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How To Build Your Legacy

We all want to leave a legacy

The story is told of a guy who really wants his life to count and comes to the conclusion that the best way he can do that is by becoming a monk far away from society and its corrupting influences.

He finds that if he joins the monastery, he has to agree to a life of silence. He will only be allowed to speak just two words every seven years.

He reluctantly agrees, joins the monastery, and seven years pass. Finally, it’s time for him to speak…two words. His superiors bring him in and motion for him to speak. He clears that throat which has been silent for so long and barely manages to croak out, “Cold floors!”

His superiors nod and wave a hand and dismiss him back to his routine of silence.

Seven more years pass at the monastery. They bring him back in and motion for him to speak his next two words. He takes a sip of water and in a hoarse voice squeaks, “Terrible food.” They send him on his way again.

Seven more years pass. They bring him in for his third set of two words in 21 years as a monk. When motioned to speak, he leaps to his feet and screams, “I quit!” To which his superiors yell back, “Well big surprise, ever since you got here you’ve done nothing but complain!”

God has you where you are in order to be a blessing

Listen: You don’t have to leave the places and people where God has you throughout the week in order to make your life count. God has you there in order to make a spiritual impact. And so for this final week in our series on the New Testament vision for the church, we’re going to dig into the believer’s witness about Jesus. On your way in you should have received a handout that captures the most natural, Spirit-led way I know to be a faithful witness about Jesus. It is entirely built on Jesus’ example, and it is captured by the acronym BLESS. Here’s the bottom line, the whole sermon in a sentence:

·         Loving people to Jesus is all about blessing them as Jesus did in his daily walk.

·         Being a faithful witness about Jesus is as simple as practicing the BLESSing habits that Jesus did.

Because God’s way of changing the world has always been a blessing strategy from person to person. From Genesis to Revelation, God blesses his people so that we will bring blessing to those around us. We are blessed to be a blessing!

The blessing habits of Jesus that can make us a winsome witness are:

  • B Begin with prayer
  • L Listen with care
  • E Eat or experience things together
  • S Serve with love
  • S Share your story

My aim and prayer for today is twofold: (1) That you will commit to practicing the BLESS habits and (2) that you will keep in touch with one other person to encourage one another in doing the same.

That’s a commitment I’m asking you to make at the end of this talk: “I commit to (1) practicing the BLESS  habits, and (2) I’ll keep in touch with someone else to encourage each other to practice these habits.”

So let’s unpack blessing people as Jesus did. First is the holy habit of Beginning the day with prayer.

1.       Begin with prayer

Mark chapter one reveals the secret to Jesus knowing who to bless any given day, telling us…

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Mark 1:35-38

It is because Jesus began each day with prayer, he was able to discern who he should bless that day. God wants to do the same for you.

C.S. Lewis talked about our desperate need for this, that first thing in the morning, “All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”

He’s describing the B in BLESS: Begin the day with prayer to discern what God has for you that day. If you have young children, the shower or a locked bathroom door may be your biggest helps in making space for this. Don’t feel bad about making time to get with God first thing in the morning, before others’ needs come at you.

It can be as simple as praying, “Father God, bless me today and make me a blessing to someone who doesn’t know you.” That is a prayer that God is delighted to answer!

If you will consistently Begin the day with prayer asking God to bless you and make you a blessing to someone who is far from him, you’re going to start seeing God do new things. Like Dean experienced. Dean works with college students at Michigan State University. Every morning Dean Begins the day with prayer, asking the Lord for “divine appointments.” Then Dean goes through the day assuming that whoever he talks to might be a divine appointment.

One day Dean had someone cancel an appointment. Instead of checking e-mail or getting on Facebook he prayed, asking God to bless someone through him. The name of a student came to mind, Janice. Janice had never been to church and was not a Christian but had been to a Christian small group recently. So Dean called and invited her to coffee. She agreed.

When they met he explained, “Janice, I was praying and your name came to mind, and I felt like I was supposed to share with you how you can become a follower of Jesus.” And she starts crying.

Dean immediately says, “Oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have just blurted that out. I’m not being very sensitive.” But Janice interrupted, “No, that’s not it. I just can’t believe that you are here. Last night I went to my small group. They got to talking about what it means to be a Christian and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. All night I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know what to do. So I prayed this morning, asking God to bring someone to me today who could tell me how to become a Christian.” She smiled and said, “And here you are. I can hardly believe it!”

If you will give yourself to this holy habit, we will hear more stories of God blessing people who don’t know him through us.

Will you commit to this? Will you make this commitment? “I will begin each day with prayer, asking God to bless me and make me a blessing to someone who is far from him.” That’s the B in BLESS. The L is to practice listening with care. I’ll begin each day with prayer, and I will listen with care.

2.       Listen with care

James the brother of Jesus boldly cautions…

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” James 1:19

Lots of people talk. Lots of people vent anger. So when you listen well, you stand out. Beth tells about this. Heading in to the gym one morning, she noticed a woman working out on a machine that was new to Beth. We’ll call her Alicia. Beth asked Alicia’s help to get set up on the machine, since she had never used it. They talked for a few minutes and then Beth asked Alicia about her workout for that morning. It sounded interesting, so Beth asked if she could join her and learn some new things.

At one point as they chatted during their workout, Beth asked, “Hey, what are you looking forward to in your life?” Alicia was quiet for a moment, then she responded, “Peace.” It was just about time to leave for work, but Beth recognized this was a holy moment, divine appointment. So she took a deep breath and simply asked, “Peace? Unpack that for me a bit.”

What came out was a hard story of Alicia being a single parent who had met a nice guy and started dating, when very quickly his health began to decline. He lost the ability to work, and for the past several years this woman was feeding and caring for this man every day before she left for work. At the end of each day, she came home, fed him supper, and helped get him into bed. His health had declined sharply enough that he was recently moved to a skilled nursing facility.

Alicia wept as she concluded her story. There on the gym floor these two strangers hugged, and Beth asked if she could pray for Alicia. She prayed that she might know how pleased God was the sacrificial love she had been showing to this man.

That open door for God’s touch came through Listening with care—asking sincere questions and listening well. There’s such a great need for this these days.

Will you make this commitment with me? “I’ll practice listening with care to the people I interact with throughout the week. I will Begin each day with prayer, asking God to bless me and make me a blessing to someone who is far from him. And I will listen well as I go through the day, listening for how God might want to bless the person who is before me at any given moment.” Will you commit to this blessing habit of listening with care?

That’s the L in BLESS. I will Begin each day with prayer, and I will practice Listening with care. Here’s the third Jesus-like practice: I will Eat together with others rather than alone.

3.       Eat together

In the gospel of Luke’s 24 chapters covering the life of Jesus, 14 of those 24 chapters show eating with others. Because powerful things—God things—can happen over shared meals. You are present with one another without lots of distractions. There is space for Listening with care when we Eat together with others, especially those who are far from God. This was Jesus’ regular habit and it drew many to faith! Mark recounts in chapter two, for example…

“As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Mark 2:14-17

Jesus enjoyed spending time with people who felt unwelcomed by the religious leaders of his day. We can do the same. You can bless people you know who are far from God by sharing meals with them.

Let’s make this extremely practical. One person when asked how they share their faith with neighbors explained, “We borrow things!” Everyone laughed and then she explained, “Borrowing leads to spending time together and a continued swapping of services and doing projects together as neighbors.”

To thank their neighbors after borrowing a ladder or the like, this couple would invite them for a meal. Then over dinner, they would talk about what upcoming projects their neighbors had planned, and offered to pitch in and help out. Through swapping tools and services they built a genuine sense of community with neighbors who lived next door or across the street but we’re far from God.

Maybe it looks like grilling burgers in the back yard, as Chris and Celya did with neighbors they met over the fence early on in the pandemic. Or grab a table outside a local restaurant before winter. When the virus quiets down, you can invite neighbors inside for a shared meal and practice the habit of Listening with care.

Will you make this commitment, to Eating together with those you know who are far from God? Eating with others is how a relationship can move from acquaintance to friendship, and from friendship with you, to friendship with God.

  1. Begin with prayer.
  2. Listen with care.
  3. Eat together rather than alone.
  4. And then the first S in BLESS is the habit of serving in love.

4.       Serve in love

When you practice those first BLESS habits, you will discover ways to serve that person, like sharing tools and help on home projects with neighbors.

Jesus sets the tone for us to serve in love, Matthew chapter 20 telling us…

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” Matthew 20:25-29

Rick has a great twist on serving in his family’s story. They were about to head out on vacation and a neighbor family had agreed to take care of their dog, two cats, and a gerbil. But the day before leaving they learned that one of their cats was diabetic and would need shots twice a day. Rick went to the neighbors and explained that they would board the cat with a vet, so that the neighbors wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of giving shots to a cat.

They responded, “No, we’ll take him. We’re glad to do it.” So off went Rick and his family for two weeks. When they got back home the cat was fine, and the neighbors had faithfully given him shots every day for two weeks. The neighbors told how happy they had been to do it and had some stories of funny and awkward moments of getting the cat to go along with his therapy!

Rick and his wife were so blown away that they took the neighbors out to a nice restaurant to thank them. At that meal they had one of the most significant and profound spiritual conversations they had ever had. It was as a result of that conversation, over that meal together, that the neighbor got connected with church and with a closer walk with God—through giving shots to a diabetic cat!

Nothing builds trust like receiving help from others, as well as serving in love when the opportunity presents itself.

You can do this! You can offer a word of affirmation to someone who is discouraged. You can offer time and presence to someone who is stressed. You can lend a tool to a neighbor, or lend a hand on that project. Each act of serving communicates love and value to that person.

Will you commit to this holy habit, serving others in love?

One more holy habit. When you practice these first four BLESS habits, the door will open to sharing your story. That’s the final S in BLESS…

5.       Share your story

Jesus always used stories to stir up curiosity about the kingdom of God. Matthew goes so far as to tell us…

“Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables.” Matthew 13:34

Stories draw people in. Stories have a way of sneaking behind defenses and breaking through walls. Stories carry emotional impact in ways that straightforward facts simply don’t. Stories inspire and change and challenge.

Consider Jen’s story. She was a self-described atheist. She thought Christians had to be simple-minded and uninformed to believe in Jesus. Today she’s a committed follower of Jesus. And if you asked her how she found her way back to God, she won’t talk about intellectual and philosophical arguments that swayed her. They have their place, but no one ever got argued into the kingdom of God.

What Jen would tell you is how a close friend shared her story of how Jesus radically changed her life. Jen didn’t know what to do with that. Her friend’s story just kind of sat there inside of her, tugging at her. Jen’s friend’s story stayed in her heart and mind for years. And when Jen ultimately began to wrestle with the idea of a God who loved her, it was her friend’s story of what God had done in her life that made all the difference.

You have a story, too. You actually have plenty of stories of how good the Lord has been to you, of how you first came to faith in Jesus; of how you have tasted the goodness of God along the way. We talked recently about how good it is to count your blessings, name them one by one and see what God has done. Those stories are worth sharing when the time is right, to help someone who is far from God to see and hear about God. Again, stories have a way of sneaking behind defenses and grabbing us. You have God stories that are worth sharing with friends who are far from God.

So will you make this commitment, “I will share my story as opportunities arise.” Sharing your story gives others a clear understanding of how God’s love and the life of Jesus can change their life, too.

From my heart…

Can I speak to you personally, from my heart? I’ve been trained in a bunch of ways to share our faith. Some of them felt forced. Some felt manipulative. Some felt like a program. The BLESS habits of Jesus are something I intend to spend the rest of my life practicing. They’re natural. They’re respectful of others. They fit introverts and extroverts. You can practice them anywhere, anytime. And they reflect the character of Jesus. You just can’t go wrong with that.

I believe if we will together commit to practicing these habits of Jesus, he will work in drawing people who right now are far from God to faith in Jesus. To this we are called, friends. And so I’m asking you to make this fivefold commitment and find someone here today to encourage each other week by week to practice these. And I welcome your questions and stories along the way.

Would you take that cardstock BLESS handout right now, stand with me, and let’s hold it up before the Lord in prayer, committing ourselves to bring blessing to those near us who are far from God? Stand with me, and let’s pray right now.

Our Father in heaven, we thank and praise you for Jesus’ example of engaging in these five holy habits. Move us to do the same, we pray.

Lord, help us to start each day in prayer for our unchurched family and friends.

Help us to listen with care to those who cross our path daily. Empower us to bless them by listening, responding, and valuing them. Lord, thank you for listening to us and loving and valuing us. We want to bless others.

Open our eyes, Father, to see who we can be hospitable toward and share a meal with this week, especially those who are far from you. Help us to become more like you in this, Lord.

Lord, you have served us in great ways all our lives. Who do you want us to bless by serving them this week? Open our eyes to see who we can serve in practical ways.

Lord, we thank you for the redemption stories you’ve given each of us. Open our eyes to see who we can share our story with, in the days ahead. Deepen our friendships with those who don’t know you, that we might have the privilege of blessing them and, in time, introducing them to Jesus.

Hear our prayer, and may you receive the glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!

Be our guest 9:30 next Sunday in the Fishers YMCA, masks recommended, at 9012 E 126th Street in Fishers at 9:30. Expect a warm welcome and encouraging insights from God’s Word.