We had plucked and pulled and planted all morning. We were exhausted, but delighted, for the winter-stricken garden finally found order—prepared for a season of growth. It is there, in the middle of her garden, that my grandma asked me a question that I will never forget: “How do you think you’ll remember me when I am gone?” The question held the weight of a thought that is true and everpresent, yet willingly ignored: “Our days are numbered.”
Even as I type the words, a sense of urgency aches in my bones. My grandma’s inquiry is a question of legacy, of ending well, and of wise stewardship. And if I am honest, sometimes tomorrow feels more like an assumption and less like a gift. Have you ever felt that way? This illusion of plentiful time tempts us with complacency.
One day I will join that small group.
One day I will share my faith with my coworker.
One day I will finally read my Bible consistently.
So how do we break the cycle and cultivate our time in a way that matters for eternity?
While we can answer that question in many ways, I have broken down three ways that we can leave a legacy of faith for our family and friends.
Matthew 24 records a conversation between Jesus and His disciples, in which the disciples inquired about the end times. What will it look like? What signs will be present? When will Christ’s Second Coming take place?
Jesus answers with details of impending wars, famines, persecution, and false teaching. However, this bad news is not without good news, for Jesus also reminds them “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). And not only will the faithful be saved, they will savor the presence of Jesus forever in eternity.
So while we wait for Jesus’s return, how do we live?
Jesus’s advice to the disciples is profound: “Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). And later He says, “This is why you are also to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). Reading these verses leads to the natural questions, How would your life be different if you lived like Jesus is coming back tomorrow? What will you want to be found doing?
We can think of alertness as your heart being “on guard,” taking care to ensure that weeds are not growing among roses. Jesus’s advice can practically equip us to view our lives and our schedules through the lens of eternity. We may spend less time binging television shows and more time engaging in our communities; less time complaining and more time expressing gratitude. With alertness, we can look at our lives and determine what to uproot and what to plant, what to tend to, and what to prune.
Take a moment to look at this week's or next week’s calendar. Block off your commitments (work, church commitments, family commitments, travel, etc.).
Now look between your commitments. What free time do you have between your commitments? If you have a large sum of free time: how do you normally spend that free time? How is it serving Christ? How might you better spend this free time?
If your schedule is packed and busy, how might you incorporate rest into your schedule to meditate on the gospel? Is there any scheduled event that can be removed or minimized? Consider how you might better tend to your schedule.
Be a good steward
To best understand how we can best stay alert, let’s take a look at biblical stewardship. Upon God’s creation of mankind, God initiated stewardship, an invitation to mankind to help Him work and keep His creation (Genesis 2:15). Like God invited Adam and Eve to steward Eden with care, He invites us to tend to our “gardens” as well. What has He blessed you with? What is your influence? How might you better care for what you are given? Often, we can take an incomplete view of our gardens, simply defining them as our family and our closest friends. But your garden, your ministry, is everywhere that you find yourself. How might you steward your church community for the kingdom of God? How might you show the love of Christ to your neighbors, your children’s teachers, or your coworkers?
Our “gardens” are gifts from God, places where we can sow gospel seeds that will grow into a full bounty for the Lord. May we be found alert, tending carefully to what God has given us, for we know that our time, our relationships, and our resources belong to Him. Our legacy is a culmination of what we decide to do with the garden God has given us to cultivate.
Take a moment to look at the calendar you created in the last exercise. Now, on that calendar or on a separate piece of paper, write down what people you interact with in each setting. For example, if you attend a child’s soccer game on Saturday mornings, write how you interact with other parents, your child’s teammates, etc.
How might you harness this time with those in your “garden” to show them the love of Christ? What questions could you ask to get to know them better? How could you generously care for them?
Likely, your garden to steward is bigger than you imagine. Fight the urge to feel overwhelmed, for we do not possess the strength to care for our people alone. But by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, faithfulness in prayer, and wisdom from God’s Word, we gain the strength to persevere.
Standing in the middle of the garden, surrounded by our hard work, I remember thinking carefully about my grandma’s question. The first word that came to my mind was “faithful.” She had lived a simple life, faithfully serving in church, steadfastly caring for her four children, and endlessly making cakes or pies for neighbors in need.
When I remember her, I remember a legacy of faithfulness. But truthfully, our earthly legacy pales in comparison to what awaits us in heaven. The real question that matters is not necessarily, “How will the world remember me?” but most importantly “Am I faithful to steward what God has entrusted to me?”
Our end goal is to make much of Jesus—to plant seeds of gospel hope wherever we find ourselves. We can live fruitful and faithful lives because of the Spirit who indwells each of us as believers. We may plant seeds and seek to be good stewards, but ultimately it is God who gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). And by God’s grace, maybe we will see those seeds of gospel hope take root and grow in the lives of those around us.
Additional resources on leaving a legacy of faith