Legacy. A word that we as ministry leaders ponder at times. We ask ourselves things like, “Is what I’m doing making a difference? Does all of this time and energy focused on ministry matter? Will my life’s efforts and sacrifices have eternal value?”
I think the questions we should be asking ourselves need to focus on the way we’re living and if our lives reflect the values and character of Jesus. Do our choices, our decisions, our attitudes reflect the realization that how we live today will be revealed in eternity?
The idea of legacy became more personal to me after my dad entered his eternal home several months ago, three weeks shy of his 97th birthday. This year, instead of celebrating his birthday, as family and friends, we celebrated his life well-lived. His celebration of life service was a beautiful reminder that we live our lives one day at a time and that our legacy is built little by little by the choices we make on a daily basis. What made my dad’s legacy so special is that it was built on service, integrity, compassion and truth. Ultimately, those qualities, lived daily, resulted in a life of love.
Dad was nothing special by worldly standards. He didn’t have an exciting job or a position of importance. He regretted not being able to go to college, but that didn’t stop him from working hard and caring for his family. His greatest act of love came in the final years of his life as he tirelessly sacrificed his time and energy to care for my mom who had Alzheimer’s.
My dad was certainly not perfect, but he consistently made choices that revealed his values that were rooted in his love, first for his God, and second for the people around him. As I watched my dad care for my mom, I saw sacrificial love in action, and it motivated me to examine my own life.
As ministry leaders we have the privilege and opportunity to impact many lives. Our interactions are opportunities to reveal the grace and love of Jesus by the way we speak and act. What we do, daily, creates the legacy of our lives and ministry. My dad could not consistently and sacrificially have cared for my mom if he hadn’t genuinely and deeply loved her. His love was real and authentic. It reminded me of the words in 1 John 4 which state, “but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” His legacy was born out of his decision to love deeply and honor his commitment to her.
As busy ministry leaders there is always “one more thing” to do. A sermon to prepare. A hospital visit to complete. Another book to read. A board meeting to attend. The list is endless and can cause us to feel exhausted, defeated and short-tempered with the very people that God has asked us to love. We know what we’re supposed to do and how we’re supposed to act, but life gets in the way.
So, how do we live a life that daily reveals the character of God and builds a legacy of love? I believe the answer lies in surrender. As I give the Spirit of God permission to reveal my selfish thoughts and actions, I become more aware of my need to surrender to His power to change me and strengthen me in my daily choices. A legacy that gives glory to God begins with surrender to his will; “Not my will, but His.”
My dad taught me a valuable lesson by his actions; he taught me that the things in life that matter are rooted in how we love. Take time today to think about how you’re living your life. How are you revealing God’s love in the smallest of acts? How are you displaying Jesus’s character in the words you speak?
Legacy. A word that says less about you and more about God’s work in you. How are you building your legacy today?