A father’s legacy
With Father’s Day approaching, I wanted to honor my father, who has gone home to be with the Lord, by sharing something I haven’t shared with a lot of people, something very close to my heart.
My dad was the rock and foundation of our family -- not only to my immediate family but also to extended family members and to some of my friends. I had the opportunity to give the eulogy at his funeral a few years back. On that day, I shared a message that still challenges me today to be a better servant of God, a better husband, and a better father. I hope this is a blessing to every man who reads it:
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children: And the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.” –Proverbs 13:22
One of the most important and powerful words at this time in my life is “legacy.” It’s a word that excites me and haunts me at the same time. A legacy is an inheritance left behind by a predecessor or ancestor. The word excites me because I see in it an opportunity to pass down greatness, to give to my kids and my culture something worthy of application to their lives. Passing down a righteous legacy is something that will make my heirs better.
“Legacy” also haunts me because it’s an opportunity for calamity, for me to pass down things to my kids and my culture that could destroy them or do harm to them. I always feel a tug within me for God’s greatness and to have a life that counts for something -- to pass that down to my kids.
The Bible says in Proverbs 13:22, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” When we think of an inheritance, our minds automatically fall on money. But I want to tell you today a good man gives an inheritance that’s far more valuable than money. I want to share with you today a little of the life and legacy passed on to me by my dad.
My dad left me a powerful legacy; it’s the reason I stand before you all today. My hopes are not that you would only hear some touching words today, but that these words would be worthy of application in your own lives. Today I feel a sense of destiny and an intense desire to honor a man who lived a life of integrity, of humility, and of love for his family and for people. He was a man full of wisdom, and he had his priorities in line. He would often tell me, “Wil, remember God first, then family.” He deeply loved us, and he showed it through word and deed.
There are three parts of my dad’s legacy that I would like to share with you today:
He was a devoted husband
He was a devoted husband. Being a husband is not something we can just throw around these days. My dad was the husband of one wife for 35 years. When they first met, my mom was 11 and my dad was 12, so you can imagine the tremendous loss my mom feels here today. He would tell me, “Wil, as a husband, you must know your wife.” He said this was very important. Learn what moves her, learn how she thinks. It will make things a lot easier. For 35 years, through the ups and downs of life, they remained together. There was no room for quitting or leaving. They stuck together in sickness and in health. A love that God put together and no man was able to put asunder.
He was a dad
Proverbs 20:7 says, “The just man walks in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.”
He was a dad. He was the person I would call on for advice about life, especially from a man’s perspective, because he was just that -- a man. In a time when fathers in the home are few and far between, my dad was there. My sister and I are extremely blessed to have had our father there in the home with us and that our dad was truly a man of God. He was a constant presence with authority, and I realized through his presence how very important it is for a young man and woman to have a father in the home. He had a quality that’s missing these days. You see, he wasn’t only my father, but he was a father figure to others as well. He was a fatherly presence to my friends and other family members, always lending an ear and helping out with wise advice for tough situations. We as men can sit and complain about the problems we see in our communities and families in regards to the rebellion of our youth, or we can step in and help father those whose fathers have abandoned them. This is the legacy he left.
He was a man of love. My dad shared with me about his dad and how my grandfather’s generation didn’t express their love outwardly. He received no hugs and never heard his dad say, “I love you.” But it was known that my grandfather loved him because he provided for them. My dad knew his dad’s love for him, but he wanted to step it up a bit with me. He would often tell me, “Son, I love you.” As a matter of fact, that was one of the last things I heard from him. He often gave me hugs, and I’m so glad for those memories.
He was a man of loyalty and faithfulness. When my wife and I were experiencing some of the toughest situations of our lives, Dad was there. He drove to where we were, strong and loyal to pray us through those tough times. I know for a fact that he did this for others as well.
He was a humble man. He once apologized to me for some of the whoopings he gave me as a child. I was in college when he told me that he realized he had whooped me out of anger, and that was wrong. That’s humility.
He was a man of God
When I think of my dad, a few scriptures come to mind:
“I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day the night comes, when no man can work.” –John 9:4
“And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the world.” – Matthew 28:18-20
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” –Proverbs 11:30
But this last scripture really captures who my dad was:
“Jesus said unto them, ‘My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit unto life eternal: that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together.’” – John 4:34-36
The disciples were concerned that Jesus hadn’t taken any food, and Jesus said to them that His very sustenance was to do the will of the Father, that He even gained physical strength from fulfilling His Father’s will. Then He gave His disciples a challenge. You see, harvest time wasn’t at completion yet, and it would have been premature for them to go out in the natural at that time to begin to reap the harvest. But Jesus was speaking something spiritual to His disciples. He told them not to look in the natural and say, ‘Hey, it’s not yet time for harvest;’ He told them to lift up their eyes.
It’s a call to action. It’s a declaration to get your eyes off of yourself, your situation in life, and how things may seem to you. Then Jesus said, “Look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.”
In other words, look; the harvest is ready, even though it seems like it’s before time. Look, even though it’s out of season. Look, even if it seems like the harvesters aren’t harvesting yet. Look on the fields of humanity, for they’re ready.
My dad was a person who took time out of his schedule to lift up his eyes beyond his own situation, family, and busyness and instead looked upon the fields of humanity. He went Saturday after Saturday out on the streets of New Orleans, going door to door with a bright yellow shirt and a fanny pack full of gospel tracks around his waist, asking people if they needed prayer. He went sometimes by himself and prayed with people, leading the lost to the Master. He went during the week to the prisons, sharing the gospel to the men in prison. As a matter of fact, my first taste of prison ministry was through an invitation from my dad to speak to the inmates in prison in New Orleans. He was one of the few ordained ministers I knew who couldn’t have cared less about ministering in the pulpit of a church; he said the world was his pulpit.
At the end of this passage, Jesus says if you lift up your eyes, if you look on the fields and go to the lost and the hurting, then when you reap, you will receive wages. There’s a reward for your work, and you’ll be gathering fruit that will last eternally. My dad is reaping these wages today! In the end, there is joy, for it says both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together.
In closing, as we celebrate my dad’s life, there are a few statements and questions my dad would have wanted me to leave with you.
- One day we will all pass this way. If you were to die today, do you know where you would spend eternity?
- All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
- None of us are righteous, no, not one of us.
- The payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
So today, what’s your legacy? Where would you find yourself spending eternity if you died today? What legacy are you leaving your family and this world?