When you look at the stars in the night sky, are you aware how long the light from each of these stars has traveled to reach the earth? Light travels at the speed of 186,282 miles per second. The nearest star to our galaxy is 4.5 light years away. The light from the stars we see in the night sky began its journey thousands of years ago! Because it takes so many years for their light to reach us, it is very possible many of these stars no longer exist.
Just as the light from a distant star continues to shine long after its life span, so it is with us. Long after we are gone, the light from our lives will shine on through many generations. What kind of light shines from our lives? Is it the kind of light Jesus spoke about in Matthew 5:16? He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”
Last week at the Evangelism Conference for our Baptist State Convention, we were challenged by the testimony of a father and son – Tom and Stephen Wagoner. Although they are very different in their methodology and approach to ministry and disciple-making, their common ground is a profound love for Jesus and the Gospel. The respect, love and grace they have for each other is a shining example of how the legacy of the Gospel is passed from one generation to the next.
Many of us can think of people in our family history, from whom the light of their legacy continues to shine. My great-great grandfather, Richard G. Doyle, pastor, church planter, and supporter of missions, is someone I treasure as a light from the past. His love for sharing the message of Christ led him to take an unpopular stand for missions, a stand that cost him the support of his home church. They accused him of, “having fraternized with missionary preachers, and allowed them to preach in his church.” (A History of Kentucky Baptists from 1769 to 1885).
I think of A. B. Lamastus, my great grandfather on my mother’s side. I remember attending his funeral in1965, and I recall my mother telling me about this dear man, a deacon, and charter member of the Walnut Grove Baptist Church in Dickson, TN, who felt called to take young pastors under his wing and teach them the “art of soul winning.” Before “Pap” Lamastus died at 95, he held the record for attendance at the annual association meetings – in 59 years he only missed one meeting of the Judson Baptist Association.
Forgive the personal references, but they go to show how our lives will influence others far beyond the limits of our lifetime on earth. This is a fact we cannot ignore.
Another example of a light from the past that continues to shine, is the great revivalist and preacher of two centuries ago, Jonathan Edwards. The legacy left by the Edwards family demonstrates the effect of a gospel-centered home. Of the four hundred known descendants of Jonathan and Sara Edwards, fourteen became college presidents; roughly, one hundred became professors, another one hundred ministers, and about the same number became lawyers or judges. Nearly sixty became doctors, and others were authors or editors. The Edwards family pictures Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Paul wrote to the Philippians about the fact that our lives as followers of Christ should shine as luminaries or stars in a dark world. (Philippians 2).
What legacy will be left behind by the light shining from your life today? Perhaps, a better question is, how and where is your light shining today? Because, the light you shine today will impact others for generations to come.