It is said that some people bring joy wherever they go but other people bring joy only WHEN they go. I do not want to be one of the latter. I have found it a privilege to have lived in several different places in my life. Staying in one place has its advantages. When you stay in one place you really get to know the people who live there really well and that is nice. However, I have enjoyed living in different places among different people. I have learned that Manitoba has the best summers in all of Canada with its dry heat, long, long days, slower pace of life and some amazing thunderstorms. I have learned Northwest Ontario has fishing that people down here only dream of. I have learned that down here we grow some of the best fruits and vegetables anywhere. However, people who know that they are going to live only a short time in a certain place need to be conscious of the fact that when they leave, people will remember them and they really should be concerned with HOW people will remember them. I was very concerned by that. I wanted people to have a good memory of me rather than being glad that I left. I wanted to leave a GOOD LEGACY.
We are all in the process of leaving a LEGACY. You might not have any plans of moving away from this area but that doesn’t mean that you also shouldn’t be concerned about your legacy. There is a plot of land north of town called the cemetery. Statistics show that everyone eventually ends up there. Some people there have left good legacies. Others, well, let’s just say there wasn’t need for too much Kleenex at their funerals. Nobody plans on that happening. Nobody wakes up one morning and decides, “I want to live so that people will be glad when I am gone.” Building a good or a bad legacy involves hundreds and hundreds of choices that we make as we live our lives day in and day out. It is not easy to build a good legacy – it is very easy to build a bad one. How can we make sure that we are building a good legacy?
I thought of this as I prepared my message on Romans 16. Romans 16 seems a strange passage to preach from because it contains Paul’s greetings to people with weird names whom we know little about. However, as Paul closed this letter these people in Rome came to mind to him because they were important to him. As he looked back at his years of ministry he remembered these very important people with great fondness and affection. Why were they important? They were important because he couldn’t have been as great an Apostle and servant of Jesus Christ without them. He simply couldn’t have fulfilled his ministry without some supporting actors and actresses backing him up. And these people, even though they were “just” supporting actors, had a great impact on the ministry of the church and Paul remembers each of them with great affection, admiration and respect.
As we look at what little we know about these people, we find clues on how to build a great life legacy – we find clues on how to build our lives in such a way that people will remember us with fondness and not only that, but how to make our lives really count for something in the Kingdom of God. We see how we can conduct ourselves in such a way that we will bring joy wherever we go, not WHEN we go.
I. Take our faith seriously.
I don’t mean that we have to be grave, grim people. I’m not saying that we need act like we’ve been baptized in lemon juice.
In my first year of seminary, a couple of my dorm mates, who cared much about me, thought that the stress of my studies was making me way to serious. Their remedy was to start playing practical jokes on me. Their motive was not to make a fool of me but to try to get me to try and get them back, and have some fun in the process. These were guys who were serious about their faith, but they also knew the wisdom of the book of Proverbs where it says:
Pr 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
And so when I say that some of the people Paul remembers in Romans 16 with such affection took their faith seriously, I just mean that these people didn’t play at their faith. Their faith was more than just a hobby to them. Their faith was more than just a sideline in their lives.
You see, they “worked hard” in the Lord.
1 ¶ I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me
6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
Nobody forced these people to work hard in the Lord. They gave of themselves voluntarily and they warmed Paul’s heart. They left a good legacy. Seeing people work hard for the Lord encouraged Paul’s heart so much that he gave them special mention in his letter.
Another way they left a good legacy is that they were willing to let their faith inconvenience them.
In verse 3 we read that Paul’s companions Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for Paul. Paul doesn’t specifically mention the occasion or occasions Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for him. Even the Book of Acts, where Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned doesn’t really give us a hint. However, with a life like Paul’s, there was plenty of opportunity for them to do so. You know, it must have done Paul’s heart good to have Priscilla and Aquila stand behind them so much that they were willing to risk their lives for him.
Aquila and Priscilla took their faith seriously. They believed in Jesus so much that they put their lives on the line to help one of Jesus’ servants.
We read in verse 7 of Andronicus and Junias who were in prison with Paul.
a. Our prisons in Canada are not nice places to be. Think of a Roman prison. They were terrible places to be and Paul and Andronicus and Junius weren’t there because they had done anything wrong. Quite possibly Andronicus and Junius were there because they were supporting Paul in his work. They were there because they took their faith seriously. They were willing to let their faith inconvenience them. We know nothing else about them other than that they left a great legacy.
III. View testing as an opportunity.
10 Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.
We don’t know anything about this man Apelles other than that he was tested and approved in Christ.
What we do know is that testing is never easy to go through. We all went through all kinds of tests in school. Some of our teens are looking forward to the nerve wracking experience of being tested for our driver’s licenses. We don’t look forward very much to tests. I heard of a fellow who studied all night for a urine test. I am not sure what kind of test Apelles went through. I am guessing that it was some kind of persecution for his faith. The word “tested and approved” was a term used by the Greeks when they spoke of the refining of metals. Peter uses similar imagery in 1 Peter 1:6-7 when he writes:
6 ¶ In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith— of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire— may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Whatever his test was, Apelles remained faithful to Christ, passed the test and received Christ’s stamp of approval just as a refiner, after he has tested the purity of gold, puts his stamp of approval on it.
Testing brings out what is in us. It reveals both our weaknesses and our strengths. I don’t like being tested, but I love the feeling I get after I have passed a test and been approved for something.
Those who leave a good legacy realize that in the Kingdom of God testing is not meant to bring us down but to build us up. Those who build a good legacy are those who desire to be approved by Christ.
I want to be known as someone who overcame adversity – not someone who sat and whined about it. Imagine what it will be like to stand before Jesus after going through the tests this life will bring, and hear his approving words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” That will be a great legacy
IV. Those who build a great legacy are those who love.
8 Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord.
We know nothing more of Ampliatus other than he was loved by Paul in the Lord.
I think that we can infer from this that Ampliatus was a special friend of Paul. There is something to be said for special friends. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have behind your name. It doesn’t matter how large or small your ministry. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or what your abilities are. We all need friends. Paul found a friend in Ampliatus. He found a friend who supported his emotional needs.
It is much easier to endure hardship and get a job done when you have the support of your friends.
I think that God will never send,
A gift so precious as a friend,
A friend who always understands,
And fills each need as it demands.
Whose loyalty will stand the test,
When skies are bright or overcast.
Who sees the faults that merit blame,
But keeps on loving just the same.
Who does far more than creeds could do,
To makes us good, to make us true.
Earth\s gifts a sweet contentment lend,
But only God can give a friend!
In verse 13 Paul mentions someone else who left a legacy of love for Paul:
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. It looks like the mother of Rufus had a special place in Paul’s heart, even if he doesn’t mention her name. I’m not surprised that Rufus’s mother had a special place in his heart. During his ministry Paul was single and traveled from place to place. He was not able to spend much time with his natural family in Tarsus. He perhaps didn’t see any of his relatives for years at a time. That is a lonely way to live – even if you are living that way in order to better serve the Lord. When I started out in ministry I was in that situation myself. I was single and serving far from home. I’m not ashamed to say that I had bouts of loneliness – especially around the holidays. However, there was a couple in one of my churches, Ron and Phyllis, who were about the same age as my own parents. They took me under their wing and made sure I always had a place to go on the holidays. I was always welcome in their home. They invited me over for meals and Ron would sometimes give me fatherly advice when he felt I needed it. They helped me in my ministry by welcoming me into their family when they saw that I could use one. Ron passed away a few years ago, but he left a great legacy of love – a legacy Phyllis is continuing.
Loneliness is something that many people face – not just those in the Christian ministry. Those who out of love take it upon themselves to ease the loneliness of others are leaving a great legacy
Can I ask you to think about what kind of legacy you are leaving? Many people don’t think much about it. When Paul mentioned these people in the conclusion of the book of Romans, he probably didn’t even realize that he was making a huge comment on the legacy these unknown and obscure people were leaving – not just on his life, but on the life of the whole church. But in reading Romans 16, we are reminded that we will leave a legacy behind and I’m sure that you would want to leave behind a good one. If that is what you want, than let me encourage you to take your faith seriously. Don’t lose your sense of fun and humour – just place a greater priority on it. Invest your time and energy in serving God. If you are wondering how, we have some opportunities right here for the right people. Kim and Ben are trying to get FW friends organized for this year and I understand that there are some openings available for people who love children and want them to know the salvation that is available to them in Christ. The youth group will soon need some people willing to help out by providing meals and occasional transportation. We could use a few more people to run the PowerPoint on Sunday mornings. The elders will soon be looking for some qualified people to serve on Leadership. All of these things call for people who are serious about their faith because they call for commitment and sacrifice but all of these things are opportunities to help build a godly legacy.
When you are going through a test, remember that too can be part of building a godly legacy. How we respond to the test will make a huge difference in how we are remembered by others and how we affect them in the future. Do you want to be remembered as a whiner, or an overcomer?
Lastly, learning how to love really helps to build a godly legacy. That’s what Christ was best known for. He loved the world so much that he willingly gave his life for our sins. As John says:
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John4)
You know, we spend so much time building things in this life. Some people build buildings. Others build businesses. Others build fortunes. Others build learning and wisdom. All of these are good things but it is the person who loves leaves the best legacy of all.
So often we allow ourselves to be distracted by things that don’t really matter. Sometimes we even find ourselves unwittingly creating a negative legacy. Paul, in Romans 16 unwittingly reminds us to invest in the things that really matter – to build a godly legacy. If we want to do that, what do we need to change? How would our lives look differently? What kind of positive changes would happen in your life? How would it affect your relationship with God? What kinds of things do you need to pray for to ask to help you? Friends, deep down we want to live in such a way that the world will be sorry to see us go. Christ wants to help us to live that way. So let’s get serious about our faith, let’s see testing in a different light. Let’s by God’s grace learn how to love.
C. 2011 by Rev. Steven Brown. You are free to use portions of this message but please do not pass this off as your own.