Charles Stanley - Our Life After Death, Leaving A Godly Legacy
When your life here on earth is over physically, how do you want to be remembered? What do you want people to say about you? What difference will it have made that you even lived? And what will you leave behind that has any lasting value? What will you leave behind that cannot lose its value? Will there be anyone on earth left whose eternal destiny you had a part in changing, bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? You see, after you and I are gone, some of us are still going to be left here. That is, our life's going to keep living even after we're gone. And when I think about so many verses in the Bible about death, let me just quote a few of them instead of you turning to several of them. And think about what Paul said in the very beginning about this whole issue of death, he says, "The wages of sin is death".
That's where it all started. Then you'll recall that he said, "For those of us who are children of God, that death is like going asleep in Jesus Christ". That doesn't mean we'll sleep in the grave some thousands of years, but rather that we go to sleep at night, we wake up the next morning conscious of a whole new day. That's the way it'll be when we pass away. Then you'll recall he said, when Jesus was talking to Martha and she was concerned about the fact that Jesus didn't show up on time to save her brother from death, Jesus said to her, "Even though we die, we shall also live".
Then you'll recall in First Corinthians chapter fifteen, those fifty-eight verses, forty-six of them Paul spent in talking about our life after death. He talked about the promise of our resurrection. So that all through Scripture, for those of us who are believers, death is certainly not the end of anything, just our physical existence here on this earth, but not the end of our life. There's nothing in the Bible about reincarnation, neither is there anything in the Bible about annihilation. You're going to live somewhere after you die. And the truth is one of those places you're going to live, that is through somebody because of the life that you're living now, you're going to live through somebody even after you die. And the issue is what kind of life are you going to leave? What will be the message of your life? What kind of legacy are you going to leave?
Because you see, the truth is life is a gift of God. Think about it for a moment. The very reason that you're alive is because God gave you the privilege of the gift of life. And He gave you a body, a soul, and a spirit. He has equipped you with the skills and abilities and talents that you need to accomplish His purpose and plan for your life. He has a will for your life, and that will is very clear. The problem is that oftentimes many people do not even begin to ask the question: What is God's personal will for my life? It's very clear in the Scripture what His will is for all of us universally. What is His purpose and plan for your life? Why did He place you here?
Somebody says, "Well, I was an accident". No, you weren't. Somebody says, "Well, I'm a nobody". No you're not. You're somebody in God's eyes. The question is why? What is God's purpose? And it's very clear in Scripture, and that is two-fold purpose God has in mind for leaving you here. And that is, first of all, for the purpose of good works, and secondly, that you would bring Him honor and glory. And you'll recall that Paul said in Ephesians chapter two, eight, nine, and ten, he says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast". Then he says, "For we are His creation in Christ Jesus for the purpose of good works, which He foreordained, that you and I should walk in them".
So one of the purposes of God in your life and mine is that we would live a life of good works. And then you'll recall he said to Timothy, he says, "Instruct those to whom you're speaking and tell them to be rich in good works". That is, God intends for every single one of us to live out our lives in good works. Well, what is that? That is living a life in such a fashion that the way we invest our life is in those things that bring honor and glory to God. And this is why He said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven". So His primary purposes are two-fold. That is, that you and I would live a life that is composed of good works. And secondly, that we would bring glory and honor to God in the process.
And so, what I want to talk about in this message is simply this: What about this whole idea of a legacy? If you look in the dictionary, for example, you will find that a legacy is material wealth or possessions or property that you leave someone else, or anything that you leave the other person. And oftentimes we limit that to money, so somebody says, "Well, I don't have any legacy, I don't have any money. I'm just making the best I can day by day. I'm just, you know, living week-to-week, and so what do I have to leave"? Your life, your influence, your testimony. You say, "Well, I don't have much testimony". Well, yes, you do. It's either good or bad. It's either strong or weak. It's either poor or rich, but you do have a testimony. You do have something to leave, and what I want you to remember is this: you are building that legacy. And what we leave is, listen, what we leave is the result of how we live.
So I want to ask you a number of questions, a number of questions you will not be able to escape. You're going to have to answer these at some time in your life or the other. So think about this for a moment. As you're living out your life and you're thinking about how you're living it out and what your life purpose is and what you're trying to accomplish and to achieve or what you want to leave in your life, ask yourself the question: What am I saying? That is, what am I leaving to those who will follow me concerning my faith? Ask you a question. Most of you have children or grandchildren and, more than likely, you've thought about what you're going to leave them. You've thought about your will and how much you're going to leave them and so forth. But let's get down to the most important things in life.
Ask yourself this question: Will you leave your children, will you leave your children a love, listen, a love for the Word of God? Will they be able to look back and say, "I saw my mom and my dad reading the Scriptures. I heard them reading the Word of God. I heard my mother, my father talking about this verse and that verse and this passage and that passage that God spoke through them. I watched them as they responded to God's Word. I heard them talking about decisions that they were making as a result of reading God's Word and finding a principle in Scripture that guided them in making that decision". Will they have a love for the Word of God? Will, listen, will they have a trust in the Word of God that they never question this? Will they, listen, will they be able to go to school?
Will they be able to listen to some professor somewhere criticize the Word of God? Will they be able to stand like a stalwart giant and say, "You have your right to opinion. Listen, I am fully persuaded this is the infallible, inerrant Word of the Living God. I watched it lived out through my parents, I watched God answer their prayers, I watched God work in their life, I watched these principles lived out in their life. You cannot shake my faith in the Word of the Living God"? Will you leave your children that kind of faith in God's Word? If you do not leave them that kind of faith in God's Word, you leave them vulnerable to the philosophies of life, to the evil that goes on, and to the lies that are being perpetrated. Will you leave your children, will you leave your children, listen, the legacy of praying parents? Think about this, how many times has your son or your daughter ever seen you, listen carefully, on your knees talking to the Father?
You say, "Well now, wait a minute now. I don't have to get on my knees and pray". That's right, you don't. Let me ask you a question. Which do you think was the most impressive? You sitting in the chair and talking to God once in a while or when they saw you on your knees crying out to God for some difficulty, some hardship, some problem, some heartache, some need in their life? Are you going to leave your children, listen, that inescapable picture of you on your knees talking to your Heavenly Father?
And I think the first time it ever hit me of how important that was, I was in my first church up in North Carolina, and I remember lying, I remember the carpet I had, the particular rug that I'd pray on, I was stretched out on the floor, talking to God, and I even talked out loud, not that I thought that was necessary, but that was just the best way for me to keep my attention. And so, I'm praying, and all of a sudden, I sensed something. And I'm lying there stretched out and I turned, opened my eyes, and here's Andy stretched out beside me looking me right in the eye saying, "What are you doing"? But you know what, and then I think about how many times he and I stretched out together to pray and to talk to God. He never forgot it and I never forgot. I want my son and my daughter to remember me talking to God, not sitting in a comfortable chair. That isn't the reason I did, but I prayed stretched out on my face before they were ever born.
I'm asking you a simple question. Have your children ever heard you pray out loud? Have they ever seen you on your knees? Have they ever heard you crying out to God? And you say, "I don't think that's necessary". It, listen, you may not think it's necessary, but it's an inescapable picture God photographs on their mind. That's how important prayer is to you. Will your children remember you taking them to church once in a while? Would they hear, listen, will they remember that you made it your habit week after week to worship the Living God? That you weren't going to church because you thought you felt like you had some compulsion to do it, but deep down inside, you loved the Lord Jesus Christ. Did they hear you singing the hymn standing beside them? Did they see you open your Bible and the pastor open his? Did they see you taking notes from the sermon because you thought you what you were hearing was important enough to remember? And did they then remember you saying to them, "Remember what the pastor said today"?
And then you watched or listened to your father or your mother talk about the message and talk about how you wanted to instill those truths within your life? What are you leaving your children? If it's money, forget it! For the simple reason that does not last for eternity. What you plant in that child's heart, the spiritual truths you plant in their life, the legacy, what they see you do and the way they see you live and the things they see you say and your love and devotion to Jesus Christ. That's what you must leave. That's what they need above everything else. And you see, you're leaving a legacy that is weak in those areas or strong in those areas. Well, ask you this question: How are you utilizing your finances in such a way that you leave a legacy? Listen, we can leave not only our families what they need, but we can, listen, we can leave it in such a fashion, the message of the gospel of Jesus continues long after we're gone.
And remember this: what we're doing now says, listen, says something about our life now. After we're gone, the truth of about our life will be there. Where was our heart? What were we thinking about? What were we most concerned about? Then I think about, for example, how we invest our time. Think about this, how we invest our time is a major priority in the mind of God. He's the one who's given us life. He's the one who's given us the privilege, the opportunities, and He's given us the skills and abilities and talents that we have. And so, He wants us to invest our time in what? He said good works that bring Him glory and honor. How much time, for example, in any given week do you give to the Lord's work? How much time do you spend in any fashion that you could say, "You know, this is for the Lord". You say, "Well, I've got to make a living". You can make a living. You can witness to people while you're making a living.
There are many good things that you can do while you're making a living. The issue is: What about your time? Your time is not your own, your time belongs to God, but listen, the very gift of life itself is time, seconds, minutes, weeks, years. It's given, and then He's going to call us home to give an account for it. Somebody says, "You know, I just don't have time to serve God". Is that right? How many hours did you spend last week watching television? You say, "Yeah, but that's late at night". Rearrange your schedule. Think about this, God said He created you and me for the purpose of good works that will bring Him glory and honor. You mean to tell me that you don't have time to serve the Lord? You don't have time to take this tract to that person, give this book to that person, share your faith with this person, or sing in the choir or play in the orchestra or teach in Sunday School or be an usher, work in the parking lot.
In other words, there are things that every single person could do. You mean you don't have time for that? What is the message you're sending your children when you have no time to serve the Lord? And if your kids were to say to you, "Well, Dad, Mom, what are you all doing as far as good works and serving God"? What would you say? Would you say, "Ah, hmm-hmm, pass, pass the gravy, please. Pass the ice tea". Or would you say, "Well son, here's what I'm doing". Or would you have to say, "Well now, you know, everybody's not a pastor. Everybody's not a missionary. We can't all be expected".
You know what, do you think your children accept that as a valid answer? No, they don't. Because you see, oftentimes children have this very, very accurate perception. We think they're being fooled. And they look at their life and the way you live and they think, "You know what? They don't tithe. I've never seen them pray. I've never seen them get on their knees. I don't see them reading the Scripture," and you know what? You can talk and talk and talk and talk and talk, they're watching, they're listening, they're feeling. They're feeling the passion or the absence of passion in your soul about Jesus Christ. And when they never hear you talk about witnessing to anybody, you can talk about everything or, watch this, maybe your kids get enough courage to witness to somebody and you go home, you sit at the table, and they're so excited about talking about Jesus, and so Dad changes the subject.
I'm telling you, it is a disaster because what you've done, listen, you've blunted the very spirit of that child who's trying to do what God wants them to do and, Dad, they don't have your support, Mother, they don't have your support. And you get off on talking about something that is secular, something material when they were so excited about sharing their testimony. They finally got up enough courage to tell somebody about Jesus and you want to talk about something else. I'm telling you, you're leaving a legacy. And it's either going to be powerful, penetrating, living it out in your children, living it out in your grandchildren. And when I see one of my grandchildren, when he or she asks me a question, especially the one I'm thinking about, when she asks me a question, I say, "Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You, God, they got it"! Every once in a while, somebody says, "Well, when you going to do this, that, and the other"? And I say, "Let me tell you something. When my grandchildren grow up and living a godly life, then I'll talk to you about that". Because you see, the truth is we're living it out, you're living it out right now.
You say, "Well, now I'm feeling real guilty". Good! That's good! Because listen, if you could sit here and totally ignore this, it would be terrible. But the truth, listen, you can't ignore it for this reason. The reason you can't ignore it is because it is the truth. You cannot deny that you're going to leave a legacy. How are you spending your time? Your money? How are you spending, listen, what about God's Word? What about prayer? What about your service to the Lord? Suppose God, for example, calls one of your children to be a missionary. And I've heard this many times. Not hundreds of times, but many times. Young men come to Atlanta, they go to college, they're going to be an engineer, they're going to be this, they're going to be that. God calls them to preach, and then they have that terrible task of going home and telling their parents. How many times have I heard their parents from them say, "You what?! I've spent all this money getting you educated so you can make a living and you're going to preach what?! You're going to the mission field! What are you thinking about"?
I want to say to you as a parent, "You missed it. You missed it"! When God gets a hold of your children, it ought to motivate you, inspire you, listen, bring you to, listen, bring you to a whole new perspective on your life. You could think about what good things have you done and what did you miss out there, but somehow they got it. You're leaving a legacy, and the issue is what kind is it? But here's probably one you hadn't thought about. What about the legacy, listen, that you leave that is your reaction in difficult, hard, trying times of persecution, hardship, trial, suffering, and pain?
You say, "What's that got to do with this"? You're going to leave a legacy. Watch this. Listen, you're leaving them a pattern of response in tough times, not to give up, not to quit, not to walk away, not to get on some pill, not to get on alcohol, not to moan and groan and complain, but to do what? To put their trust in the Living God. You're leaving a legacy. What are you saying to them? You see, and I've said to your children primarily, but think about all the people round you, your friends. How many of your friends have heard you pray? How many of your friends have heard you witness about Jesus? How many of your friends have heard you talk about Christ? How many of them have heard you say what you believe about God's Word, or that you've brought up some passage of Scripture, how God has answered your prayer in the most awesome way?
Are you ashamed of the gospel, ashamed of the Word of God? Will you not talk to your friends or even a person who is a stranger. And oftentimes, that person who's a stranger, somebody who was just sitting there hoping you may say something to them that would be an encouragement to them. How many opportunities do you miss? You're leaving a legacy. So it's either going to be strong and penetrating and motivating and life-changing, or it's going to be weak and absolutely wasted. Then what about this, think about this for a moment. Let's say you live to be eighty years of age, which is a good age, maybe ninety-five or a hundred, who knows? But you're going to live twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, seventy, eighty, let's say eighty-five years of age. Then you turn around and you look at your life. God's blessed you here and answered prayer and so forth, and then you're going to die.
And this is why I say to you over and over again: write it down. What I wouldn't give, in fact, you can't stack up enough money for what I would give if I had a day-by-day or even week-by-week running account of my grandfather's relationship to Jesus Christ and how God worked in his life. There is no amount of money that you could put over here that would cause me to choose that versus that one book. Think about this. God's answered your prayer, met your needs, worked in your life, you never wrote it down. You never penned it. Somehow it wasn't important enough to you to recall it, to take the time to write it down, or whatever it might be. One time I said to my son, I said, "Andy, you know I've sort of hidden away my diaries because I don't want anybody to read them. At least not right now". He said, "Dad, don't worry about it, they couldn't read it if they saw it, they couldn't read your handwriting".
Well, I understand that. So it made me start putting it on a computer. Think about this. Do you realize what you have cheated your children and your grandchildren out of? Imagine them, listen, picking up a book or two books or, as a fellow stopped me right after the first service, he said, "See this"? Had a sheet of notes. He said, "I've got twenty years of notes from your sermons". Think about what you would leave your children, your grandchildren. And all you've done is put a date on it and said, "Here's what God did for me today, He's answered my prayer. I'm going through a very difficult time, I feel down today". And they find out how you felt, how they feel, they say, "That's the way I feel. God answered his prayer, her prayer, maybe He'll do that".
You see, you, listen, you can't afford to just soak up the blessing after blessing after blessing from God and just ignore it, forget it. You're leaving a legacy. You're leaving a legacy. Not whether you want to or not, you're leaving it. And the question is: What will it be? What are you going to leave your children? What are you going to leave your grandchildren? What are you going to leave your friends? People who know you? People who watched you from a distance that you never knew were watching you,
Now, here's the important question. You're leaving a legacy, what are you leaving? Your life is going to live on after you're gone. And sometimes it's going to live on for generation after generation after generation, depends on what it is. Sometimes it'll end out there quickly because nobody will want to repeat what they've seen or what they heard. The question is this. You're going to leave something, what is it? And remember, you're building it now. And the legacy you leave will be a reflection of the life that you lived: selfish, self-centered, generous, free, godly, compassionate, love and concern for the world who needs Christ.
Tell me anything any more impacting than leaving a legacy that not only is a good testimony to your children and grandchildren but leaving a legacy financially that helps to promote the gospel generation after generation after generation after generation. Because you see, here's what happens. People hear the gospel, they feel the call to preach or to be a missionary, and what do they do? They duplicate themselves. And you see, you never know how God's going to work in a person's life. And you know what happens? That's part of our life. What's happening to them is part of your life because you made yourself available unto good works for the kingdom of God.
Father, how grateful we are to be able to live this life. And even after You've called us Home, to keep on living it through our children, our grandchildren, our friends, even through strangers who observed, who watched carefully, and who were affected by our lives. I pray that You'll stir every single one of us, every person who hears this message, to stop and ask themselves the question: What am I living for? What am I leaving behind? What difference will I have made? How can my good works continue? What can I give to continue the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ? And whose eternal destiny will have been changed because of how I lived and because of how I gave. I ask this, Father, in Jesus's name, amen.