|Photo by Robert Lawton 2006|
Saturday, May 23, 2020
After Life: Legacy of the Fallen
On Memorial Day, the United States honors the ultimate sacrifice of our military who lost their lives defending our nation. After their life has passed, we remember their legacy, long after they have passed into eternity.
The concept of afterlife differs among various religions. To the born-again Christian (John 3:3-8) who has trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), it is the promise of abundant, eternal life with Him and our loved ones in Him (John 3:16; 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We will forever enjoy His light and love in our glorified bodies that will never die, age, sin, or experience sickness, pain, or sorrow (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).
He is even now preparing a special mansion for each of us (John 14:1-3) in an unimaginably beautiful City with streets of gold and gates of pearl (Revelation 21:2, 10-27). His rule and reign will be marked by perfect justice, peace and love (Isaiah 9:6). Each of us who trusted Him will have a position of some responsibility based on works we did for Him on earth, if we did them with the right motive of gratitude and love for Him (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
But when our earthly life comes to an end, and Christ takes us home to be with Him, the words “after life” also take on a second meaning. The United States holiday of Veterans Day honors and thanks our military for their faithful service in protecting our nation and the freedoms it represents. On Memorial Day, we especially remember those military who paid the ultimate price for our freedom by laying down their lives for us.
The after life of these veterans who died protecting us includes that legacy of the greatest love of all – sacrificing one’s own earthly life for the sake of others (John 15:13). Their love speaks to us even from the grave, just as the righteousness and obedience of Abel still speak to us millennia after his death (Hebrews 11:4), What will be our legacy for those we leave behind? What will remain of us here on earth, and what impact will it have?
Many are concerned about their financial legacy, and certainly it is important to provide for those dependent on our income, to the extent we can. Even if our loved ones are grown and self-sufficient, we may take pleasure in leaving them an inheritance. They may use that gift not only as a reminder of our love, but perhaps to carry on a work we started, whether it be giving to the church, to missions, or to further God’s kingdom in other ways.
Even more important than our financial legacy is the impact we had on others, for good or for bad, during this life. Did we lead people to the Lord through our witness, lifestyle, and love? Or did we give them an excuse to reject Him because of our hypocrisy, indifference, or hate?
Did we encourage the brethren and those in church leadership (Romans 13:1-8; 1 Corinthians 9:1-18) by kind words and deeds, sharing Scripture verses relevant to their trials, and thanking and praising them for their service? Or did we discourage them by being the first to complain and the last to volunteer, give, or even show up?
What kind of example were we to our children and to young people who followed after us? Did we nurture them in God’s Word, ways, and love, or take out our own frustrations and anger on them? (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) Did we show them the importance of Bible reading, prayer, church, and obedience to God’s laws in our own lives (Proverbs 22:6; Psalm 119:105), or did we ask them to do as we say, not as we do? Did we just drop them off at church while we pursued interests that were more important to us, or did we even take them to church at all?
What we do in this life determines the quality of the after life we leave behind – the footprint, for good or for evil, affecting our descendants. Timothy, the apostle Paul’s protégé, followed the sincere faith instilled in him by his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). I was blessed to be raised in part by a Godly grandmother who was a great role model of faith, giving, love, and prayer, reminding me of the Proverbs 31 woman.
We can gift our children and grandchildren with a spiritual inheritance of God’s mercy and righteousness (Psalm 103:17-18). If we obey God and trust in His Son, He will preserve our Godly legacy for our children’s benefit (Joshua 14:9). We cannot ensure that our descendants make a personal decision to follow Christ, but we are promised that if we train them in His ways, they will not turn from them in their old age (Proverbs 22:6).
In the book of Acts, Luke tells us about Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, a sister in the faith who was beloved by all because of her good deeds and charitable giving. Her ministry consisted of using her God-given talents of sewing and clothing design to fashion coats and other garments for the widows. When she died, all those who loved her wept and sent for Peter, who prayed and raised her from the dead! (Acts 9:36-42).
By virtue of her industry and charity during her life, Tabitha’s after life was one of thankful remembrance by all those she had helped, for she had been a faithful steward (1 Corinthians 4:2). But God answers prayers exceedingly abundantly (Ephesians 3:20) beyond what we could ever imagine or think! In this case, He answered Peter’s prayer by raising Tabitha from the dead, actually giving her a second life on earth after the life she had already lived!
Even better, Tabitha’s legacy, or after life, continued, because many who heard of this miracle came to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! So Tabitha’s after life was not only her legacy of giving and caring, and not only her restoration to earthly life, but her eternal reward she enjoyed by playing a part in leading others to the Lord!
The apostle Paul tells us that any Gospel seeds we sow in the lives of those who ultimately trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will not only change their eternal destiny, but will bless us with the eternal reward of the soulwinner’s crown, or crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Those who are saved will in turn sow seeds in the lives of others, which may be a part of our after life long after we no longer walk this earth.
What will be our after life? May His light shine through us during our earthly life (Matthew 5:16), so that our after life blesses not only those who knew us, but all those who feel the ripples of love emanating from our spiritual legacy!
© 2017 Laurie Collett