A Legacy of Faith

A Legacy of Faith

Text: Hebrews 11:20-22 — By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

Legacy of Blessing to Our Children

Hebrews 11:20 — By faith, Isaac invoked future blessing on Jacob and Esau.

A Legacy of Blessing to Our Grandchildren

Hebrews 11:21 — By faith, Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.

A Legacy of Blessing to Our Future Generations

Hebrews 11:22 — By faith, Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

  • If you’re single or have never had children, don’t worry, you can still leave a legacy of blessing.
  • If you’ve come from a dysfunctional family, don’t worry, you can still leave a legacy of blessing.
  • If you’re closer to the end than the beginning, don’t worry, you can still leave a legacy of blessing.

Two Personal Questions to Consider:

  1. What behavior do you need to change right now to leave a legacy of blessing and faith?
  2. What behavior do you need to adopt right now to leave a legacy of blessing and faith?

Opening: If you had to summarize your life in six words, what would they be? Several years ago an online magazine asked that question. It was inspired by a legendary challenge posed to Ernest Hemingway to write a six-word story that was said to result in the classic  line … “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The on-line magazine was flooded with so many responses to their challenge that the site almost crashed. Eventually, someone thought to turn them into a book. Entitled Not Quite What I Was Planning, it is filled with six-word memoirs by writers both “famous and obscure.” Here are some examples that range from funny to ironic to inspiring to heartbreaking. Are you ready? (1) “One tooth, one cavity; life’s cruel.” I don’t know what that means, but I’m sure there is a message in there to brush your teeth and floss every day. (2) “Savior complex makes for many disappointments.” (3) “Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.” (that, by the way, was written by a nine-year-old boy battling the disease). (4) “The psychic said I’d be richer.” (5) This one was only five words: “One long train to darkness.” (6) “Not a good Christian, but trying.” (7) “Thought I would have more impact.” (Adapted from John Ortberg, All the Places You’ll Go … Except When You Don’t (Tyndale, 2015) pp. 1-2.) Of all of them, it’s the last one that haunts me the most because when my life is over, I really want it to have mattered. To face my own passing with the regret that I squandered many of the opportunities God gave me to touch the lives of people for eternity, would be the worst case scenario for me.  So if you’ll indulge me, here is my attempt at a six word summary that I hope will accurately reflect my own life: Passed on his love for Jesus. If I could do that, if I could say that because it just so happens to be true at the end of my life, I’m pretty sure I would go home to heaven a satisfied man. What about you? Have you thought about the six words that you hope will summarize your life when it’s all said and done? It’s not a bad exercise for people to go through! In fact, I challenge you to do it. A long time ago, someone said to me, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!” Hard to argue with that logic. Assuming that is true, the big question we must all ask ourselves is, “Do we want our lives to count for nothing, or are we aiming for something that truly matters?”

Well, this is the seventh message in our preaching series called Unstoppable Faith. It’s based on Hebrews chapter eleven, which some people call “the Hall of Faith.” We’ve been trying to understand just how important our hope and trust in the Lord is to our relationship with Him and each other. By the way, if you would like to review any of these messages, they are on our website at (riverridgewi.com) under the heading “sermon archive.” Today, I would like to talk with you about living with intentionality. If you look the word up, you’ll discover that it means “being deliberate and purposeful.”  The person who lives an intentional life is someone who is driven by a goal (or goals) that he or she hopes to accomplish. A while ago a friend of mine who was in his eighties told me that life had become a lot simpler now that he was probably in his final decade (it turned out he was right by the way). I asked him to explain. He said, “I see today what I couldn’t see as a younger man. Really, there are only a few things that matter, and for me, my God, my family, my friends top that list.” We spent several afternoons together bantering back and forth about these relationships and especially the legacy he hoped to leave with his family. The funny thing is that, at first, I thought our conversations were a way for him to reflect on and unpack his life…kind of like a counseling session. However, the more he shared, the more I discovered that I was the one benefiting from them. It was as if he was challenging me not waste the second half of my life on things that mattered little. And now, I want to talk to you about the same thing this morning: How to make your life count by leaving a legacy that will outlast you. So, if you have your Bible with you, open it to Hebrews 11:20-22 and let’s consider who we should be thinking about when it comes to our own spiritual legacies.

A Legacy of Blessing to Our Children (Hebrews 11:20 — By faith, Isaac invoked future blessing on Jacob and Esau). You may remember that Isaac was the son of Abraham and his legitimate heir. During the course of his life he received the promised blessing that God originally gave to his father. As the years passed, and as his own death drew near, Isaac determined to share that same blessing to his sons. Their story is told in Genesis 27. Let me summarize it for you: According to the custom of the time, Isaac, intended to give the greater blessing to his oldest son, Esau. When his wife, Rebekah, learned of it, she engaged in a deception with the younger son, Jacob, to steal the blessing. Together they led Isaac (who had very poor eyesight) to believe he was blessing Esau when, in fact, Jacob was standing in front of him. Only a few hours passed before the ruse was uncovered. That’s when Esau pleaded for Isaac to right the wrong, but his father refused saying, “I blessed him–and indeed, he will be blessed (Genesis 27:33).” Doesn’t hardly seem fair, does it? So why didn’t Isaac change his mind? One writer calls this an example of “the overruling grace of God.” Isaac didn’t reverse his decision because he saw the sovereignty of God (His ability to rule and overrule anyone or any situation) at work despite the deception. Even though he desired to give the greater blessing to Esau, Isaac understood that God could have intervened but chose not to because, in spite of everything, His will was accomplished. To take that position required real faith. It was that same faith that Isaac passed on to his son, Jacob. And even though he certainly had his ups and down in life, God revealed Himself to Jacob and eventually changed his name to Israel. This happened after he spent an entire night struggling with God in prayer. And the writer of Hebrews used him as an example of a man of faith in the next verse (21). So there you have it! A legacy of faith and blessing was passed down from father to son. Application: Now let me say one more thing about this story. What I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t cover up the stuff that makes us feel uncomfortable. Take Esau for example…there is no indication that he ever came to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and his brother. As a matter of fact, when he discovered that his father told Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman, he rebelled and took two of them as his wives simply as a way to dishonor his parents. The Bible says that eventually he became the father of the Edomites, a people who were  often a thorn in the side of the Israelites. I mention this to let you know that, try as you might, it’s possible that not all your children will be open to receiving the blessing of a legacy of faith.  Even the best of parents can’t control the hearts and minds of their kids. They can only bring them up the way God intends  and, after that, they must be content to pray for God to intervene in their lives and draw them to Himself according to His good, perfect and acceptable will.

A Legacy of Blessing to Our Grandchildren (Hebrews 11:21 — By faith, Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff). This is the next blessing mentioned by the writer of Hebrews. It was the one passed from Jacob to two of his grandchildren (Ephraim and Manasseh), both of whom were sons of Joseph. The Bible mentions this in Genesis 48. Ironically, Jacob gave the greater blessing to the younger child just as he, the younger brother of Esau, had received it from his father. And though, Joseph, protested, Jacob chalked it up to the sovereignty of God just as his father had done. As a quick aside, by the way, if you happen to be the 2nd, 3rd or 4th child in your family, this should bring you some encouragement. After all, scripture tells us that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). It’s another way of saying that God doesn’t have favorites. Now back to the story. Jacob blessed his grandchildren so that they were treated as his sons. Eventually, from each, as with his ten other sons, excluding Joseph, came one of the twelve tribes of Israel. And don’t miss this as well. One of Jacob’s last acts was to bow in worship with his grandsons at his side. Think of what this must have meant to the two of them to see their grandfather worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What kind of impression did that make on them? Application: Listen…by all accounts, the early years of Jacob were plagued by immature choices. Still, you have to give him credit, that at the finish, he was in a lot better place. And in my opinion, that’s far more important. At the end of the day, when it really mattered, there he was impressing upon his grandchildren the importance of his spiritual legacy and their place in it. Illustration: Yes … it’s how we finish that makes all the difference! As a guest columnist in a publication called SpeedNet (53099), race car driver Robby Gordon shared Rule Number One in racing: “you must first finish before you finish first.” Gordon learned that lesson the hard way. At the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500, with just one lap to go, Gordon wasn’t sure he had enough fuel to finish. Still, while the other lead drivers chose to take a pit stop when the yellow caution flag went up following a crash by Mark Dismore, Gordon gambled that he could complete the final 37 laps on his remaining fuel. What happened? You guessed it. With only a lap to go he had to pull in for a “splash” of methanol. That stop caused him to lose the race. Some risks are not worth taking. When it comes to passing on our faith in the Lord to our children and grandchildren, we would be wise not to gamble with their futures. Instead, let me encourage us to do all we can right now to hand them a legacy of blessing and faith. Simply hoping for the best usually doesn’t work out.

A Legacy of Blessing to Our Future Generations (Hebrews 11:22 — By faith, Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones). Isaac passed his faith on to Jacob so that it seemed he knew more about the Lord and had greater faith than his father. Then Jacob passed it on to Joseph with apparently the same result. While his father’s faith was more evident later in his life, Joseph trusted God throughout his life. You can see it in how he handled being sold into slavery, then wrongly accused of accosting Potiphar’s wife and finally being thrown into prison. While Joseph suffered great injustice, he never abandoned his faith. In fact, he was able to attribute his suffering to the will of God. He recognized it as His plan for preserving and caring for the Israelites. This is why he could say to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God. You intended me harm, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:19-20). As his last recorded act, Joseph then made sure that the legacy of blessing and faith would continue as he talked about the future exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and his own burial in the land of promise. This would not happen for about five hundred years, but just the same, he wanted every succeeding generation to know that God would always be worthy of their complete trust.

Let me now address three possible objections that might be floating around in your mind about leaving a legacy of blessing and faith. 

If you’re single or have never had children, don’t worry, you can still leave a legacy of blessing. I have a friend named Dan who is in his later forties and unmarried. He anticipates that his status will not change as he believes God has called him to be single (See Matthew 19:12). Whenever I preach a message like this, I think of Dan. If my main point is that you have to have children to leave a legacy, then this is a sermon he never needs to hear. But I don’t believe that God only intends mothers and fathers to pass on their faith. It’s clear that God wants all of us to do that. And so Paul told Timothy that he was to entrust truth to faithful men who could pass it on to others (i.e. leave a legacySee 2 Timothy 2:2). This, he commanded, even though nothing in the Bible suggested Timothy was married at the time. Listen … if you’re a Christian, you can leave a legacy of blessing whether you’re single or married. My niece, Finley, calls Dan — Uncle Dan — because she loves him and feels close to him. And he knows, as do I, that he is already making a big impression on her life for the cause of Jesus Christ and as a part of his legacy. Don’t worry…if you’re not a parent, you can still leave a legacy of blessing.

If you’ve come from a dysfunctional family, don’t worry, you can still leave a legacy of blessing. First, let me say that we’re all dysfunctional to some degree because we’ve grown up in a world where everyone and everything is corrupted by sin (For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23). That includes you and me. Did you know that the Bible teaches we are all victims and agents of sin? It helps us just to admit that. We not only suffer due to the sinful actions of others (that’s the victim part), but we cause suffering by our own sinful actions which result from wrong beliefs. The Bible teaches that our minds don’t always work the way God wants them to. That’s why we have to renew them according to Romans 12:2. This is a lifelong process that constantly challenges me to rethink my expectations for leaving a spiritual legacy, knowing that I will always be growing and changing. So I have adjusted my goal from attempting to pass on what I think are my perfections to my spiritual heirs to passing on a little less of my obvious imperfections. In other words, part of my desire is to leave them with a little less emotional baggage to deal with. The second part of this is equally important. Just because you may have been raised in home that was dysfunctional, perhaps highly so, doesn’t mean you cannot change. Of course you can, because God can change you. In Christ, we have new life (Romans 6:4). We are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) who over time and by reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, can become radically different from what we once were. We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and don’t you believe otherwise. That is one of the great lies of the enemy … like a leopard that cannot change his spots, so you cannot change what you really are. Don’t believe it … it’s not true. This means that no matter how much dysfunction you brought to your life in Christ, you are not doomed to be controlled by it. God can make you into a new person who passes generational blessing down through the family tree.

If you’re closer to the end than the beginning, don’t worry, you can still leave a legacy of blessing. It is never too late to impact the life of another person, no matter how old you are. In fact, I hope and pray that God will continue using you for His purposes until you hear these words from Him, “Well done good and faithful servant…Come and share your master’s happiness“– Matthew 25:23.  His only requirement is that you make yourself available to Him for His purposes. I didn’t know Millie Sarver until she was really old. At least she seemed that way to me when I was in my early twenties. But that woman taught me to care about people that most everyone else had forgotten … those locked up behind bars. She took me to Western Penitentiary near Pittsburgh to visit a man named Larry who she befriended. When I asked what he’d done to be sent to prison, she merely replied, “Pretty much everything.” Yet there she was, visiting him every couple of weeks, because he had no one else. I went with her several times, not knowing that God would later send me (as a visitor) to four or five other prisons over the years to encourage other men who had made some bad choices in life. Listen … if you think you’ve wasted your life and that your chance to leave a legacy has long since passed, you’re wrong. You can still teach future generations to put their faith in trust in God. In fact, the only limitation you face, is the one you place on yourself.

Two Personal Questions to Consider: (1) What behavior do you need to change right now to leave a legacy of blessing and faith? Is there something going on in your life that you know is destructive to your relationships with others? This would be the time to call it what it is … sin … and ask the Lord to help you remove it from your life so that others do not reproduce it. (2) What behavior do you need to adopt right now to leave a legacy of blessing and faith? if you want those under your influence to love people, you must model it for them. The same can be said for any other behavior that you hope to pass down. Don’t underestimate the power of a life that is fully submitted to God to positively influence succeeding generations one person at a time.

Conclusion: In the book, America is Too Young to Die, by Leonard Ravenhill there is an illustration of the value of a godly legacy from two men who lived here in America in the 1700s: (1) Max Jukes, was [an] atheist who lived a godless life. He married an ungodly [woman], and from this union there were 310 descendants who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars [nearly $37,000,000 in today’s dollars]. (2) Then there is a record of a great man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a godly [woman]. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards, of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States Senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one Vice-President of the United States, 80 public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. Jonathan Edwards’ descendants did not cost the state a penny. I hope this demonstrates to you what God can do with just one person who cares enough to shape future generations for His glory.