Several weeks ago I was tucking my daughter into bed (I’m sooo thankful she still asks me to do that) and she said something to me that “filled my bucket” as we say in this house.
She said, “Daddy, you know how you taught me all about Jesus? Well, since you taught me about Jesus, I’m going to teach my kids about Jesus, so even when you’re dead that’s how you’re going to live on.”
In that moment, I realized that she had perhaps given more consideration to my legacy than I had myself. This prompted me to begin asking myself a new set of questions– questions that would spur me to consider ways in which I might leave a bigger Kingdom legacy behind me after I’m gone.
As Jesus people, my hope is we’ll all ask this question of ourselves. While you consider what sort of legacy you’re leaving (or if you’re leaving one at all) here are 5 things I think we can all do to leave a bigger legacy for the Kingdom:
1. Learn to say and truly believe, “it’s not about me.”
This is particularly hard for those of us who grow up in individual-oriented cultures where from day one we’re sent the message that it’s all about us. The highest ideals are our own happiness, individual success, and person gratification. Unfortunately, the Kingdom of God is not an individual-oriented culture, and walking through life with a focus of self will cause us to miss out on leaving a bigger legacy for the Kingdom.
Jesus himself left us this example that we might follow in his footsteps. When offered all the Kingdoms of this world, he rejected it. Instead of self-focus, Jesus poured himself out in a life that was so other-focused it changed the course of human history.
If you want to leave a Kingdom legacy that will live on for generations, the first thing one has to do is let go of self-focus and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
2. Live the Kingdom principles in this life, now.
If one desires to leave a legacy that grows the Kingdom and points others to it, one must begin living the Kingdom principles (established in the Sermon on the Mount) right now.
For much of my life I was told that God’s Kingdom would exist some day, and when it did, we’d all begin living by those principles. This argument never once inspired me or gave me a glimpse of the Kingdom’s beauty. But you know what did? Seeing other people live out the Kingdom principles right here, right now. In fact, their example invited me to begin living them and then teaching others to live by them– thus, a legacy for those who walked before me is being born in our midst.
If you want to inspire people and show them the beauty of God’s Kingdom, it’s not enough to try to convince them of what it will look like one day. Instead, show them the Kingdom of God exists right here, right now, and that they can join in with us.
3. View sacrifice as an investment on something that will have a big payout later.
Anything worth building, especially a multi-generational legacy, will take hard work, sacrifice, and forward-thinking.
To build a bigger Kingdom legacy, I believe God invites us to sacrifice some of our personal desires in order to invest in things that will have a bigger impact in the long-run. Sometimes the payout on these investments will be obvious and measurable, but sometimes we’ll have to let go of the need to see results, and simply trust that God will cause these investments to mature in the generations that follow us.
Living a life that lives on after you die doesn’t just happen– it only happens when an individual has lived their life investing in a legacy.
4. Pour your life into other people.
Some people leave beautiful legacies that live on after they die, and some do not. As I have looked at the lives of folks on both sides of this, I find that legacy-leavers all have one thing in common: their lives were spent pouring into other people.
You see, legacies are not inanimate objects. They’re not computer programs that play out the code they were given. Legacies aren’t even the result of someone recording and preserving your life story. Legacies are different.
Legacies only exist when the lives of others have been changed by your own. That’s it. A legacy has never existed apart from that one, simple truth.
Want to leave a legacy? Get busy inspiring and changing lives by pouring your own into other people.
5. Keep finding ways to make this all about Jesus.
The biggest factor in leaving a legacy for the Kingdom is remembering that a Kingdom doesn’t exist without a King– and his name is Jesus.
Jesus trumps everybody. Every person you’ve ever met. Every character in the Bible. Every prophet. Every apostle. Jesus and his words rein supreme over everything else in the universe— there is no equal, anywhere. The most important role we have as Kingdom-builders and legacy-leavers is to find every opportunity to point to the fact that Jesus is awesome, and he is Lord over everything.
While legacies can take on all shapes and sizes, the only legacy I am interested in leaving this world is one that invites others to give Jesus a shot. I want my life to be an invitation for them to come to the realization that Jesus is altogether good and wonderful, and that his Kingdom is worth joining.
True Kingdom legacies only live on through the exponential result of others joining the Kingdom too. Thus, the biggest way we can leave a legacy that lives on after we are gone is to help people see that Jesus is like no other, and accepting his invitation to wage beauty in the world is the best invitation, ever.
Question to ponder: if you were to die today, what kind of legacy would your life leave? Would it even leave one at all?
As long as you’re still breathing, there’s still time to invest in leaving a bigger Kingdom legacy. My prayer is that these 5 tips will give you a good start.