|My mother, my girls, and myself before the banquet.|
Learning From, Living and Leaving a Spiritual Legacy
Today, as we gather here as grandmothers, mothers, and daughters, I would like to think about the relationships between the generations.
What exactly is a legacy?
Dictionary.com defines legacy as:
noun, plural legacies.
1. Law. a gift of property, especially personal property, as money, by will; a bequest
2. anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor:
It is something you leave to future generations. Now, it is nice to have money left to you, or to be left a house, a sewing machine, an old journal or even a recipe, but those are not the type of legacies I would like to talk about today.
Today, I would like to talk about a spiritual legacy. Why? Because Proverbs 20:7 says, "The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him."
You may be asking, "What is a spiritual legacy?" Well, Susan Gaddis says this about a spiritual legacy:
A spiritual legacy is all about your relationship with the Lord—the stories of your past and present walk with Jesus given to the future.
It is the baton you pass on to the next generation—depositing truth and practice into the minds, hearts, and lives of those you live and minister among.
I'm sure many of us love to share stories about what we remember about our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even teachers or the next door neighbors. These stories are their legacies.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself." Well, just like we can learn from the mistakes of others, we can learn from what they did right.
I have found it a blessing to have grown up in a Christian home and have grandparents who were Christians because I can look back and see how to live a Christian life as well as remember conversations on why they did the things they did.
In fact, the spiritual legacies of my ancestors and friends around me helped me grow in my spiritual walk and realize God's true calling in my life. While growing up, I was heavily influenced by the feminist movement, but due to some negative experiences, I turned back to my upbringing and accepted Christ. Then, remembering how my grandmother and mother lived helped me learn how to live as a Christian woman. Watching the women whom I attended church with also helped me tremendously in learning how to be a true help meet.
Titus 2:4-5 tells the elder women to teach the younger women, "to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." This is part of the older women leaving their legacies and the younger women learning from the legacies left.
A spiritual legacy can also be passed on by someone you meet or someone who knew another person and shares that person's stories. My mother-in-law's spiritual legacy lives on because of how she impacted my husband's life. My husband shares stories with me about my mother-in-law and her family that reveals to me the many ways we can share God's love with others. Of course, I continue to learn from her from watching how she lives her life now, seeing how she loves others, and by talking to her about things of God.
Deuteronomy 32:7 says, "Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee."
My prayer is that I am living a spiritual legacy. I hope that others will know of my love for God by the words I speak (or don't speak), the actions I make (or don't make), and my reactions to what is happening around me.
I believe the first part of living a spiritual legacy starts with Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
We must love God with all we are and have. We must know and follow His commands. We must teach those commands to our children (and those around us) which we can do in a few ways. We can talk of them, we can read/study the Bible often, and we can surround ourselves with His Word (printed scripture around the house, Christian music, etc.).
Secondly, we must live our faith out loud. What I mean by this is that others should not only see us studying and hear us talking about His Word, but they must see our faith in action. They must see us love others. They must see us forgive. They must even see us repent when we mess up. They must see us turn to God in the midst of trials. They must see us living differently from the world. Remember, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold." (Proverbs 22:1).
I've spoken of learning from and living a spiritual legacy, now let's talk about leaving a spiritual legacy.
I'm sure we would all love to be remembered after we are gone, but we want to be remembered for something good and not for our mistakes. Proverbs 13:22a says, "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children:" I believe this is in reference to a spiritual inheritance just as much as a physical inheritance. If we truly want to be remembered, then we must be purposeful in how we live our lives and it would help if we had a plan.
First, we must know what God tells us is our heritage. Psalm 119:111 says, "Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart." We must remember what God has done for us and share those times with others. It encourages our heart, as well as others, to reminisce about God's good works. We are also told in Psalm 127:3 that children are an heritage. "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." We must live in a way that shows that they are the blessing God says they are.
We can also leave physical evidence of our faith. You can write your testimony down, leave notes in your Bible, or even just notes of encouragement to others can be evidence of your faith. Keeping souvenirs of faith experiences are also helpful because they spark discussion and remembrance.
Joshua 4:5-7 says,
5 And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: 6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? 7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.
People would ask why those stones were stacked there and it would allow the story of God's goodness to be shared again.
Sharing God's Word with others is another way to leave a spiritual legacy. You can have scripture posted around your home (on walls, coffee cups, calendars, etc.), you can sing scripture that has been set to music, or you can recite scripture. In order to be able to recite scripture, you must memorize scripture. This not only helps you live it (because you know it), but also helps the Holy Spirit bring it to memory when speaking to someone.
Yet another way to leave a spiritual legacy is in how you react to trials and temptations. Trials and temptations can strengthen our faith, but our reactions to them also reveals to others the state of our faith. If God is our foundation, then we can stand firm in the midst of trials and temptations and standing firm is the most effective way that speaks loudly to our children (and others) what our testimony truly is.
Now, you may be asking why being intentional about living and leaving a spiritual legacy is important. Do you remember how in the Bible the Israelites would follow God for a while and then turn from Him? Do you remember how they would have a good king and then a king who did not follow the ways of his father? Well, most likely that could be traced back to the fact that generations were not intentional about living and leaving spiritual legacies. For example, if there is a generation that loves God and follows His commands, they teach the next generation to do what is right; however, that next generation may teach the following generation to do the right thing, but they can't explain why to do what is right. By the third generation, they have no idea why they should do right so they go their own way.
So, while it is nice to have something physical handed down from previous generations and the thought of passing on something to future generations is also nice, none of it compares to the spiritual legacy that could be passed on. Jesus says in John 6:27a, "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life." The most important thing we can pass on to future generations is that of Christ. Purpose today, in your heart, to live and leave a spiritual legacy for your children and their children.