Dennis and Barbara Rainey tell the story of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. This colonial couple left a legacy that was much larger than either of them could have imagined.
The Raineys write, “Jonathan Edwards felt God’s call to become a minister. He and his young bride began a pastorate in a small congregation. During the years that followed, he wrote many sermons, prayers and books, and was influential in beginning the Great Awakening. Together they produced 11 children who grew into adulthood.
“Sarah was a partner in her husband’s ministry, and he sought her advice regarding sermons and church matters. They spent time talking about these things together, and, when their children were old enough, the parents included them in the discussions.
“The effects of the Edwards’ lives have been far-reaching, but the most measurable result of their faithfulness to God’s call is found through their descendants. Elizabeth Dodds records a study done by A. E. Winship in 1900 in which he lists a few of the accomplishments of the 1,400 Edwards descendants he was able to find:
• 100 lawyers and a dean of a law school
• 80 holders of public office
• 66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
• 65 professors of colleges and universities
• 30 judges
• 13 college presidents
• 3 mayors of large cities
• 3 governors of states
• 3 United States senators
• 1 controller of the United States Treasury
• 1 vice president of the United States.”
The gospel confrontation Jonathan and Sarah experienced was life changing and their response by faith absolutely changed the trajectory of their progeny. Their legacy was of legends.
The example of this wonderful colonial couple causes us to take inventory of the legacy we desire to leave. Have you talked with your spouse about what kind of legacy you desire to leave? Will it last? Is it built on eternal principles or on the eroding sands of self-indulgence?
Investing our lives in leaving a legacy is an act of faith and it is important that we pour time into preparing the way for the next generation of Christ followers. In 2 Tim. 2:2 the apostle Paul instructs Timothy to invest his life in faithful men who would be able to pass the baton of God’s truth on to the next generation.
How do we do this?
1. Live from the inside out. If you want to leave a lasting, authentic legacy, start with a heart right with God. No one else can do that for you. No matter your past life. Make peace with God first. “How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed” (Ps. 112:1-2).
2. Live with the eyes of Jesus. He saw the multitudes and had compassion on them (Mark 6). As Christ-followers we must have our eyes trained to see people as Jesus sees people and have His compassion for them. The consumerism of our culture feeds a self-indulgent mindset that is inattentive to others around us. Jesus was attentive to the genuine needs of people. Watch His ways. He was willing to take risks on behalf of others. Will we take risks for others or just watch out for number one? Look at the world around you and ask the Holy Spirit to allow you to see it as Jesus does.
3. Live with others on mission. The purposes of God were never intended for Lone Ranger Christians or churches. The commission we are given from the Lord requires us to work with others to simultaneously communicate the gospel here and there, domestically and internationally, locally and in all other time zones. We can join with others to fulfill our purpose of Great Commission living.
4. Live with your resources in your hands and not your heart. God trusts us with talents, gifts and material resources to bless the lives of others. That is why participation in a New Testament church is vital to every believer. That is so we can channel the resources of heaven through our lives and to the ends of the earth.
5. Live with the end in sight. Life is too short not to have a plan. It is imperative that we think through the legacy we leave at the end of our days. There are ministries that will perpetuate a person’s life message. What would happen at your local church if you provided a gift that funds a ministry intern? Imagine the impact a scholarship at Hannibal-LaGrange University or Southwest Baptist University could make on your own family lineage. What about an end-of-life gift to help women in desperate trouble through the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home? Have you considered a legacy gift to fund missions in our state, nation or the world? We can help you find a place. More importantly, leave a legacy of honor to the Lord through your planning.
6. Live like God hears you. Ask the Lord to give your children a deep sense of purposefulness and value in His kingdom. Let your children/grandchildren hear you praying for the people down the street who are lost or let them see your tears for a lost family member. Make prayer your priority. Such praying will impact the lives of people – the ones in your family tree and the ones your life influences.
7. Live like you’re ready. We are all on a journey. A journey of faith that is shorter for some and longer for others. What we do each day will determine how someone else lives. You cannot stop that process – that is just the way life is. So every day be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you. Stay true, and God will produce in you and through you something the annals of heaven will call legendary.
He previously served as director of communications and public policy for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. He also served as editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger and served the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as director of communications and editor of the Indiana Baptist.
He received a B.A. from Dallas Baptist University, a M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.