Building for the Future

Chapter 13 Building for the Future:

Leaving a Legacy You Can Be Proud Of!

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PEOPLE BUILDING for the future get somewhere in life. They begin with the end in view. Goals enable them to stay focused on where they are going and how they are going to get there.

Developmental psychologists tell us the final stages of life involve productivity and integrity. That is quite an admission from secularists who often tell us to indulge our passions and curiosity. But even they realize that when you get on with life, your life needs to become productive, satisfying, and fulfilling.

Selfish people don’t think about the future. They expend everything in the present. When the future finally arrives, as it always does, they often find themselves in bitterness and despair. Living for today doesn’t prepare us well for tomorrow.

When we get to the end of the line, we need to be on the right track. We ought to be able to look back over our lives with a sense of integrity. We need to feel that we did the best we could; that we made right choices, corrected wrong choices, and left a positive legacy behind for our family and friends.

Developmental stages in life are generally charted like this:









Early Adulthood


Middle Age


Old Age


The idea of legacy building is often discussed in books about older adults. The Southern Baptist churches have even formed a men’s ministry called Legacy Builders. Most of us want to be remembered beyond our own time. We want to make a difference in our lifetime and leave something behind that we can be proud of: a solid marriage, a family estate, and an inheritance for our children. But most of all, we need to leave behind a testimony of God’s grace in our lives.

If we make the wrong decisions when we are young, we tend to set our lives on the wrong course. Once you’re moving in the wrong direction, it is difficult to reverse yourself and turn around. God can intervene to help us, but we are often left with the regrets of wasted years.


A Simple Invitation

The sooner you get focused on where you are going, the better off you will be in the long run. Twenty-five years ago, I met a dynamic young businessman in Clearwater, Florida, named Herman Bailey. He had blond hair and blue eyes and dressed like a Gentleman’s Quarterly model. You couldn’t miss him if you tried! He made an immediate impression on everyone he met.

Herman was wrestling with making a commitment to full-time Christian service. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was also going through some very serious personal struggles. As these intensified, he began to think seriously about taking his own life.

In the meantime, we moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, where I began teaching at Liberty University. One morning, I stopped off at a local restaurant for breakfast and ran into Herman. He was sitting alone and seemed surprised to see me.

“Hey, what are you doing here in Lynchburg?” I asked.

“Oh, I just needed to get away,” he said, “so I came up to check out a few things and get some things sorted out.”

It wasn’t unusual for people to just show up in Lynchburg in those days. In fact, it still isn’t! It has long been a center of evangelical pilgrimage. People seemed to think if they just came and glimpsed Jerry Falwell, things would go better for them. It was one of those unique places where God worked in people’s lives.

We talked through breakfast and reminisced about our time together in Florida. I never picked up on Herman’s despair. He was always good at hiding his feelings behind his world-class smile. But I did sense that he needed a friend and that he was reaching out for something.

“Where are you staying?” I asked.

“At the motel next door,” he said.

“What are you doing for dinner?” I said.

“Nothing, really,” he replied.

“Good! Then why don’t you come over to our house for dinner tonight?” I insisted.

“Are you sure?” he said.

“Donna doesn’t mind,” I assured him. “She always cooks for the family, and there will be plenty for you, too.”


A Personal Turning Point

Herman agreed and came for dinner that night. Little did we realize that he had really come to town out of total desperation. He was actually planning to go back to Florida and commit suicide!

Years later, Herman told me that my simple invitation to dinner saved his life. Instead of driving home in despair, he refocused on coming over for dinner that night.

“As I watched your family, I realized I couldn’t go through with it,” he said. “You were playing with your children before dinner and I thought, ‘I can’t do this to my kids!’”

Herman Bailey went home to Florida and surrendered to full-time Christian ministry. He and his wife, Sharron, started the largest and most successful senior citizens’ ministry in the whole country. They ministered to over one thousand seniors every week in the “Super Sixties” ministry at their church.

A few years later, Herman and Sharron were invited to start their own syndicated television show in Clearwater. They have been on television five days a week for over twenty years, touching the lives of millions of people with a message of love and hope, all because of one simple invitation.

Sometimes the greatest legacy we can build is to touch the lives of other people. Every time God uses us to touch someone else, we are reaping dividends that have eternal significance. We are building a legacy of faith that can be transmitted from one generation to another.


Hard Times Ahead

Legacies can be built in many ways. Some are personal, some financial, and some are even national in scope. The nation of Israel is one such legacy. God promised them an everlasting inheritance. And throughout the centuries, God raised up great people to keep His promises to them—and us—alive.

The story of Nehemiah’s successful efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem is a powerful account of legacy building for the future. Some time after Daniel had been taken captive to Babylon in 605 b.c., the Jews rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, and the Babylonian king destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in reprisal in 586 b.c.

The “Babylonian Captivity,” as it came to be known, lasted seventy years (605–535 b.c.). Babylon eventually fell to the Medes and Persians in 538 b.c. Cyrus the Great, the Persian Emperor, decreed the Jews could return home in 535 b.c. About forty thousand made the difficult journey back to Jerusalem and Judea, which lay in ruins.

A man named Zerubbabel led the Jewish “remnant” to rebuild the temple, which was completed in 515 b.c. It was a time of great renewal and revival among God’s people. They were actually back in their homeland, and a temple again stood on Mount Moriah. The promise again took hope for a better future. The line of the Messiah had been preserved, but not without difficulty.

The Jews were hated by their neighbors and misunderstood in general. Xerxes came to the throne in Persia and eventually married a Jewish girl named Esther. When a madman named Haman tried to get Xerxes to exterminate the Jews, Esther intervened, and her people were spared.

Later, Artaxerxes came to the Persian throne and authorized Ezra the scribe and a small number of Jews to return to Jerusalem in 458 b.c. When they arrived, they found things in great disarray. The temple was still there, but there was great disregard for the Law of God and for things of God in general. What’s worse, the city walls had never been rebuilt. The Jews were utterly defenseless against their enemies. In 445 b.c., Nehemiah was commissioned by Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls.


A Plan of Action

Nehemiah rode out at night to inspect the ruined walls and gates of the city. Upon his return, he gathered the Jewish leaders together and announced his intentions.

“You see the trouble we are in,” he stated. “Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17).

The walls had been in a state of ruin for three generations. It was a bold plan, and it captured their hearts.


“Let us start rebuilding,” the leaders agreed.

So the work began, and even the priests got involved. Various people took responsibility for the different sections of the wall: Eliashib and the priests; men of Jericho; sons of Hassenaah; Meremoth son of Uriah; Meshullam son of Berekiah; Zadok son of Baana; men of Tekoa; Joiada son of Paseah; men of Gibeon and Mizpah; Uzziel, one of the goldsmiths; Hananiah, one of the perfume makers; and many more.

Different people from different places with different gifts and abilities all contributed to the work. They worked as a team and got the job done in record time—fifty-two days (Nehemiah 6:15). Nehemiah had proven to be just the leader they needed. He gave them

  1. vision,
  2. motivation,
  3. a plan of action.

The Power of Vision

Nehemiah had seen a vision of a better future for Jerusalem. He had realized the city had no future without walls. It was commendable that the Jews had rebuilt the temple first. But they had left it standing defenseless without walls around the city. There can be little doubt that they discussed this matter. They probably talked about it constantly. However, no one did anything about the problem.

It has often been observed that most organizations are underled and overmanaged. That was also the case with the Jews at Jerusalem. They remained busy about their daily tasks in the temple without taking time to make it secure. Everyone knew the city needed walls, but nobody had the vision to get the job done.

Some have defined vision as foresight with insight based on hindsight. Vision includes these key components:

  1. Realistic view of the present.
  2. Optimistic view of the future.
  3. Honest assessment of one’s resources.
  4. Positive attitude about change.
  5. Specific plan of action.

Nehemiah’s vision for a secure city kept him focused on his goal. Opposition from local detractors such as Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem did not deter him. With a sword in one hand and a mason’s trowel in the other, Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the stone wall.

His enemies threatened to tell the Persian king that he was a traitor plotting a revolt. “We’ll tell him people are saying, ‘There is a king in Judah!’” they threatened.

But Nehemiah would not be frightened. After all, he knew the Persian king personally. The king knew that Nehemiah was an honest man. So the work proceeded on schedule. The people volunteered to work, gave offerings, and took collections to get the job done.

One person’s vision stirred an entire nation to action. Jerusalem would once again be a viable city with a hope and a future. And the promise would be kept alive for four hundred more years.


Read the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:12 and you will discover Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel. This is the very one who led the Jews to return and rebuild the temple seventy-five years before Nehemiah arrived to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 5:2 and Haggai 2:23).

In the person of Zerubbabel, the messianic seed returned to the Promised Land. The stage was set again for the coming of the Messiah to fulfill the promise. And God used a person named Nehemiah to make the city secure for the arrival of its King.


Winning at Work

Nehemiah’s leadership reflects the basic qualities of all great leaders. He saw a need and met it. He saw a problem and solved it. He saw the future and realized it. That is vision.

Success in any enterprise includes the basic elements of leadership:

  1. Commitment. Nehemiah risked his position, reputation, and even his life to get the job done. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he spoke with such commitment that the people followed him gladly.
  2. Motivation. He was able to motivate others to action. They got the job done because Nehemiah convinced them it was the will of God. Therefore, God would help them do the job.
  3. Teamwork. Nehemiah knew he couldn’t do the job alone. So he gathered an entire team of leaders, helpers, and servants. Together, they got the job done in record time. They all took a share of responsibility for the workload. And they all felt a shared fulfillment in a job well done.
  4. Decision. At every turn in the process, Nehemiah expressed decisiveness. He knew what needed to be done, so he made the decisions necessary to get it done. He never hesitated or vacillated. He moved ahead, and the people moved with him.
  5. Goals. Nehemiah refused to be deterred from his basic goal. He was determined to get the wall built. So he refused to be distracted by enemies and critics.
  6. Accomplishments. Real leaders get a great deal of fulfillment from accomplishing their goals. They love the challenge of the task, the process of the work, and the rewards of a job well done.
  7. Celebration. Great leaders celebrate the success of others. They are not jealous or envious of the success of others. They realize that we all share in each other’s success. And that builds a greater team.


National Revival

When the work was finished, Nehemiah gathered the Israelites in a great national assembly in the square before the Water Gate (Nehemiah 8:1). He intended it to be a great national celebration for God’s blessings on the people.

“Enjoy choice food and sweet drinks,” he said. “Celebrate with great joy” (Nehemiah 8:10, 12).

Nehemiah understood the value of celebrating and commemorating their success. He wanted this time to go down in their history as a time of great blessing. “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” he announced (Nehemiah 8:10).

When Ezra brought the Book of the Law and read it at the assembly, the people began to weep and cry. They were convicted of their sins and repented before the Lord. As Ezra read the Law and praised God, the people shouted, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord (Nehemiah 8:6).

After seven days of celebration, the people held a solemn assembly on the eighth day. The whole process was a celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorated the exodus and their wilderness journey. Now, thanks to Nehemiah’s leadership, they were celebrating a new return to the Promised Land.

On the last day of the feast, the Israelites assembled in sackcloth and separated themselves unto the Lord (Nehemiah 9:1). They corporately confessed their sins as a nation and renewed their covenant with God, sealing the binding agreement with their names. People, priests, Levites, leaders, singers, gatekeepers, and temple servants—they all signed it. And the nation of Judah was reborn.

The revival under Ezra and Nehemiah set the stage for the next four hundred years. With Nehemiah’s reforms and Malachi’s final prophecy, the Old Testament canon of Scripture came to a close. Four hundred “silent years” would follow with no new revelation from God. The Old Testament closes, leaving us expecting the promise to be fulfilled in the future.

Malachi, the last prophet, wrote, “‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 3:1).

The Promisor would not forget the promise. He would continue to keep it alive in the hearts of His people until it was time. Then, He would come—the Messiah, the One they desired all along. He would come in person and make good all the promises of God.

We are left standing on the temple mount peering into the distance as the Old Testament closes. We are looking down the corridor of time through the canyon of eternity. There, on the horizon, we see a young man making His way from Nazareth to Jerusalem. He is going to the temple with His disciples. He is on His way to keep the promise and call us to faith in Him.

Our spiritual heritage today is based upon those Hebrew heroes who dared to believe God. Our spiritual journey began with those first steps of faith, which they took down the long road of God’s grace. They have left us a legacy that endures to this day. May we, by God’s grace, leave a legacy to our children that will endure for generations to come as well. [Ed Hindson (2017). (p. 202). Courageous Faith: Life Lessons from Old Testament Heroes (Updated). AMG Publishers. Retrieved from]

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