Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation…Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith. — Hebrews 11:1-2, 4b NLT
Several years ago after enumerating the renowned of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, a political science professor said this, “Aristotle was born. He spent his life thinking and then he died.”
This dark humor startles us. Regardless of outstanding accomplishments and lives lived well and not so well, all people, whether heroes or heroines have died. (I know the exceptions are Enoch and Elijah but that is a topic for another day.) Some have died peacefully, some more painfully, or tragically than others, but they all died.
What will others think of our lives when we are gone? What legacy will we leave behind? A legacy is what people will remember about us after we have died.
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Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked, “What do you want us to say about you at your funeral?” He responded that he did not want a long funeral and no long speeches.
No mention of his 400 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, because that was not what was important to him. This is what he said, “Tell them I tried to give my life serving others. I tried to feed the hungry.” His legacy lives on.
Sir Nicholas Winton was a stockbroker in 1938 when Hitler’s troops began to march into Czechoslovakia. He recognized evil. He quit his job and began to charter trains, raise money, and transport Jewish children out of Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia and Poland.
Because of his actions 699 children escaped. Vera Gissing, one of the 699, said this. “He did not save 699, he saved a generation. Because of him, there are about 7,000 of us alive.” This is legacy.
The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 have a distinctive legacy. Each is referenced with the phrase “by faith.” Abel is mentioned in Hebrews because he was known long after his death because his act of worship and the faith which he demonstrated.
Many tombstones include an epitaph, a statement about a person’s life or character. The marker for these followers in Hebrews was faith in God and acting on that faith in such a way that it was obvious to others that their allegiance was to God.
When we live by faith, we love God and others, we make a difference in the lives of others because of what Jesus has done for us. In 2 Timothy 4, the apostle Paul stated his legacy.
His turbulent life, persecuting Christians, then becoming a follower of Jesus who shared with thousands and started many churches, was coming to an end. Paul had made a difference.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. — 2 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT
Notice that Paul doesn’t say that he just ran the race. He stated that he had “finished the race.” It is not enough to start well. We need to finish well. It is not enough to run fast. We need to run fast and with endurance. The goal is to make it across the finish line and have an abundant entrance into the kingdom of God. We are running our race.
Keep running. If we have slowed down, it’s time to move forward in faith, because we have a legacy. What will each of us be known for? Your life of faith can make a difference if you are on the right course and finishing strong.
I do not want to forget others who have left a legacy of freedom to all of us. One of the most important days that we celebrate in America is Memorial Day; the day we remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our national freedom.
Without their bravery, heroism and sacrifice, our daily pleasures and freedoms would not be possible. We remember their legacy.
Brenda Lee, B.A., M.Div., B.C.C., is senior staff chaplain and director of pastoral services at Great Plains Health in North Platte.
Editor’s note: Area ministers who would like to be part of this feature can contact Editor Joan von Kampen at 308-535-4707 or email@example.com.