A Legacy that Endures
Though the wise writer of Ecclesiastes 7 says “A good name is better than ointment; and the day of one’s death is greater than the day of one’s birth”, it must be said that many Biblical characters seemed to follow God in their lives, but the last portion of their life was marked by “not finishing well”:
– 1 Samuel ends with the stories of an unstable King Saul consulting the witch at Endor to see the ghost of Samuel (1 Samuel 28) followed by the crushing march of the Philistine armies, and the death of Saul and Jonathan at Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).
-Though the story of 1 Kings begins well with Solomon’s rise to power and commitment to building the Temple of God (1 Kings 1-8), his wealth and influence (1 Kings 9 and 10) is followed by the story of his downfall and death (1 Kings 11). Though that is true of most, it is not true of all – but it should act as a warning to us: IT IS DIFFICULT TO FINISH WELL!
I have entitled these two sessions: “A Legacy that Endures” because I believe this is a critical issue for an increasingly disconnected nation. What steps can we take to leave behind the message we have cared for so much during our short time here on earth? I have posed some suggestions form the Word of God in the form of seven questions.
QUESTION ONE: AM I TOO OLD TO SERVE THE LORD?
Remember three truth principles found in the Scriptures:
1. Shelf Principle: God often powerfully used people at the point they thought they were “put on the shelf” and “least usable” to Him. Take for example John on the island of Patmos. Follow that with the house arrest of Paul.
2. Dependence Principle: Age and physical ability never caused God to pass over someone that was willing. Perhaps the most overt example is that of Moses, who in Exodus 2:1-10 blew through his first forty years (cp. Acts 7:23) of life as the privileged second in command of Egypt. For his next forty years (recorded in the balance of chapter two, cp. Acts 7:30), he was in absolute charge of a few mangy sheep in the Midianite desert, still posted as an outlaw on Egyptian post office wanted posters. When God called him at age 80 (Acts 7:30), Moses objected on the grounds that he was not credible (Ex. 4:1-3) and physically limited (4:10). God told him it didn’t matter if Moses walked with God in the work!
3. Partnership Principle: Many Biblical characters needed help. Moses’ inadequacies were matched by God sending along Aaron (Exodus 4:14-14) but Moses needed to model and lead. Paul’ heart sunk in Athens while alone (Acts 17), but God sent him a team to restore
him (Acts 18:18).
QUESTION TWO: DOES THE BIBLE HELP ME WITH THE PROBLEM OF MOVING THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FAMILY CARE TO MY CHILDREN?
I think it DOES, especially in the Hebrew tradition of “the blessing” passed from a father to his sons in the Patriarchal and Matriarchal narratives of Genesis 27 (Isaac blesses) and 48 and 49 (Jacob blesses). Let’s look at a couple of principles from the blessing passages: Isaac blesses his children (Gen 27):
1. Remind them that you will be leaving, and there are some things you will need them to do (27:1-2).
2. Don’t hesitate to ask for help in the needs to be comfortable. Let them help! It will help them own the responsibility (27:3-4).
3. Celebrate their abilities with them! (27:4b).
4. Be discerning about their walk, and not naïve. You cannot influence the situation much longer, so be loving and understanding, but wise and discerning (27:12ff).
Jacob blesses his children (Gen 48-49):
1. Tell your children of God’s faithfulness and promises (48:3-4) and show them they are the continuity of the line of blessing (48:5-6, 15-16).
2. Make them get together before you are gone to discuss family issues (49:1).
3. Normally, you should be careful to annunciate both your excitement and love for them before any concern that you issue about them (49:3-4).
QUESTION THREE: HOW DO I AVOID THE SELF-CENTEREDNESS TRAP?
One senior man in our congregation said, “When I was younger and raising a family, I didn’t have time to make life about ME. Now I am old and go home to a lonely house, and care for myself. How can I avoid life being about ME?” What a good question. For the answer, let’s carefully consider the example of Joseph in a story in the Bible where he is separated from his loved ones, and could easily become tempted to be self-absorbed. Look for a moment at the thumbnail sketch of his life:
1. He was born to Rachel and Jacob (Gen 30:24) and the favorite son of Jacob (37:3).
2. Because of jealousy, his brothers sold him into slavery (37:26) and he ended up in Egypt (37:36).
3. God favored him and he was moved up the head of an influential household in Egypt (39:1ff), where he served until falsely arrested (37:20). In prison, God favored him among the prisoners (37:21ff) and he was eventually exposed as a man who had a gift of dream interpretation.
4. Following a dream interpretation for Pharoah, he was appointed a senior position in government (41:38-41) during a time when Canaan was under a famine.
5. His brothers came to be rescued by him without knowledge that this was the brother they had wronged (42-44). Joseph eventually revealed his identity (45) and his heart! Two Keys:
a. IT’S ABOUT THEM: Joseph focused on others around him in every situation, allowing God to bring situations into his life that would help him engage others on the level of THEIR problems (Baker, Pharaoh, brothers, etc; cp. Phil 2:1ff).
b. IT’S ABOUT GRACE: Joseph looked at the opportunities, not the obstacles, allowing others grace (45:5; 50:19,20). He learned how to bless and not be a hammer of judgment.
QUESTION FOUR: HOW DO I RELATE MY FAITH TO A GENERATION THAT I DON’T REALLY EVEN UNDERSTAND… IS THERE COMMON GROUND?
The Bible relates that some things are temporal, and others eternal. Some things change, and others remain constant throughout time. For believers, COMMON GROUND is always found in the things that do not change. How do you find that? The Bible warns against looking at the surface and making judgments. Look more carefully! Young people need what you have to teach in three areas (Ecclesiastes 7:1ff):
1. Observed pain (7:2)
2. Experienced pain (7:3-4)
3. Discipline pain (7:5-6)
There are a couple of guidelines for the teaching, however! (Paul is a great example of this in the Pastoral Epistles!)
1. Remember, we earn the right through loving acts to speak into the lives of loved ones.
2. They don’t understand your perspective because they don’t see through your window!
3. You have the credentials (by experience) to speak to outcomes, but you must do so with grace and a positive spirit.
QUESTION FIVE: HOW DO I DEAL WITH THE LIMITATIONS AND ACCEPTANCE OF THE CHANGES OF MY BODY? HOW CAN I LEARN TO ASK FOR HELP?
Recall why God allows pain in my life:
1. Sometimes it is because of my sin (Gal. 6:7) “sow-reap”.
2. Sometimes it is allowed to keep me humble (2 Cor. 12:7) “thorn”.
3. Sometimes it is because I live in a fallen world.
4. Sometimes it is to test us.
Don’t complain: it tells God you don’t trust His judgment.
Don’t blame: it tells others you don’t believe God is on the throne.
Don’t isolate yourself: it tells others you don’t love them. (Naomi)
QUESTION SIX: HOW DO I FACE THE GRIEF OF OUTLIVING LOVED ONES AND FRIENDS?
-THEY are not their bodies (2 Cor. 5:1ff), but eternally living beings we can love in life, remember in death, and celebrate in eternity!
-Naomi and Ruth chapter 1: The Pain of Covenant love.
QUESTION SEVEN: IS THERE A HAPPIER SIDE TO GETTING OLDER?
Though many of the sins of David’s life caught up with him by the end of his life, yet he ended with his final words showing his life as both fulfilled and the great promise of God was left intact in his life. His final words are recorded in the waning chapters of 2 Samuel, and fittingly, many of them are the words of one of last composed songs. His last song (2 Samuel 22:1-51) was a celebration of WHO God is (22:1-3) and WHAT He has done in continual attention and deliverance of David (22:4-28), finished with what God MEANT to David throughout his life (22:29-51). Following that are the FINAL WORDS of the great King of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1-7). Note especially verse five: “Although my house be not so with God; yet He hath made me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” He ended with the credentials that allowed him – having earned the right, through pain and powerful experiences – to praise God and to express absolute confidence in the future that God has ordered, as well as frankly acknowledge that not everything in his family was what God was going to make it… and in that, he ended well. He did not evaluate his life on what HE had done, for better or worse, but on HOW WELL HE KNEW the God he loved and served. That is the place to end well. Our confidence cannot be in the flesh, but in a God who is ever-faithful! Remember the saying: “Be GIVING while you’re LIVING so you’re KNOWING where it’s GOING!”