These past couple of weeks have been pretty great. It’s been a family reunion of sorts. My brother and his family have been in town from Tacoma, Washington. My brother is in a surgical residency with the Army, so he is incredibly busy and we don’t get to see them very often. He took the time off, and his wife and two year old came for a visit. I was able to take almost a whole week away with them, my sister and brother-in-law and their 6 month old, and my parents. We took time away in the mountains completely out of cell phone reach. It was a great week, then this past week we have spent as much time together as possible swimming and at the lake.
For me, it’s great to spend time with my brother and his family, and for my kids they love spending time with their cousins. It’s kind of an exciting time because next year, there will be two more cousins to throw in the mix.
On top of that, we have been talking about family at church. Specifically, we have been exploring ways that you can build a stronger family and strengthen the bond of love that you share. To do this, we have explored five different familial relationships and asked how God can help you strengthen that relationship. The first week we discovered 6 biblical strategies to strengthen your family. Then we looked at love and marriage and how marriage is a calling to sacrificially care and love another. Last week we explored the dos and don’ts of biblical parenting. I will say, that I am not a marriage counselor nor am I an expert on things about the family, but if you have found these messages helpful, I want you to know that you can find them online and can share them with your friends and family.
Today we are going to explore one more relationship in the family, and this is your relationship with yourself. The past two weeks we have been looking at marriage and children, and I realize that these two messages don’t apply to everyone. But today, I want you to think about yourself. Especially, I want you to think about your legacy and what you will leave behind.
A legacy is that thing you leave behind to the people that are close to you when you are gone. Often times when we think of leaving a legacy, people think about it in terms of money or property or a business that is left to the next generation. To build a legacy means that you work to build something that outlasts yourself. But the deal is that the legacy you build is much more than money or property that you leave to your children. Instead, you will also leave a spiritual legacy. Regardless of if you know it or not, each of you will leave a spiritual legacy to those around you. You don’t have a choice as to if you will leave this legacy, but you do have a choice as to what kind of legacy you will leave.
If you have a Bible with you, I want to invite you to turn to 2ndTimothy 1:1-5. Tradition tells us that this is a letter written by Paul to his student, Timothy. Paul was a leader in the early Christian church and traveled extensively to share the good news of Jesus with people and to start and support churches. Paul was Timothy’s mentor, and in this letter, we find that Paul is writing to encourage his student’s own work.
What we are going to read is Paul’s greeting to Timothy in this letter. In his greeting to Timothy, Paul talks about and locates Timothy within his family. In fact, we find that Timothy is a product of the legacy of his mother and grandmother. Here’s what Paul has to say:
From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, to promote the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.
2 To Timothy, my dear child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I’m grateful to God, whom I serve with a good conscience as my ancestors did. I constantly remember you in my prayers day and night. 4 When I remember your tears, I long to see you so that I can be filled with happiness. 5 I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you. 6 Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.
When Paul wrote to his student, Timothy, he addresses Timothy in a very specific way. In talking to his student, Paul talks about how Timothy came to learn the faith. While Timothy is Paul’s student, Timothy didn’t learn the faith from Paul. Instead, we learn that Timothy’s faith was inherited from his grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice. Timothy’s mom and grandmother, are faithful followers of Jesus that knew the value of leaving a spiritual legacy.
Truth be told, we don’t really know all that much about Lois and Eunice, other than what Paul tells us in this letter. We learn a little bit more about Eunice, Timothy’s mom, from elsewhere in the Bible that tells of what happened when Paul first met Timothy. In the book of Acts, which tells us about the history of the early church we find this first meeting, we read about how Paul traveled to Lystra, a city in present-day Turkey. When he arrived to Lystra, he met Timothy and his mom. This is what we find in Acts 16:
Paul reached Derbe, and then Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy. He was the son of a believing Jewish woman and a Greek father.
Following this, we read of how Paul recruits Timothy to join him on his missionary travels. Timothy went on to follow Paul and to join his work of spreading the gospel of Jesus throughout the area. Eventually, he would go on his own, blessed by Paul. All of this was possible because of legacy. All of this was made possible because of the legacy of his mother and grandmother.
We don’t know how Eunice, Timothy’s mom, because a Christian, but we do know that she was born into a Jewish family. Perhaps she heard how Jesus brought hope and healing to all he met. Perhaps she heard of how women found Jesus’ tomb empty and that he had risen from the dead and offered new life to all who believed. Whatever the case, Eunice came to know Jesus as her savior, and she made it her business to pass this faith on to her son Timothy. This is a huge legacy to pass on, especially considering the fact that Timothy’s father was Greek and likely not a follower of Jesus.
Later on, in this same letter, Paul again reminds Timothy of the legacy left to him by his mother. In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul is encouraging Timothy to be strong in the faith and he reminds him of the legacy given to him by his mother. Paul writes:
15 Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.
It was Timothy’s mother who taught him the scriptures when he was a child. It was Timothy’s mother who taught him about salvation in Jesus Christ. It was Timothy’s mother, who desired to pass on a lasting spiritual legacy to her child, that taught him about Jesus and how to be a faithful follower of Jesus.
Timothy’s mother, Eunice, is the perfect example of how to leave a lasting spiritual legacy to those who come after you. It means that your spiritual impact leaves you and touches the life of another. Usually, when people begin thinking about their legacy, they are later in life. Perhaps when you are in your, so called, golden years people begin to think about the mark that they will leave behind. I guess that when you are young you think you will live forever, but as you age your own mortality comes closer to view. And when you bring to view this mortality, the importance of what you will leave also comes closer to view. While this is the case, each of you, regardless of your age have a chance to build a healthy spiritual legacy. And, the way to begin building this legacy is to begin today.
I want to suggest to you that there are three things that you can do to begin to build a lasting spiritual legacy to leave to those around you. And these three things are three investments that are guaranteed to pay dividends to those around you, regardless of market valuations. These investments will help you build a lasting spiritual legacy.
The first investment is to invest in good every day. We are a United Methodist Church, and one of the things that this means is that we share a legacy with other churches back to our spiritual founder, John Wesley. Wesley lived in the 18thcentury and was a priest in the church of England. He also saw a great need for spiritual revival across the land and started the Methodist movement. What began as a movement is now a church. And as part of his legacy, Wesley gave to the people called Methodists Three General Rules. And these three general rules are still operative today. They are do no harm, do good, and attend upon the ordinances of God.
When we are thinking about our spiritual legacy, it is so important for you to focus on this second general rule. John Wesley expounded upon this rule of doing good by saying: by doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible to all men. To use more contemporary language, perhaps we could say—do good, in every possible way, at every chance, to everyone that you are able—do good.
In explaining this rule, we are also given some examples of how to do good: give food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison. Do good toward those that you go to church with. Live with integrity in all of your business and life transactions. John Wesley knew that doing good was all encompassing and was a habit to be fostered every day. Invest in good everyday and you will build a lasting spiritual legacy.
The second investment is to invest in others every day. To invest in others every day is to live in line with how Jesus lives. Paul, the same one who wrote to Timothy about his mother’s lasting spiritual legacy, gives us an example of what it means to invest in others every day—and the example is the example of Jesus. In a different letter that he wrote to Philippian Christians, Paul says in Philippians 2:3-11
3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Paul instructs you to not think of yourself, but to invest in others, to put others before yourself. He instructs you to do this, so that you will pass on the spiritual legacy that you inherited from Jesus himself. Even though Jesus lived with the power and presence of God, Jesus considered others before himself. Paul writes of this and tells us it is something for us to do as well, saying:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
10 so that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11 and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Take the example of Jesus, empty yourself, and invest in others every day. Usually when you make investments, you are thinking of yourself. How is my portfolio doing? How do my retirement benefits look? Will I have enough saved for the future? But Paul says you need to invest differently. You need to empty yourself of selfishness, follow the example of Jesus, and invest in others every day. When you invest daily in others, you are building a lasting spiritual legacy.
And our third investment to make for a lasting spiritual legacy is to invest for the long term. When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy that began by telling him of his mother’s spiritual legacy, Paul also bestows on Timothy his own spiritual legacy. Towards the end of this letter in 2 Timothy 4, Paul commissions Timothy to succeed him in preaching the good news about the kingdom of God. He encourages Timothy to begin to build his own legacy by investing for the long term. In verse 5, Paul tells him, “But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.”
Then Paul confirms that he has done this himself, and that he can look back over his life and ministry and see the legacy he has left. And Paul says, as he nears death, in verse 7,
I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. 8 At last the champion’s wreath that is awarded for righteousness[a] is waiting for me. The Lord, who is the righteous[b] judge, is going to give it to me on that day. He’s giving it not only to me but also to all those who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance.
It is important to begin building your spiritual legacy today, by investing in good and investing in others each day, but it is also important to invest for the long term. It so important to see that your daily investments will not, necessarily, pay out today. Instead, your daily investments are compounded through a lifetime of long-term investing, and in the long view, you can see the growth and you can count the impact.
I recently saw these investments up close in action. I met a man named Frank Davis of Helping Hands Ministry in Athens. Helping Hands builds ramps for people in need and they do home repairs for people that cannot afford them. Frank is leading this ministry in retirement and is doing amazing work. Frank is a man that exemplifies these three important investments in creating a spiritual legacy. He said something that I found interesting. He said that he guessed God could have called him to retire to the golf course, but instead, God called him to lead this ministry that is making a huge impact in our area. The impact that is being created by investing in good every day, investing in others every day, and investing for the long term is making our community a better place and is leaving a huge spiritual legacy on those around him.
As we conclude this message and conclude this message series on building stronger families, I want you to know that God loves you and God desires to bless your family. As you seek to build your lasting spiritual legacy, it will have a ripple effect that will strengthen the other relationships in your family. So invest in the three investments: invest in good every day; invest in others every day; and invest in the long term.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.