Creating a Godly Legacy

Written by Paul J Bucknell on May, 25, 2019

Creating a Godly Legacy

What is a Godly Legacy?

What is a legacy? Well, most people associate a legacy with the material possessions someone leaves behind to others. In our city we have the legacy of a steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie, who had, many fine libraries built. A godly legacy, however, totally differs from this. A godly legacy continues enriching people’s lives and bringing God glory throughout eternity because it describes the way a person had kindly treated others.

We err when we consider our lives as the center of the world. Like the person playing a computer game, the person or avatar is suddenly dropped into a certain scene, immediately scanning his situation so that he can make the needed critical decisions. Life is not like that for it has eternal ramifications. Many people play their “game” on earth consumed with their own choices and oblivious to the spiritual world.

First, it is dangerous to assume that we can see all that exists around us. God exists, and so does the invisible world all about us. Jesus is alive. Our eyes are drastically limited.

Our life goal is to apprehend the very purposes that God has created us. God is involved in our lives. It is both an affront to God and foolishness for our lives if we live apart from knowing and carrying out the Lord’s purposes for our lives. God entered this world through Jesus to reconcile us to himself so that Jesus would live in us, carrying out the Father’s purposes for our lives. Unless our faith is strong, the surrounding visual scenes will more strongly influence our lives than God’s Word. What we see is what we will respond to—feeling, wanting, and living according to those desires. Those individuals mentioned in Hebrews 11, however, lived in the reality of God’s presence even while on earth.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

It is much more accurate and helpful if we think of our lives as a sphere where we have different influences upon our lives. There is the world, but God is also an Influencer, if indeed we have faith to know Him (see above diagram). We gain access to God’s spiritual world when He calls us to enter His presence through our faith in Jesus. Now that we live in His presence, we live in fellowship with God and will increasingly understand His purpose and guidance for our lives, as we seek Him in obedience. Understanding God’s purpose for our lives becomes the key to creating a godly legacy. A life of faith doesn’t simply happen. Just like those faith heroes listed in Hebrews 11, one’s faith leads us into difficult straits where our faith is tested.

Note how Paul in the following verse reveals how his faith motivates and steers him to seek God for the purposes that God has ordained for him.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (Phil 3:12).

Our whole lives, including our time and decisions, remain under the scrutiny of the Lord who has already ordained the good works we ought to be carrying out (Eph 2:10; 1 Cor 4:3-5). For this reason, we see Paul pressing on, enduring, and working hard that he may lay hold of all that God has given him. “And then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1 Cor 4:5).

Time is of the essence. A Biblical perspective shapes the commitment to carry out His purposes, which in turn provides more focus and energy to reach that finish line honorably. No one accidentally wins a race. Nor will we. This biblical mindset enables us to look at the world differently and enables us to live for the Lord’s purposes consistently.

Seeking a godly legacy - Philippians 3:12

Forming a Godly Legacy

Positive legacies are not those things left behind on earth but go on because they are etched in the lives of those around them and known by God. By faith, we seek God and His purposes and He rewards us (Heb 11:6). The most important parts of our lives go far beyond our wealth and into what kind of people we are and the kind things we have done. What happens at a funeral service? Friends try to bring up words that speak about the good things he or she did. Sometimes it is hard for these folks to speak nicely of the one gone on. Discussing how much money a person has made does not cut it. Everyone knows a person’s real value is not found in dollars and cents but on how they related to others. We all have our life circumstances, some difficult and some pleasant, but our conduct makes an eternal difference.

Consider what people have left to you? How did what your parents and friends help or hurt you? It doesn’t matter whether we didn’t like them, but did they leave some invaluable treasure to you through the way they treated you? Sometimes, instead of storing up troves of love, we take on “baggage” as some people like to call the bad attributes passed on to us—usually from our family. We see this spoken of from a different perspective in Exodus 20:5, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” That one generation’s sin and associated curses will be passed down. An angry person, for example, will typically seed one’s anger into the people around him—even the children he tries to love.

But we are focusing on the next life—our godly legacy. What will your future look like? What will you leave behind that people relish and treasure? These are the very attitudes, actions, and sacrifices that the Lord rewards us for upon His return when we stand before Him for our examination (1 Cor 4:5). “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14) This is the prize—fulfilling our call. Our prize derives from how much of a godly legacy we have left for others, which is born from the way we fulfill His purposes through our lives.

Most of us are so busy thinking about that which we gain in life that we leave little or no time to consider what we will leave behind—other than our estates. God, however, in His Word regularly has us consider our future. For instance, the Lord speaks about the coming judgment and how He will judge and reward us and His people (Matthew 25). God uses our earthly lives to test and prove His people. These deeply needed acts of love, seen in a multitude of various ways, set the foundation for what we call a godly legacy. These very things are wrapped up in the larger purpose of Christ being remade in us who then is reflected through His life shining in us. All of God’s people are on a mission to have Christ carry out the Father’s purposes for us in, thus displaying God’s marvelous grace.

Our material possessions will be left behind (Job 34:15; Gen 3:19) and therefore are irrelevant except in how clearly they display how we lived out our lives. But don’t be too discouraged! The opportunities to shape future generations for the good are before us even though we have made some terrible mistakes which at times trouble us to the present. God used David to teach us how to delight in God’s celebratory grace due to his brokenness. The Book of Ruth humbles us to see how Ruth, unknowingly, became embedded into the Messianic line by her loyalty—because she made some hard life-decisions to leave her people and cleave to her mother-in-law and her God.

Singleness and Marriage

Getting married is not our life goal, though it is a common stage of life through which God wonderfully shapes many of our lives. But we do not all get married nor do we all go through marriage equally.

Our missionary colleague had a daughter who married a great guy. But shortly after marriage, before having any children, he experienced a rare stroke and all of a sudden no longer accompanied her. (She just happily remarried after many years.) And then, there is the countless number of couples who, for one reason or another, are not able to have children. Still, others come from an impoverished situation and cannot afford to marry.

Frankly, we live in a world with disease, persecution, oppression, and things like childlessness. They pop up here and there, threatening to scar our marriages. Some of these incidents we foolishly cause, but others seemingly randomly appear. Possessing marriage goals is excellent, but we should remember the Lord holds a more refined design which at times incorporates hardships. For many, these “abnormal” aspects of life seem altogether too normal!

God has a design for each of our lives. The faithfulness and diligence with which we carry out His purposes for us create our legacy. God, for examples, desires that we have a beautiful marriage! He makes it possible through Christ. Although some marriages can last a long time (I just celebrated our 41st anniversary), marriage still functions as only one stage of our lives. The death of one spouse is inevitable at some point, some earlier than later, leaving one alone. By making your marriage or family one’s chief goal, you set yourself up for traumatic times ahead. Instead, find your chief goal to please the Lord and shine for Him no matter what state you find yourself. This goal of securing a godly legacy, then, encompasses your whole life—before marriage, during marriage, through the hard periods while married, and even after your spouse dies. How you live your married lives is more important than the fact of your marriage—which is true for all our lives.

God designed marriage to usher in greater goodness into the world. For this reason, God reveals the institution of marriage right after the creation of the world (Genesis 2:18-25) and formed the first couple. Marriage is not the goal for our lives but presents the opportunities to create a godly legacy that brings glory to God and benefit to others. Jesus explicitly teaches this in Matthew 5.

You are the light of the world…it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)

Three purposes of marriage

The Purpose of Marriage

Marriage, however, remains as a specialized partner/team time to work together at some specialized goals. The goals will have similarities to our lives before marriage, at least in the purpose to serve others as Christ leads and directs. The context, however, differs. While married, you learn to love and serve your spouse. (Yes, the husband is the head but he serves by loving his wife!) Couples also have children. Marriage shapes our opportunity to bear, love, and serve our spouses and children so that they can be rightly equipped for life. I will like to summarize these specialized opportunities for marriage, each bringing glory to God in a unique and significant way.

These purposes are taken from my Building a Great Marriage book providing three immediate goals for marriages. Glorifying God is the larger goal that encompasses all that we do. Often, we focus on our own needs, and there is validity to that, but there are larger opportunities that arise as we enter marriage. Don’t miss them!

(1) Serve each other (duty between spouses)

Marriage should be seen as a special sphere of life that enables us to live in a particularly challenging situation—close with another sinner. Marriage provides an ongoing workshop where one can’t escape the difficulties. At work, at least we can go home away from frustrating colleagues, but at home, we sit at the same table as our spouse and sleep in the same bed. Good choices enable us to have a better life, behooving good decisions—even if from selfish reasons.

(2) Create and serve the next generation (nurture our children)

What we do as parents make a tremendous difference in our children. Legacy is rightly related to the thoughts of marriages and families because we develop families there. There is a long line of genealogies and decisions on how one generation affects the later. The Lord entrusts much to the parents because they greatly affect the children He has them raise.

(3) Serve others

Married couples should not live for themselves just as individuals should not. This self-focus is an outworking of one’s selfish nature, ignorant of God’s greater purposes. Couples should instead be caught up in God’s greater plan where they can reach out to others by serving them.

Gaining a Broader Perspective

So, the question before us is, “How do we create a legacy that brings glory to God?” But for us to rightly assess this question, we need to first understand the broader framework of life and marriage.

Our deepest longing, then, realizes God’s purposes for our lives through our marriages. God’s goals for us is greater than what can be done in a marriage. Jessica’s husband premature death disrupted her marriage. God, however, was working out a less predictable plan for her life. And so, it is wise to think of your marriage as only one period the Lord fulfills your life by training, blessing, and giving you the opportunity to serve.

You should want to have lots of children—God tells us to “be fruitful and multiply,” but it doesn’t mean that God will grant them to you! Is your life hopeless? Should you bemoan your situation forever? But if you look at the purpose of marriage only to bear and raise godly children, then you will be utterly frustrated. By sharing such a limited perspective, parents face great difficulty allowing their children to grow up and out. Focus on serving your children as a coach, leading them to make the right plays by teaching the individual steps with one’s team members. Step back and trust God’s particular purposes (e.g., Hannah in 1 Samuel 1).

Stepping Back Further

If we want to get off to a good start seeking a good legacy, start thinking about these matters when one is single. This might even change the kind of spouse you seek! Assuming one is a believer, follow this pattern of Biblical thinking:

If we want to get off to a good start seeking a good legacy, start thinking about these matters when one is single. This might even change the kind of spouse you seek! Assuming one is a believer, follow this pattern of Biblical thinking:
—Through harmony, we get to show the power of God’s love.

  • God saved me for His good purposes.
  • I can be confident of His desire to accomplish marvelous things (in His sight) through my life.
  • I have only one life on earth. I desire to glorify God through this one life (whether I marry or not). (Commitment)
  • God wants each of His children, no matter what his/her circumstances, to shine for Him (Matthew 5:14-16).
  • I desire to get married, but for now, I will seek to glorify Him through my time of singleness.
  • If God would have me get married, then marriage becomes a special platform to shine for Him.

—Through bearing and the hard but rewarding work of raising godly children, people about us see God’s special blessing.

—Through our love to neighbors, colleagues, and believers, the world has a clear testimony of God’s good purposes.

Marriage is a Legacy-making Opportunity

Like fireworks, there are many ways to glorify God through our lives. Jesus early on sacrificed His life—no marriage, no children, but note His hope for a legacy.
12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the many,

  • But if tragedy strikes—and it commonly does—my life becomes an opportunity to express God’s love to my spouse or otherwise manifest His love like an opened jar of perfume.

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)

Marriage becomes, then, a special opportunity to manifest the glory of Christ and the church through the way the couple lives in harmony, and the way, as a team, they seek God’s greater purposes to be accomplished through their lives. Because of the couple’s intimacy, God grants them to especially manifest God’s joy, love, creation, and cooperation.


A marriage legacy is that life on life investment filled with God-glorifying fruit deriving from one’s marriage. We should look forward to the way this legacy works through our children and grandchildren. We train and pray for them to value and prioritize the Lord’s ways in their lives. The world doesn’t believe more can be done through oneness and so feel compelled to assert their differences. A much greater glory happens when a couple can live out their oneness in God’s image before God’s presence.

Though we had several miscarriages, each bringing they own trauma, God graced us to bring eight children into the world requiring decades of training. Each brought different challenges. Every child is unique, and so we have eight “church plants” out there manifesting God’s love in a brighter and brighter way (some are still increasingly getting out there and working it out)—even as we get older, less able, and having much less vigor. Legacy recognizes how God uses us to create this ongoing testimony to God’s work. Grandparents love their grandchildren and so, by a mighty force of grandparental love, we gather up enough steam to visit and love these second and third generations too.

The Example of Jonathan Edwards


God certainly rewarded Jonathan Edward’s life by tracing his descendants’ lives. But remember, their positions as lawyers and the such reflect good skills and talents developed. Don’t evaluate a job by its prestige or its pay but by the training required.