By Pastor Shane
When I was a teenager my first job was in landscaping. I entered the work force in the deep-end of manual labor in the hot and relentless summer heat that Central Florida is notorious for. The hours were long and the work arduous as we dug trenches through the layers of shell and limestone to place irrigation piping three feet into the earth. The stratums of shell and rock we dug up bore witness to generations past and I imagined in my curious mind the fate of these creatures that had left only their shells for exploration. Then my thoughts wandered to my own life, and the kind of legacy that I would leave once my time here on earth was over. Would people find in my skeletal shell the markings of a valiant warrior that had been run through while daring greatly? Would they see the worn impressions upon my knees where I had cried out for God’s mercies for myself and my generation. Or would my life leave in its wake the kind of obscurity that I saw in the shells in those days as a young man?
The truth is legacies are not left in bodies; rather they are left in the hearts and lives of those that we touch while here on earth. Through the years however I have come to realize that legacies are not built easily and are often established in the moments of crisis that test the medal of who we are. Suffering has a way of revealing the hidden greatness within each of us as we learn to stand in strength with each new trial. The Apostle Paul says it this way in Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” What Paul is driving at is that because of God’s love that is made evident through the Holy Spirit, each of us can have the confidence that with each trial that we face that His promises will not fail us. Our hope as Christians is in the Crucified One that journeys with us into the abyss of our greatest sadness, weakness and failures and raises us up new in the power of His life. The struggle that we have in leaving the kind of legacy that we hope to, is found in our inability to persevere. Sadly, when trials come many abandon the hope of their faith for the rationale of what we are able to accomplish within our own strength.
The cross however offers us a different kind of muscle that is not contingent on human ability or intellectual prowess but rather a new divine fortitude that is mingled with Christ’s divinity. Thus at every turn of life we have an option to endure suffering with Christ or to brave it on our own. Suffering can only produce character however when we allow ourselves to be fashioned after God’s character. The challenges that we face offer to us an opportunity to experience new realms of His grace as we trust in the God that shows up “at the right time, while we were still powerless” (Rom. 5:6). As we overcome each new difficulty that we face, the world is offered vivid testimony of our need for God and what his resurrection means to our daily existence.
When they see us overcome our trials they too are given the hope that character produces for their own frailty and it is here that legacy is developed and transferred to the observing generations. What they see in the life of the one that endures suffering in this way is the power of Christ’s resurrection and the hope that somehow they can overcome as well. The way, we trust in God’s power has a direct corollary to our legacy and this is the stuff that will outlive all of us.