally.” This sounds like enough, doesn’t it? I can end this article right here. Be a Christ-follower.
But first, I need to write about you and I. You know? Those of us who want to be Christ-followers, but we mess up from time to time. We lose sight of Jesus at times and wander off the path that we last saw Jesus on. What is our legacy? “Jeffrey? Oh, he was sort of a Christ-follower. You know? I think he tried. But, he was really more of a…what’s the word? Oh, he was more of a poser.” In other words, Jeffrey pretended to be what he wanted to be but couldn’t quite be.
Are you a poser? Too personal? I know that at times, I am a poser. I try to follow Jesus, but something gets in the way. I may point to other people when this happens. “It’s their fault,” I say to myself. “They pushed too far.” But I feel blessed that there is a voice in my head telling me that I simply turned the wrong way. It is not a condemning voice. It seems to be an understanding voice. A voice that was full of grace. This is how I know that the voice comes from Christ.
Of course, there are other voices. The one that agrees with me is the loudest. “Yeah! Your right. It’s their fault. You stand up for yourself. We’re not taking the fall.” But when I consider that the loudest voices do not sound like the one I long to hear, and I listen more intently, I hear it. Sometimes it is only a whisper, but it is always there.
One of the most read books this century is The Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. If the name sounds familiar, this is the same writer who co-authored The Daniel Plan that inspired our worship series for the start of 2020. But before we write a New Year’s Resolution as part of the Daniel Plan, we should take in the Christmas season. We should let God speak to us about what is essential about each of us that we should know.
Most of us are aware that the birth of Jesus was foreshadowed in ancient scripture, centuries before His birth. These Biblical prophecies led the descendants of the people of the Exodus to anticipate the birth of a Messiah. While we can look at these prophecies from our comfortable position long after, there was a lot of uncertainty in what God had in mind.
Isaiah spoke about the birth of a child who will be called Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14). And Isaiah also includes information about a “suffering servant” who would be with and for the people (beginning with Isaiah 52:13). God promised through this prophet, and others, that this child will lead with perfect fairness and justice, and bring true justice and peace to all the nations of the world (Isaiah 9:7).
A young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.
In the Gospel of Luke, Mary sings a song that has roots in Isaiah’s prophecy (Luke 1:46-55). But Mary knew very little about the details. Only that she was pregnant and the promises made by an Angel. This became Mary’s purpose in life. She would be the mother of Jesus. The Messiah. This would be her purpose. This would be her legacy. This is what the world would say about her long after her purpose in this life was done. But did Mary know how to be a mother to Jesus?
Mary was unique. But so are you. Mary’s purpose was foretold in ancient scripture. And so was yours. But you don’t know for sure what this may mean for you. Neither did Mary. Some of us are blessed to see our children grow older and have children of their own. Mary watched her son be executed. I don’t think she was expecting this. I like the first ending better. And fortunately, so does God. This is why Jesus came, died, and is forever with us.
The very best possible legacy for any of us to leave begins with our divine purpose. Find your purpose, and your legacy will follow. Legacy is not about leaving behind an estate or having a building named after you, although these are examples for a small few of us. Your legacy is what you leave behind as you fulfill the purpose that God created you to do. A legacy that endures comes out of calling.
One of the most frequent objections I hear when I ask for someone to step up and take on a project for our community is, “I don’t know how.” This is 2nd only to “I’ve never done anything like that before.” I get it. When it was clear that following Christ for me required me to go back to school, and later to move to Flint, I hadn’t done anything like this before. I didn’t know how to do or even what to do.
I’ve learned that this is precisely where God likes to take me. This is when my only reasonable course of action is to turn to Christ and say, “Lord, I’m in. But I don’t have a clue where to begin.” And this is the sort of reply I get in return, that helps me to know that it is His voice. “I know.” “OK?” I sometimes say out loud in response. “But now what?”
One time, the response that came back made me a little angry. It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was a voice, alright. Loud enough for me to hear and clear enough for me not to misunderstand the point. It went something like this, “Remember when you took your first job at a software company? You left the technical side of the business to accept a position opening a new sales office. You didn’t know how to begin, so you asked people who had done it before. Do that.”
What? I left an industry that took me years of school and more years of working my way up so that I could go back to the beginning and start over? This is what made me just a little angry. Worse, it took me years to realize that software wasn’t my purpose. I wasn’t doing what God created me to do. I was miserable most of the time. I don’t want to go back.
“But I created you for such a time as this,” Jesus said. I didn’t worry that you had moved so far away from where I wanted you to be, because you were learning to do things that I needed you to do for me later. And now, here you are. With me. Welcome home, Tommy.”
Most of my adult life, the only two people who called me Tommy was my mother and the person who signed my paycheck. Most of the people I know changed my name to suit them, and I was just Tom. I was OK with this until I realized that I was given a name at my baptism that wasn’t by accident. I remembered that Tommy is the name that Jesus used for me. He knew me before I was born, and He named me when the world was created. And He gave me purpose.
And this, God willing, will be my legacy.
What will your legacy be? I don’t ask this question to bring you down, I ask this question to inspire you. I want you to seek and fulfill your purpose. If the obstacles in front of you seem impossible to overcome, then God is likely involved. But God prepares us for whatever God has in mind for us. And when we put our trust in God, the way forward will seem a little less impossible, as long as we realize that it is the power of God that is carrying us through the rough patches. And not our own abilities.
Find your purpose and your legacy will follow
Scripture tells us that each of us is wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We also learn that each of us is given gifts and talents that allow us to fulfill our purpose. Paul writes about some of the different abilities that each of us is given to do what we need to do to fulfill our purpose, all from the same power that created us (1 Corinthians 12:6).
And this is where beauty emerges out of the ashes left behind by violence. This is the intersection of beauty and violence. The emergence of divine purpose when our giftedness meets the legacy that God has in mind for us. This is a basic human right. To have the freedom to respond to God’s calling to do that which God created us to do. Just do it.
Sometimes our health gets in the way of moving forward. Sometimes we can’t do anything to change our shortcomings. The world is full of diseases that can cripple us. More often, we simply do not do what is needed to care for ourselves. The world is also full of temptations to eat what we shouldn’t eat and to do what we shouldn’t do. And this affects our energy and our ability to do that which God created us to do.
One lesson that I learn over and over is that we need to take care of ourselves while fulfilling our purpose. Our minds and our bodies belong to God. Let’s set a goal for ourselves to do a better job in 2020 of taking care of ourselves so that we can give God our best in fulfilling our purposes.
Join us in beginning the New Year with a community-wide program that is commonly called the Daniel Plan. On December 29, we will start by writing down our resolutions for the New Year. Have you tried to keep New Year’s resolutions before and failed? When we depend on our will power to succeed in making significant changes, we may succeed in the short term, but we ultimately fail. Join us and learn how God can be a part of your success plan.
Here at Asbury, we worship each Sunday at 10:30 am, and I believe that God is calling you to join us. Come and participate in worship, not as a spectator, but as someone who belongs to God. I lead a short Bible study in the Asbury Café at 9:30 am. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.