What legacy are you leaving today?

Jesus saw the huge crowd. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “Here’s a young boy, with five barley loaves and two fish.

God has been reminding me often this year about that little boy who gave away his lunch, and left a legacy. Something temporary made a massive lasting difference. He became world famous, though nobody knows his name – but the result of his generous faith is the only miracle apart from the resurrection recorded in all four gospels. 

What legacy are we going to leave? 

Every time I walk into the original, historical, Ivy church building – especially if I’m going to be introducing a visitor to the church giving them a tour or something like that – I think about and often speak of the legacy of previous generations of those who’ve been part of Ivy and of course the legacy of its founder, Oliver Brockbank.

You won’t be at Ivy long before you find out the history and that we gather there because of a young Mancunian student who went to Cambridge University. Oliver Brockbank was born in 1870, but born again in his late teens when he heard the gospel because the evangelist DL Moody did a mission there at the invitation of Kynaston Studd who chaired the Christian Union. 

Studd had two younger brothers, one, (CT) Charles, was England’s greatest cricketer and lived only for the sport and the fame that accompanied it for him.  That would be where he looked for legacy, he was not at all interested in hearing the gospel until 1883 when his younger brother lay dying. 

As Charles looked at George, also a popular cricket player in his own right, he asked himself, “What is all the popularity of the world to George? What is all the fame and flattering? What is it worth to possess the riches of the world, when a man comes to face Eternity?”

These thoughts turned to prayer and miraculously, George was healed. 

Charles went to hear Moody and “There the Lord met me again and…set me to work for Him.” Charles went on to be one of the famous ‘Cambridge Seven’ missionaries to China, but not before touring England and bringing revival wherever they went – little wonder when we read Studd’s message before leaving:

“Are you living for today or are you living for life eternal? Are you going to care for the opinion of men here, or for the opinion of God? The opinion of men won’t avail us much when we get before the judgment throne. But the opinion of God will. Had we not, then, better take His word and implicitly obey it?” 

He left an eternal legacy reaching millions not only in China but later in India. 

God used Moody to reach and turn around these young elites of his day despite the fact that he himself had been so poor he had to finish school at 13. Why? Perhaps it was because years before while in England he heard evangelist Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God can do through a man who is totally yielded to Him.” 

Moody was captivated by these words and resolved, “By the Grace of God, I will be that man!” 

So it was that Moody famously implored people; Give your life to God; he can do more with it than you can! I wonder if he said that in one of the sermons young Oliver heard when he was at Cambridge. 

He returned to Manchester and led his gardener Mr Green, to the Lord. The two started a Bible study group which grew as it moved from house to house. Next he built and paid for the beautiful building we have as our missional hub, nobody but the Lord knows how much it cost him – but he required it to be built on the principles laid down for Solomon’s Temple in the Old Testament so that “neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard while it was built”. That means no nails or screws were used in the joinery. It was built to last. He gave a beautiful bible to everyone who worked on the building with his life motto inscribed inside, I have one in my office, bearing his signature and the charge, “BUILD FOR ETERNITY!”

Whenever I go over to our other site at Cheadle Hulme I’m aware too of the legacy of Oliver Brockbank too, because before he died he thought ahead and left substantial sums of money in trust which 70 years later we were able to put into that amazing project! 

He didn’t just think about himself or his own salvation. He thought about the gospel, he thought about Didsbury, and Manchester and he travelled the world and invested in mission and for future generations so that we were able to serve the purpose of God in our generation, because of what he gave – to leave a legacy. 

Give your life to God; he can do more with it than you can!’ 

Brockbank’s conversion and salvation didn’t just affect him. He never limited God, so God did so much more through him. He wanted the love of Christ that so affected him to connect to everybody else he knew, starting with his family, he led his sister to the Lord, and his neighbours. Through him, the Lord reached out in ever increasing circles, as the gospel was preached clearly here, and people in the communities he connected with in the city were blessed generously when he took poor men women and children on holidays and arranged for everyone to be discipled effectively.

And he wrote a book that I have a copy of though it’s quite rare – detailing one of several trips he made to the nations. In 1914 he set out from Charing Cross, takes the Orient Express to Suez and Egypt via St Catherine’s Monastery. 1914. Scary times hey? But he kept the mission front and centre. At the same time Lawrence of Arabia was in the same places, Brockbank was visiting Mount Sinai and witnessing to Bedouins, with whom he spent over a month “under canvas in the Desert as he covered 400 miles on camel and 700 miles on horseback” before finally arriving at Jerusalem. 

Give your life to God; he can do more with it than you can!’

Oliver modelled in his life what he encouraged those who worked to build this place, when he gave them all a Bible and wrote that they should open it and read it and ‘build for eternity.’ That resonates so much for me through the history of our church since it opened in 1899 as Ivy Cottage Mission Hall. 

Do you think about the legacy others left for you? 

Who faithfully prayed for you, impacted you positively, maybe they led you to Jesus, or gave you instruction in his Word or a prophetic encouragement? 

And what will we pass on? 

What do you imagine your legacy will be? 

For the investment Jesus made in you. How will it happen? 

Legacy is defined in the dictionary as ‘something you received after someone dies, or something from your history that remains influential today, whether or not they died, something lives on, a positive impact for the enduring good of others.’

As George Bernard Shaw wrote:

This is the true joy in life, 

the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; 

the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, 

for the harder I work the more I live. 

I rejoice in life for its own sake. 

Life is no “brief candle” for me. 

It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, 

and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

The truly splendid torch was not lit by Oliver Brockbank. It was passed to him by DL Moody, the greatest evangelist of his generation who got it from his Sunday School teacher Edward Kimball, who somehow got it from Jesus, the Light of the World! As we share this flame ours is never diminished, in fact the only way it can diminish is if we fail to pass it on. 

Now here in the West the question arises more than any time in my life whether the light of the gospel that we have been handed on, that we are to shine before all people, may be in danger of going out? The historic value of the church in society, the idea that this is a Christian nation, that the word of God has a hearing, that flame is burning down in society, in churches and, yes, believers. Anyone who does not see that most denominations are on the precipice is wilfully blind or simply not paying attention. 

It can happen! Jesus wrote to seven churches in Revelation and warned five of them that their gospel was powerless, their lifestyles the same as those around them in the world, despite their pride they had compromised on doctrine and practice. They were lukewarm. they’d lost their first love. They’d lose their light unless they repented. 

The world seems to me to get darker all the time. We must not lose our lampstand. 

What will be the legacy of this church? Generations from now? Those that will build a legacy today will be those who find a way to meet these days with boldness. Those who step up the love, the service, the community, the sacrifice. The creativity. Rather than shrink back. 

Those who make a difference become different by doing differently! 

We don’t know what will happen to us, but we can know that God will still work through us if we decide, now, to live fully for him, to offer ourselves as Moody and Studd and Brockbank did – what a mark we can make with these splendid torches! 

We don’t get to decide our everlasting legacy some day in the future, or on our deathbeds, you are making it today. Treasures are being spent on earth or stored in heaven, priorities are being chosen. We are writing the legacy daily but we also know we can’t write the story in one day, it takes a lifetime, and intentionality, and decisions, and actions. 

As I write now during my sabbatical I ask myself, ‘Will I be more bold?’ 

I need to shift focus heavenward and take courageous, uncomfortable action. 

I believe someone reading this now, you’ve read so far and that’s because God wants you to hear, ‘This is not a time for fear or flight, it’s not a time to freeze. It’s time to stop hesitating. Stop waiting. Give it all back to God. Give yourself on the altar. Take bold, courageous action and see how your faith will grow in the next few months in ways that will change your life, and that of many more, forever. 

Give your life to Christ – he can do so much more with it than you can!

If your heart is stirred at all by what you’ve read, I hope and pray you’ll join me this year (week commencing October 31st) for LAUNCH 2023 – For the King and the Kingdom!