What will the legacy of your life be? Have you ever given any thought to the legacy of your life? Most of us don’t think about such things. We think that legacies are only for celebrities or famous people. Somehow we assume that other people create our legacy, and since we are not famous we will have no legacy. But is that really true?
In older English, the word “legacy” was predominantly associated with the monetary or estate’s inheritance given to a person’s heirs. However, in modern English usage, a legacy is also the impact left behind by a person’s life, which lives on after the person is gone. If a legacy is only about material gains passed onto heirs, then few of us have legacies that live on. Thankfully, most people realize that a person’s legacy is about more than just money, which is spent and disappears.
When I think of a legacy, I think of the whole package: the awesomeness of a person’s life, the millions of things which converged and matured into making the person someone who made a difference. For me, a legacy is the lasting impact that a person made as their personality, love, creativity, giftedness, discipline, vision and perseverance came out of them over the years they lived. A person’s legacy is the lasting imprint or impact their life made and continues to make after they are departed.
Legacies are made throughout one’s life, not just from a one-time splash or acknowledgment. For example, Billy Graham has a legacy that just keeps going, even though he has now departed this life. He spent his life living for God, which made him the person he was and allowed him to speak to millions of people in thousands of places in almost every nation in the world. The impact of his life lives on; that is a legacy.
Van Morrison is another example of a man who has a legacy. He is not like many musicians who had one or two hits and then faded into history. His music is always edgy, pushing the envelope of genre and expectations of music. His music is poetry, painting pictures in your mind with the complex and beautiful interaction of the words and instruments on any particular song. He is always using his voice not just as a singer, but also as a distinct vocal instrument playing its own role in interaction with the other instruments and singers. His music is consistently good, and layered with a richness of music within music, synergy as well as counterpoint. He’s at home in rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, country, easy listening and symphonic. He plays multiple instruments, sings both music and tunes, and has remained active in song writing, playing, recording, creating, and adapting in over six decades.
Most people who create legacies don’t specifically set out to do so; it comes as the natural result of their commitment to constant growth, movement, creativity and perseverance. Each new day they embrace life, and the opportunities presented to them. They are committed to excellence and to living their own life day by day, doing the best they can with every day’s opportunities. In other words, a genuine legacy is created by a genuine life.
As Christians, we are each entrusted with the life which God has given to us. We are each daily given access to opportunities to use our gifts and energy to utilize those opportunities to make an impact on the lives of others on behalf of God. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul explains that we are all entrusted with building our own life upon the foundation of Jesus in our lives. In 1 Cor. 13:10 (NASB), Paul emphasizes, “But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.” We will all one day be evaluated by what we built, how we built, and why we built the life we did (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
What remains and endures into eternity is our legacy. It is not something someone else bestows upon us; it is what we build with God’s help. Legacies are built day by day, through our consistent commitment to be the best we can be with what God has entrusted to us, and to do the best we can do with what God gives us to do today.
I encourage you to discover each day the opportunities God gives to you to impact others on behalf of God. Legacies are built one hour at a time, over a lifetime. Here’s wishing you an awesome legacy, to the glory of God!
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church in Gwynn, Virginia. He can be reached at email@example.com.