I drive on a portion of the United States’ interstate highway system at least six days of the average week. Monday through Friday, I depend on the interstate highways to go to work. On the Sabbath, I travel for about 50 miles on Interstate 70 to attend worship service. Millions of Americans rely on our marvelous system of interstate highways as they travel to work, conduct personal business, and for fun and recreational purposes. The system of roads we’re discussing is actually called the “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” Dwight Eisenhower, when he was President of the United States, launched the project to build this great transportation network, the largest public works project in history.
During World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was able to study Germany’s efficient superhighway system. The autobahn had allowed the Nazis to move troops and equipment so efficiently that Eisenhower estimated it had enabled Germany to resist the Allies for two additional years. In 1956, President Eisenhower, inspired by the German autobahn, proposed that an interstate highway system linking the lower 48 states be built. His plan was implemented, and today, the country benefits from the 43,000 miles of superior highway President Eisenhower built. This impressive achievement is a part of the legacy this man left to his nation.
Wouldn’t it be satisfying to have a legacy such as the one created by former President Eisenhower? To have contributed in such a great way to the quality of life in the United States? To have done something that benefits hundreds of millions of people? I would like to show you that every Christian can have a legacy. The comparison between the Christian’s legacy and that of Eisenhower may surprise you, because the Bible shows us that ordinary Christians can make enormous contributions which will endure forever.
One such Christian was Cornelius, a Gentile whom God used to reveal an important truth (Acts 10). Cornelius was an ordinary man, a centurion, in charge of 80 soldiers. He had earned a good reputation. He feared God, he gave generously to those in need, and he is described as devout. The fantastic thing about this man is that God not only took notice of his good deeds and prayers, but they were a memorial of the man, a record to be kept perpetually in God’s archives. That is impressive! This is a part of Cornelius’ enduring legacy, recorded in heaven. We should all aspire to follow Cornelius’ example in this regard. We should desire to be in God’s mind continually, as a memorial, for the good works we have done. The acceptance of Gentiles into the Church is another important aspect of Cornelius’ legacy, as he was used by God to bring about this change in understanding.
How about Christian women? Can they also contribute and leave behind something enduring and valuable? The story of a Christian woman living in Joppa, related in the Book of Acts, chapter nine, shows that they can. Tabitha earned a reputation for giving, service, and generosity. Her giving is eternally documented in the pages of the Bible. That is an incredible legacy. She will always be known for her works. Tabitha used her skills and talents to serve the congregation. Apparently, she focused on filling the needs of the widows. When she died, she was sorely missed. The people whom she had served were grieving for her when Peter arrived.
Cornelius and Tabitha used their resources and their gifts to add value to the church and the community. They shared their resources, their time, their money, and they were remembered for their contributions. We must ask ourselves whether we will be missed for the services we have given when we are gone. Will we leave anything of value behind or will we vanish without a trace?
Today’s Christians do indeed have opportunities to create lasting value for God and his Kingdom, the Church and the community. How can today’s Christian leave behind something of lasting value? There are many ways.
First, Christian parents have a valuable opportunity to leave behind them children who are educated in God’s way of life and trained to follow it. Proverbs tell us that our children and our grandchildren are a legacy that we will leave to the world (Proverbs 17:6). If you are a parent, instill in your children golden character. Take the time to teach them the principles of godly living, of giving, and of the value of service. The character you build in your children will be your crown. Tell them not to let the legacy of character die with them. They must pass it on to their children’s children. Your children’s inheritance has a physical and a spiritual component that will endure long after the physical wealth is consumed. Bringing up children in the faith of God is a legacy which should endure for generations and be self-perpetuating. This is an inheritance far greater than silver and gold.
Cornelius and Tabitha were sterling examples of Christian service and giving. When we use our talents, time, and resources for the benefit of others, we are generating value for God as a financial manager does for his client. This principle is made clear in the parable of the pounds in a private lesson Jesus gave to his disciples, recorded in Matthew 25:14. Christ represents himself in this parable as a wealthy investor who allows others to speculate with his resources. In the parable, all who step out in an attempt to generate profit for their client are successful. They generate wealth and profit for him. Those who don’t try to gain an increase are no longer allowed to trade.
All of us are given the opportunity to build wealth for the Lord. He endows each of us with resources that can and must be used for the benefit of God and the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7). Each member of the church, being an organ of Christ’s body, has something to contribute, some value to add to the health and well-being of the body. When we use the resources God gives us, we are adding lasting value to the church, building an inheritance and a legacy.
It might seem that the modest works of a Christian cannot be compared with those of a man who helped save the free world from tyranny and built an impressive transportation system in the United States. But consider this: The works and the accomplishments of Eisenhower are physical, temporary, and transitory. Everything that we can see is going to have an end someday (2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Peter 3:10). The interstate highway system, and the earth that supports it, are temporary structures. The entire universe and the structure of matter itself will be dissolved one day, the Day of the Lord.
However, the Christian’s legacy will endure in the character and teaching we have instilled in our children. When they inherit eternal life, that legacy will become eternal. It will endure in the record of good works and service we have contributed. These records will not be burned up with the earth, they will survive in God’s archive. They will come up before him continually as a memorial, just as did those of Cornelius. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have served the saints, and do serve” (Hebrews 6:10). Christians have the power to make a contribution which will outlast history. God will never forget our contribution, our good works, the value we have added to his family, his Kingdom. This is our enduring legacy.