By Kathy Howard, Crosswalk.com
A legacy is inevitable. We will pass things down to the next generation. Even if we don’t have much materially to leave behind, our words and life examples will instill character traits, talents, hobbies, skills, and more in our children and grandchildren. But how valuable will that legacy be? Will we leave anything that has relevance and benefit for not just this life, but also for eternity?
The most valuable legacy we can pass to our loved ones is a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ. Although every individual must make his or her own decision for Christ, there are things we can do to create an atmosphere where faith can flourish. When we consistently show them the value and relevancy of faith in Christ, that’s a legacy not easily tossed aside. (See how I was personally impacted by “The Spiritual Legacy of My Great-Great-Grandmother.”)
Build the Foundation of Our Spiritual Legacy on God’s Word
God knew the necessity of one generation passing the torch of faith to the next. He even laid out a plan for us in His Word. One familiar passage is Deuteronomy 6:1-9. Here, God tells us to not only model faith for our children, but to also purposefully teach them God’s Word. To talk about God’s truth when we sit at home, when we go out, when we rise, and when we lie down.
Timothy’s spiritual heritage is my favorite New Testament example. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he highlighted the younger man’s “sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice” (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s mother and grandmother faithfully taught him God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:14-15) and modeled godly lives. They followed the instruction God gave more than a millennium earlier.
This instruction is also for us today. Let us weave God’s Word into the fabric of our families. We can point to God’s truths during the casual moments of our daily lives. And we can intentionally teach Scripture during scheduled times like family devotions or Bible study. We can foster a respect for Scripture in our families by sharing what God is teaching us through Scripture and how we depend on it for guidance.
13 Practical Suggestions for Building a Spiritual Legacy
There are so many ways we can help our families practically live out the truths we learn together from God’s Word. The following tips are a good place to start. (For more spiritual legacy tips see “Heirloom: Living & Leaving a Legacy of Faith.”)
1. Hide His Word – Memorize Scripture as a family. Choose verses or passages based on your children’s ages. Take advantage of daily moments to practice together, such as car commutes. Keep track of everyone’s progress with charts and stickers. Reward your children’s success with something that motivates them.
2. Talk about justice – As God’s people, we should fight for justice around us because our God is just. Have a family discussion about injustice in today’s world and the God-given inherent value of all people. Consider ways you and your family can speak out and fight for justice in a particular area.
3. Foster an attitude of gratitude – Develop a family “gratitude prompt” by deciding together what everyday sight or sound will remind you to thank God for His many gifts. For instance, perhaps you live close to train tracks and can hear the whistle several times a day. Also set a regular time for your family – perhaps dinner time – to recount the Lord’s wondrous works.
4. Point to God’s purposes – Talk with each of your children about the gifts and talents God has given them. Include their life experiences, education, and skills. Then help your kids brainstorm how God might want to use all this to honor Jesus and bless others.
5. Focus on missions – Find resources that describe mission work in different countries or check with your denomination for information. Regularly pray for specific missionaries’ needs and set aside money to support them. If possible, go on a family mission trip.
6. Do spiritual “checkups” – Establish a regular time to talk individually with your children about their relationship with God. Ask them to honestly share their struggles, then think of specific ways you can help or encourage them spiritually. One may need wise counsel for a difficult decision. Another may need help breaking a harmful habit.
7. Foster servant hearts – As a family, identify some physical needs in your community. Brainstorm ways you could meet one or more of them together. Prayerfully decide where to start, then act. For instance, you might volunteer at a local soup kitchen of food pantry, adopt a needy family for Christmas, or shovel snow for an elderly neighbor.
8. Build an unshakeable faith – Tough times can shake our faith. Make a list of biblical truths to keep on hand for the difficult days when you and your family will need them. Include Scriptures about God’s power, sovereignty, love, and concern for all your needs. Also add passages about how God uses trials to grow a Christian’s faith.
9. Establish some “spiritual markers” – Memorialize a mighty work of God in your family by connecting the story to a unique physical object. Use this spiritual marker as an opportunity to relate the story to your family and friends. For instance, if God miraculously protected you during an international mission trip, bring home an item from that country.
10. Write your story – Record your journey of faith for your family today and in the future. Describe how you came to faith in Christ and how He continues to make a difference in your daily life. Include things that are unique to your faith like favorite Scriptures, big “God moments,” spiritual struggles, and spiritual high points.
11. Faith camp – Plan a weekend camp or day camp around a creative theme for your children or grandchildren. Make it fun, and include spiritual elements like Bible stories, prayer, and Scripture memory.
12. Equip for evangelism – Help your children understand the eternal consequences for people who don’t know Jesus as their Savior. Teach them how to share the Good News of God’s salvation with others. Help them memorize or mark key verses in their Bibles. Guide them to prepare their own salvation story and help them practice.
13. Celebrate Jesus – As each holiday and family get-together approaches, find creative ways to direct your family’s attention to Jesus and His provision. For Thanksgiving, choose psalms that express gratitude and read them at the dinner table. For Christmas, you might make a birthday cake for Jesus and add “Happy Birthday” to your list of Christmas carols.
Cover it All with Prayer
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV
One last vital tip. Let’s be faithful to pray for and with our loved ones and encourage them to be people of prayer. God’s Word is the foundation of our legacy, but prayer ushers us into the presence of the One who holds our loved ones in His hands.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ChristinLola
Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 11 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith.” “Heirloom” weaves stories of faith and family history with Scripture, beautiful artwork, and ancestry research tips and techniques. Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org. (See “Heirloom” on Amazon.)