A Godly Legacy

Today, I turn 26 years old. As of today, I have lived a quarter of a century on this Earth. While I still consider myself “young,” I’m increasingly aware of the fact that I’m not as young as I used to be, and that time seems to fly past me at a higher pace than it did when I was 12.

As I reflect on 25 years of living, seven of them as a Christian, I’m sobered by thoughts of life, death, legacy and eternity.

In 100 years, I will be dead. In 100 years, you will be dead. And in 100 years, most of you reading this will not be remembered. Your name will likely not make it into the history books, and the story of your life will be carried on only by those who knew you, if they remember it enough to tell it.

Happy birthday to me, right? Why in the world would we want to think of these things at such a young age? Because remembering our mortality and the futility of striving after worldly success helps us live wisely in the time we’ve been given.

Perhaps nothing secular has affected me, and many more, the way Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” has affected me. I’ve spoken about it before, if I’m not mistaken. If you’re not familiar with the Broadway play, Miranda fuses the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton with hip-hop/R&B musical stylings.

Hamilton is driven by the desire to leave a legacy. For those of you who’ve forgotten 8th grade history, I’ll remind you (spoiler alert) that Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. In Hamilton’s dying speech in the play, he says: “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me…”

Hamilton’s desire resonates with me, and with most of us, I believe. We want to be remembered. We want to leave a legacy. But, as Ecclesiastes 1:9 puts it, “there is nothing new under the sun.” We find that, as we strive to leave a legacy, we are largely unsuccessful.

Think of the millions of boys who play high school football each year. Of those millions of players, less than 2,000 will go on to play professional football, as the 32 teams in the NFL only have room for 53 players each. That’s a lot of boys, intent on leaving their legacy, that find that it’s not possible. Not in that way.

But let’s say you’re successful in leaving a legacy. You’re like Alexander Hamilton, who has his face on our currency after helping start our country and shaping American government for centuries. I think it’s safe to say he left a legacy.

But fast-forward with me to eternity. In God’s kingdom, there will be no America. There will be no national bank. There will be no New York Post. And people will not be discussing the Federalist Papers. Hamilton’s legacy, and your legacy, and my legacy, cannot survive into an eternity that is built on God’s legacy and God’s glory.

So, in light of that, what does it mean to leave a legacy? Should we leave a legacy?

Simply put, yes. But not in the same way the world leaves a legacy. We instead should live lives that impact eternity by making disciples and advancing the kingdom of God, leaving a godly legacy.

We recognize the Kingdom of God may not be here in the same way it will when Christ returns, but that it did come in part with the Incarnation. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel!” in Mark 1. And we are part of that kingdom, and we reflect and represent that kingdom. We care about what the King cares about: showing grace, working for justice, peace, taking care of the least of these, etc.

Reflecting the principles of the kingdom and bringing the world closer to that kingdom is great. However, being an example of kingdom principles and instituting them in our community is pointless without the gospel. We must share the gospel. Living godly lives that adorn the kingdom and committing ourselves to social justice and advancing God’s kingdom without sharing that which alone can bring men and women into the kingdom is stupid. Don’t do it.

It is far greater, and far more meaningful, in the grand scheme of things, to share the gospel with one person who comes to know Jesus than anything Alexander Hamilton accomplished in his lifetime. Why? Because the United States Treasury never saved anyone from hell. Not to take away from the great things Hamilton was able to accomplish here, but you and I have a chance to plant seeds in the garden of eternity, to write some notes at the beginning of a song that will be sung for all eternity. Now that is a legacy.

You will leave a godly legacy to the extent that you dedicate your life to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, live for Him and advance His kingdom. Commit to work that matters, work that allows you to live out kingdom ideals and bring the kingdom of God to bear in your community. Day by day infiltrate enemy territory with the gospel that can save souls and a kingdom without end.

Lord, may we not take life for granted. May we reflect the ideals of your kingdom in our personal lives, and seek to institute those ideals into our communities and cities and nations. May we share the gospel so others can join us in your kingdom. May we leave a godly legacy that lasts for eternity.

God bless,

Neal E.

Failing, Falling and Living for Jesus

I’m a sucker for those motivational speeches in sports movies. As canned and cheesy as they may be, I love it. There’s power in speech to move us to action and keep us going in life, and every now and then, you just need to hear Sylvester Stallone say, “It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

I have been hit since I moved to Jonesboro. While I love my job, and I’m enjoying this fine city, spiritually…I’ve been decimated by the change, and I have failed to live the godly life God has called me to. I have allowed my job to take God’s place. I have allowed trivial things like sports, Netflix, and just the stress of living on my own to keep me from God’s Word, prayer and evangelism. I have struggled with anger, laziness, irritability, among other besetting, annoying sins.

It has been an exciting two and a half months, but it has also been a very rough, very difficult two months. Up until today, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I wasn’t sure I would be able to continue living a vibrant, successful Christian life here, because so much has changed, and I was struggling.

It was easy to spend a lot of time in the Word in college and working part-time. It was easy to spend time listening to sermons, reading Christian books and discussing theology and what it meant to follow Jesus with Christian brothers and sisters over the last few years, going back to when I was saved. I had more time. I didn’t have to worry about a full-time job. I didn’t have to worry about paying bills, getting groceries, etc.

I realize for those reading this that you may laugh, and say “Welcome to life,” but please understand and think back to when you first stepped out into “adulthood.” It’s not so much that doing those things is difficult. In fact, I haven’t been delinquent on any bills; I haven’t missed a meal, and I’m doing relatively well at my job for a rookie reporter. It’s not that it’s hard, so much as it is that it takes up more time, and it changes my schedule (which is bad because I’m schedule-oriented), it changes the focal points of my life, and my reality and context is totally different than what it was at Montevallo and during my time in retail. And all of a sudden, reading the Bible is more of a chore. Sharing the gospel becomes just another thing to do. Worshiping God doesn’t sound as nice as watching Netflix or listening to the Hamilton soundtrack for the millionth time. And because I’m so caught up in my job, and this new life, God is hardly ever on the forefront of my mind. This leads to all sorts of sin.

What has to happen? Learning to live for God in a strange new context. Learning to do that which helps me live life like Jesus, knowing Him, thinking of Him, being like Him and sharing Him with others, in a new land. Luckily, there’s a biblical example of someone, really, someones, who did that.

Daniel and his friends were taken by the Babylonians during the exile. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, took him and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, better known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were told to eat the king’s food, drink the king’s wine, study Babylonian culture and ultimately, worship Babylonian “gods.”

Daniel and his friends said no. Chapter 1, verse 9 says, “And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.” Daniel feared God, trusting that God would take care of him, and God responded by doing so. Daniel did not earn God’s grace, but understanding it caused him to live a life that honored God, despite being far from Israel.

In the same way, we must realize as Christians we are in a foreign land. We are not yet home. And I have recently allowed this temporary place to become home, and abandoned the passionate Christian life I lived before. Tonight that changes. I go back to consistent, engaged Bible study, passionate prayer, a mind stayed on God and His Word, a heart seeking opportunities to share the gospel, and a lifestyle that worships God and glorifies Him. This can only be done by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, so that’s what I’m praying for.

Christian, your home is not here. Your home, your citizenship, is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Join me in returning to a life that looks like that. Abandon a life centered on careers and entertainment and let’s center our lives on the eternal King.

Lord, may we love you more than life. May we center our lives on you. May we, in failing and falling, get up and return to you. May we trust in your grace to restore us, and may we live lives that glorify you.

God bless,

Neal E.

I will return to writing regularly on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. this week unless otherwise noted. Your readership is greatly appreciated.