Within every human heart is a longing, a desire for what we accomplish to endure far beyond our own lifetime. This isn’t something unique to believers, of course. You can see it everywhere you go—legislation, highways, college buildings, and medical wings all bear the names of people who saw a future beyond themselves. And if you ever felt the joy of seeing your own name etched into something lasting, or the pain of seeing what you worked to achieve dismantled, perhaps you have understood this in your own heart as well.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us God has set eternity in the heart of every person. I believe this is not just a desire to live forever but also to be known forever—to have a positive impact that is recognized by others. Thankfully, as believers we know that everything we do in obedience to God does, indeed, carry on. Ecclesiastes 3:14 assures us, “I know that everything God does will remain forever.” Nothing we do in submission to His will shall ever truly fade away.
I was particularly struck by this as I traveled back to my hometown of Dry Fork, Virginia, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Emmanuel Pentecostal Holiness Church—a church my grandfather, George Washington Stanley, planted.
In 1915, 10 believers who’d been meeting as a house church invited Grandad to hold a revival. He set up his tent at the corner of Johnson Road and Dry Fork Road and preached his heart out. By the end, the church grew to 35 members. The next year, in November 1916, that small group of believers invited my grandfather back to be pastor, and he accepted.
Grandad was the minister of Emmanuel Pentecostal Holiness Church only until 1921, but you should hear the way they still talk about his impact on the congregation and community. As I walked through the church, one person after another grabbed my arm to tell me how Grandad had led a dying loved one to the Lord, how God had done miracles of healing through him, and how he’d changed Danville for the better. It touched me deeply to know families there had passed down these stories from one generation to another. But what struck me even more profoundly was the spiritual legacy that continued in that congregation. After 100 years, it was still healthy and reaching people with the gospel.
An Unbroken Line
The Lord has an answer to our longing for an eternal legacy. All He requires is for a person to be faithful to Him. Understand, my grandfather wasn’t educated, wealthy, or prominent. On the contrary, Grandad taught himself to read by reading the Bible. In his early days, he made a living cutting railroad ties, which was difficult work for very little money. And he preached against the use of tobacco in a region where it was the main cash crop—so he wasn’t politically powerful by any means. Grandad didn’t have much, and in fact, he probably had less than most people. But the Lord worked through him to plant 18 churches in Virginia and North Carolina and affect countless lives for eternity. Grandad died in 1964, yet because of what Jesus did in and through him, his influence remains forever.
You, too, can have a legacy that lasts, and it all begins in your own home. As believers, we have a divine obligation to teach our children the truth of God’s Word so they’ll know the Savior, realize He has a plan for their lives, and understand that He will equip them for everything He calls them to accomplish. Of course, God tells us to reach our families first because this is the main platform He has provided for influence. Members of a family have a bond that makes communicating these spiritual principles natural and effective. For example, my granddaughter Annie recently came and asked me to repeat the stories about my grandfather so she could teach them to her young sons. Why? Because she’s seen these principles work in my life.
When I consider how the Old Testament accounts of God’s faithfulness endured through the centuries despite wars, famines, and exiles, I am awed and inspired. There is something very powerful about telling a loved one what God has done, thereby handing down our personal testimony of His lovingkindness and wisdom in both word and deed. But the best news is that our godly example and testimony is enough to change the landscape of eternity—not only for those in our families but also for the countless others they will influence.
You may be thinking, I don’t have that kind of relationship with my family. Does this imply I cannot have a spiritual legacy? Or perhaps you don’t have children and wonder what that means for you. The family is the starting point in our quest to impact eternity, but it certainly isn’t the only way. This is why it’s important for you to have a sense of the long, unbroken line of faithfulness that led to you knowing Jesus as your Savior. From the time the Lord spoke to the first disciples until you heard and accepted the good news of salvation, it was one person who faithfully told the next until the message reached you. Sometimes it was through family members, yes. But at other times it was through friendships, chance meetings, business relationships, sermons, books, and countless other ways one person expressed to another that the great gift of salvation is available through Jesus Christ. There is a great deal of beauty and wonder in that. There is also a great responsibility to touch the hearts of the next generation and pass on the mandate.
And that is how we must see our individual ministries. My grandfather influenced me, so he has also had an effect on everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Jesus. And as each person I influence speaks to others, my grandfather’s impact expands. In this way, we see that if we are truly serving Jesus, those who follow after us grow our spiritual legacy exponentially.
So, friend, you cannot go wrong when you invest in the future by telling your family, friends, coworkers, and others about what God has done. That’s what Grandad did, and I still see the fruit of his faithfulness. And the truth of the matter is, there’s no telling how profoundly you can impact eternity each time you share Jesus with others. But one thing is sure—you are indeed leaving a legacy that will endure far beyond what you can imagine.