Summary: 3d and final of Philemon series. In Christ we have a transformed legacy--an eternal legacy of souls we bring to Jesus.
Christian sociologist Tony Campolo tells of a research project once conducted with people over the age of 90. The interviewers asked these very elderly people, “As you look back on your life, what do you wish you had done differently?” Three answers emerged from a sizeable majority:
1) they wished they had risked more;
2) they wished they had spent more time in reflection; and
3) they wished they had done more to leave a legacy: something to pass on to the next generation.
You’ve seen the bumper sticker, I’m sure – usually on the back of an expensive RV or luxury car: “We’re spending our children’s inheritance!” Most people slap those things on as a joke, of course – but behind the humor is the rather sad picture of retired people living only for themselves and their pleasures, oblivious to the needs of the next generation.
Management and life-planning guru Stephen Covey wrote a book several years ago called First Things First [Simon & Schuster, 1994]. It’s sort of a handbook for living a joyful and productive life – and, as self-help books go, it’s not bad. Perhaps the best line in the book is its subtitle. Covey declares that the purpose of a human life can be summed up in four essential points, all of them beginning with the letter “L”: “to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” It’s this matter of leaving a legacy that concerns us today.
One of the things that the Lord Changes in us is our legacy. He calls us to leave an everlasting legacy and if we do not leave that legacy then ultimately the most important change in us is left undone. So how does one change one’s legacy?
1. Share God’s Changing Power With Others
v. 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.
Our most important legacy is not a legacy of dollars and investments in a will, nor is it even just a legacy of offspring of the biological variety, but it is a legacy of transformed lives an eternal legacy of people who will live eternally in heaven because of our efforts.
Years ago I was privileged to be part of an Evangelism Explosion team that led a woman to the Lord who died a short time later. At her funeral someone had placed her “spiritual birth certificate” in .the casket. I’ve been privileged to send some of that eternal legacy ahead of me.
Now I know not everything is everyone’s specific call to ministry, but I believe that in the heart of every true Christian beats the desire to be where the action is in reaching the lost. It may not be sports camp for you, maybe it’s an outreach in the inner city or in the Czech Republic or even your own living room but if it’s none of the above then you need to ask yourself what the problem is.
If you can’t point to someone in the recent past who came to Jesus and wouldn’t have without your effort in ministry then I hope you’re deep in prayer and fasting asking the Lord what’s wrong with your life because your legacy as a Christian is a legacy of souls in heaven.
And listen here, I’m not just talking about long distance rear echelon support—that stuff is important and the battle is won because of it, and churches get healthy and grow because of it, and the one who gives a prophet a cup of water receives a prophet’s reward. But I’m convinced that every Christian is called to duty in the front line of soul-winning service, and I think there are folks you are strategically placed to bring to Jesus that neither I nor the person on your left or right will ever reach.
2. Believe that God Can (and Does!) Change Others
v. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
One teacher of mathematics describes what a difference it made in his professional life when he underwent a subtle transformation. The transformation, as he puts it, came when he stopped teaching mathematics and started teaching children:
“I had a great feeling of relief when I began to understand that a youngster needs more than just subject matter. I know mathematics well, and I teach it well. I used to think that was all I needed to do. Now I teach children, not math. I accept the fact that I can only succeed partially with some of them. When I don’t have to know all the answers, I seem to have more answers than when I tried to be the expert. The youngster who really made me understand this was Eddie. I asked him one day why he thought he was doing so much better than last year. He gave meaning to my whole new orientation. ‘It’s because I like myself now when I’m with you,” he said. [An anonymous teacher, quoted by Everett Shostrom in Man, The Manipulator, and quoted in Chicken Soup for the Soul, 1993, editors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen]