My favorite letter of the Apostle Paul’s is Philippians. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul is talking about the future of the church, the faith of the people, and the legacy of his life. Here are four lessons I learned from Philippians and my grandfather about leaving a legacy.
1. Show others that your faith is personal and authentic.
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. Philippians 1:8-10 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul was no phony. He even went to the point of saying that God is his witness to make the point that his life and faith were real and genuine. My grandfather’s faith was so part of his daily life that he would be talking baseball one minute and what he was praying for the next.
Like the Apostle Paul, my grandfather knew there are no spiritual grandchildren. We all have to make the decision to follow Jesus and then invite God into every area of our lives. My grandfather’s most powerful influence on his family was being a fully devoted Christ follower.
2. Be more interested in others than yourself
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counts others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul was a prideful man chasing the attention and approval of the Jewish religious leaders until Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road. After his temporary blindness and spiritual enlightenment, the Apostle Paul started to learn about there is spiritual power in weakness and strength in humility. Even when Jesus was on the cross, His mind was on others more than himself.
My grandfather did not wear a clerical collar or sought any special treatment as a minister. Whenever we would go to the ice cream store, my grandpa would smile and greet each person with joy like he had been waiting all day to meet him or her. Legacy can be defined as the lasting impact you have on others. When you are humble and treat others well, listening to their hopes and sorrows, people will remember you and how you lived your life.
3. Draw closer to God during the darkest days.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)
The Apostle Paul had plenty of problems, but he kept praising God. Even writing from a Roman prison, Paul knew God was always present to help him during his darkest days. When we praise God and pray, God will give us His peace and spiritual protection.
As a minister for 50 years, my grandpa served churches in Massachusetts and Connecticut from the end of the depression, during three wars (WWII, Korean, and Vietnam) and through the dark valleys of the deaths of his first and second wives. I have heard his prayers and read his letters to my mom during the tough years and his constant theme was ”Life is hard but God is good.” He returned to that truth each day and sometimes each hour.
4. Choose to live with joy
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1:3-5 (ESV)
The great Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe wrote a commentary for each book of the New Testament. He gave the title, “Be Joyful” for Philippians. The Apostle Paul knew of the evil and suffering of the world, but as a fishing bobber he kept on coming back up out of the depths of darkness to return to the joy of the Lord.
My grandpa was not perfect. When he spilled food on his shirt or if a grandchild burped or something worse at the table, he laughed. My grandfather taught us to take God seriously, but find grace and joy in everyday moments.
In his final years, my grandfather was very focused on his legacy of faith. In our last couple visits, Grandpa announced to the family that he had saved all his sermons and put money in some of the envelopes! In the fall of 1988, Grandpa was very ill with kidney failure.
My brother Scott, who is also a minister, lived nearby and visited Grandpa at the hospital. It was clear that Grandpa had only days to live and so when Scott thanked Grandpa for his legacy of faith, Grandpa smiled and said that his legacy was his family and for us to continue on in the faith.
We only found $ 55 dollars in his sermons, but Grandpa’s legacy is more important – personal faith, being interested in others, drawing closer to God in the tough days, and choosing joy. Today, I still occasionally pull out one of my grandpa’s sermons and remember his legacy as a genuine man of God who loved Jesus and strived to live with joy – that’s a legacy I hope to pass on.
Paul Arnold is a husband, father, grandfather, and currently serves as a chaplain to a senior living facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He hosts several podcasts – Man to Man (career advice for men) and Pardon the Confusion (Sports) that are found on iTunes and www.redcircle.com