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What Will We Leave Behind

If the Lord continues to delay His marriage feast, none of us will get out of this world alive. We have an unavoidable, non-transferable appointment with death (Heb. 9:27), when we hope to meet an angelic guide to Abraham's bosom (Lk. 16:22). Tear-dimmed eyes will take one last view of our form in a casket, and lonely mourners will follow the trail of tears to the silent city where our bodies will await resurrection mom' (I Cor. 15:4244). They will gradually reassemble order to their lives in an environment that, for the first time in a long time, does not contain the shape of our figure, the force of our personality, or the sound of our voice.

There is an almost universal desire to leave something worthwhile behind when we quit this familiar world. We want our families left financially secure-a spouse with a house and offspring that will smile at the reading of the will. Beyond that, we also want to be remembered for making a contribution to society; we want the church to miss our influence. We want our memory to linger in our loved one's minds long after we no longer stimulate any of their five physical sensors. We want them to continue to think of us at the office, when they sit on "our" church pew, when they gather for Thanksgiving around the family table, and when he/she ties down in the bed we shared for so long. What do we really want to leave behind? What is a worthwhile legacy?

A FULL EULOGY. As happened at Dorcas' funeral visitation (Acts 9:3639), will our loved ones reminiscence at the funeral home about the good that we did? Will the preacher's tribute be long and full-will he have to cull, or manufacture, good material?  We wonder what was said at Barnabas' funeral-he surely had "written" himself a beautiful eulogy (cf. Acts 4:3637; 11:22-24; 11:25-30; 13:2; 15:22-3 1). When the Herods died, the people must have cheered (Mt. 2:16; Acts 12: 1; cf. Prov. 28:28); but when God's leaders, the people mourned for weeks (cf. Gen. 503; Num. 20:29; 2 Chron. 35:24). Hopefully, our acquaintances will remember our kindness to widows and orphans (Jas. 1: 17), the food we gave the hungry (Mt. 25:35), the clothes we gave the cold, the visits we made to the sick (Mt. 25:3 6), the flowers we gave the bereaved (Jn. 11: 19), the comfort we offered the hurting (Phile. 7) and the encouragement we gave the downtrodden (Acts 9:27).

A GOOD NAME. When we pass, will they truthfully be able to say' "He was a good man" or "She was a fine Christian?" "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches...." (Prov. 22: 1; cf. Ecc. 7: 1). Matthew Henry's comments on these verses are good: "We should be more careful to do that by which we may get and keep a good name, than to raise or add unto a great estate.... Reputation for piety and honesty is more desirable than all the wealth and pleasure in this world." To have a good name, we must be honest in our dealings (cf Acts 5:1, 2), fair with others (Rm. 12:17), above reproach (I Tim. 3:2, 7), and morally pure (Gal. 5:19-2 1). It does not take a lot of bad decisions to ruin a good name. The Old Testament sage most endowed with heavenly wisdom put it in these downto-earth words: "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour" (Ecc. 10: 1). We see this illustrated by some great Bible characters. Think of Abraham's lies, David's adultery and cover-up, and Peter's denials. On the other hand, Joseph kept a good name under trying circumstances (Gen. 3 9: 1 -10). Not surprisingly, of all Old Testament heroes, no one's record is more pristine; none is more fondly remembered (Gen. 50:25-26; Ex. 13:19).

A FAITHFUL FAMILY. We will leave a mourning family behind on that sad day, but will we leave a faithful one? Will each spouse, child, grandchild, great-grandchild be on his way to a happy reunion with us in heaven? We are not able to make their decisions, but we will have a great influence on them, especially if we can start early (cf. Prov. 22:6). Sarah left a godly man to mourn (Gen. 23:2); Abraham left faithful sons behind (cf. Gen. 18:19; 25:8). Mr. and Mrs. Zebedee gave the world James and John; Lois taught Eunice who molded Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). If we would leave such a family, we must start now, because the years may come when they will not listen (Ecc. 12:2). If we would give them to Jesus, we need to begin by "setting them on His knee" as children (Mt. 18:1-3; 19:13, 14). Make it a goal that they never miss a Sunday or Wednesday Bible class or worship service (and, for that matter, Gospel meetings and special events). Never let them remember a meal enjoyed without thanking God for it. Never let them go to bed without reading the Bible and praying. Teach them memory verses. Don't let petty excuses' break the power of these good habits. Then as we mature, let them see us walk with Christ the last mile of the way. No greater legacy can be left our progeny than faith in God and faithfulness to His church.

A STRONG CHURCH. When I've gone to my reward, will my congregation have an empty seat, two fewer busy hands and listening ears, a silenced praising, teaching, encouraging tongue, and two fewer bowed knees? Will they be able to say, "We miss him ... he really built up this church;" or, "She's irreplaceable in our Bible school." Think what must have been said at Peter's funeral, when he laid down his battle-scarred armor, after serving as an apostle and elder (Mt. 10: 2; 1 Pet. 5: 1). What of Aquilla and Priscilla, who were always an asset to the church, which often met in their  house (Acts  18:2, 18, 26; Rm. 16:3, 4; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19)? How much did the Colossian church miss Philemon, Apphia, and Archiphus (Philemon 1:1ff; Col. 4:17)? Some of God's greatest were "just church members" who lived faithfully unto and/or until death (Rev. 2: 10). We hope they'll be able to say that at our funerals.

SAVED SOULS. When Paul went home, the devil must have sighed "finally" in relief Of all who have followed the Savior, what man was more tireless in reaching the lost than the apostle who got a late start (I Cor. 15:8; cf. Rm. 9:1-3; 10: 1-3; 1 Cor. 9:20, 2 1; 2 Cor. 11:23-38)? His grave may not have been surrounded by his spiritual children (I Tim. 1:2), but they'll surely gather around him in heaven (e.g., Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8). Will there be any at my graveside who will say, "I owe him everything; I am a Christian because of him;" or, "I would have been lost if she had not talked to me about my soul." Won't it be wonderful to meet some in heaven who say, "I am here because of you!" Plan now!

As the day of our departure draws near may we be able to say with Paul: "For I am  now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

It is not the amount of days in our life that counts, but the amount of life in our days. Although Methuselah lived more than 350,000 days, the Bible records nothing he ever did except father children. You could make a case that of all Bible characters he lived the longest and accomplished the least (Gen. 5:26, 27). By contrast, Jesus lived only thirty-three years, but He made those twelve thousand days count. We would rather walk the short, purposeful path of Jesus, than the long, meandering path of Methuselah.

-Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Volume 8/February 13, 2003
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