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Leaving an Eternal Legacy

with Sammy Tippit | January 5, 2009

His decision to follow Christ left Sammy Tippit homeless when his mother kicked him out of the house. But the college student pressed on in his faith, and twenty years later, his mother saw her need for the Savior, too.

His decision to follow Christ left Sammy Tippit homeless when his mother kicked him out of the house. But the college student pressed on in his faith, and twenty years later, his mother saw her need for the Savior, too.

Leaving an Eternal Legacy

With Sammy Tippit
|
January 05, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Sammy: I had this opportunity to become an attorney, to make money, to go into politics, and I had some natural abilities in speaking, and so I was going in one direction and then, all of a sudden, Christ came into my heart and took me in a different direction, and she thought I had really flipped out.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 5th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  You don't think of somebody being disowned or thrown out of the house in this country because they come to faith in Christ. That's what happened to Sammy Tippit.  We'll find out more today, stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition, and today we are kicking off a 40-day adventure for couples, because it's 40 days from today until Valentine's Day, and so we thought we ought to take the 40 days between today and Valentine's Day and have everybody participate in the 40-day Love Dare.  If you saw the movie, "Fireproof" when it came out in the fall, you know that the Love Dare was kind of central to the plot line.  The book, "The Love Dare," was on the New York Times Bestseller List, and so we're going to follow the book and have all of us participate in The Love Dare between here and Valentine's Day.

So you'll get an assignment each day from us here on FamilyLife Today at the beginning of the program, and if you need to review the assignment, it's online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and today's Love Dare is based on Ephesians 4:2, which says, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love."  Your Love Dare today is all about being patient with your spouse.

The first part of this dare is fairly simple – although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart.  So for the next day you need to resolve to demonstrate patience; to say nothing negative to your spouse at all for 24 hours.  If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything – better to hold your tongue than to say something you'll regret.

That's your assignment for today in the 40-day Love Dare.  Don't say anything negative, bite your tongue.  And, again, if you need to review today's Love Dare, it's online at FamilyLifeToday.com.  You can also buy a copy of the book, "The Love Dare."  You'll find it on our website and, of course, each day we'll remind you of what your assignment for the day is as we head up to Valentine's Day.

Now, today we're going to talk about your legacy and, you know, I – I don't know that I ever really thought about this until I came to work here at FamilyLife, and I had somebody who was talking about the difference between a heritage and legacy, and they said, "You know, your legacy is what's in front of you.  It's what you pass down to those who follow you.  Your heritage is what's behind you.  It's what's gone before you in your family," and that's a good distinction to make.  I guess I'd never really thought much about it.

I don't know – I know your parents were believers.  Does your heritage go back farther than that in terms of a believing heritage?

Dennis: You know, I have done some research into that but not a lot.  There is so much about our culture today that is "now" oriented.  I think all of us are in need of not only looking back but looking forward about the legacy we are going to leave, and we have a man who has – who is in the process of leaving his legacy – Sammy Tippit, who is a world-renowned evangelist joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Sammy, I've heard about your ministry for a number of years, and Bob and I have really been looking forward to having you on the broadcast – welcome.

Sammy: Well, thank you, and it's just a great joy to be here and to be able to share during this time together about something so important as our families and the legacy, the heritage, what God has done and what God will do.

Dennis: Yes, and you had an interesting heritage given to you as a young man growing up, but before we get to that, Sammy has preached in more than 80 nations around the world; he has authored more than a dozen books including the bestseller, "The Prayer Factor."  He is the only guest on FamilyLife Today, Bob, whose wife is named "Tex."  I don't think we've had a gentleman on the broadcast whose wife is Tex, and that was your nickname of her when you dated her, right?

Sammy: Well, she's the prettiest Tex you'll ever meet in your life now.

Dennis: You all have two children, four grandchildren, and been married since 1968, and you recently have authored a new book called "Praying for Your Family," and eternal legacy.  And this really came out of a little bit of a search like Bob was talking about the faith that came from his ancestors.  Tell us about the home you grew up in.

Sammy: Well, I grew up in, and I've been giving my testimony for many years saying that I grew up in a non-Christian family, had no Christian background, and that's what I believed, and, actually, I've discovered in the last few years that that's all not true, and that a lot of what I've been sharing has been false – not intentionally.

Dennis: Right.

Sammy: But my mother, whenever I became a Christian, kicked me out of the house.  There were two reasons for that.  One was racial attitudes – when Christ came into my heart, He took away racism and bigotry and that out of me, and my mother said I'd been brainwashed by Martin Luther King, and I said, "No, I've been heartwashed by the King of kings," and that didn't go down real well. 

And then the other thing was I had the opportunity to study in some of the great institutions in our country.  I had my whole life interrupted when I heard a man from a complete opposite background from me share what Jesus had done in His life.  And I gave my heart to Christ, and the night that I gave my heart to Christ, it was like everything changed.  I knew my purpose, my meaning, my direction.  I knew God wanted me in a ministry.  I didn't even know the terminology for it, but I knew that's what He had for my life, and I gave my life to that. 

And for my mom it was like I was throwing my life away.  You know, I had this opportunity to become an attorney, to make money, to go into politics, and I had some natural abilities in speaking, and so I was going in one direction and then, all of a sudden, Christ came into my heart and took me in a different direction.  And she thought I had really flipped out.

Bob: You were kicked out of the house?

Sammy: Yeah, and that came because at LSU during those days, it was in the '60s, mid-'60s, the free speech movement was taking place, and they had these little black boxes, and I stood up one day with a couple of my friends, and we preached at LSU and, literally, hundreds and thousands of students gathered around, and the LSU newspaper came out and covered it and quoted my whole testimony, and, for my mom, it was sort of the breaking point where she felt I had ruined our family name.

Bob: She was hostile toward God and the Gospel altogether?

Sammy: That's right – very bitter, very angry.

Dennis: How did she kick you out of the house?  Did you go home and …

Sammy: Well, the night that she got ahold of the paper, I walked in the house that night, I'd been out on a date, and I came in, and she had this paper, and she was sitting there, and she began to yell.  And my mom, by the way, was not an abusive person.  My mom never abused me physically.  I did not grow up in that kind of home.  I need to set the record straight there, but she was just so angry, and she had a belt, and she had tied it in a knot with the buckle, and she began to beat me over the head with it, and she beat me out of the house and locked the door and said, "Do not ever come back into this house."

Dennis: You walked back into the house as an 18-year-old young man, and you're met by a mom who is pitching a fit and, all of a sudden, starts hitting you with a belt?

Sammy: That's correct.  And my father was very ill.  My father – my mother really was kind of the strong person.  My father, since I had been a little boy, had become ill.  He was in the hospital as much as he was out of the hospital, and so that night I walked the streets of Baton Rouge just tears flowing.

I was talking to God, and I said, "God, I don't understand."  And all I remember is His love just surrounded me and filled me.  I have a dear little aunt who is still alive.  She's the only one in my upline, so to speak, of relatives that's still alive, and she has always been a mediator.  And she eventually got me back into my home with my mother, and got me back in.  But I can remember telling my mom, "Mom, I love you, but I love Jesus more."

And it was the hardest thing in the world for me to do, but Mom let me come back in, and there were some particular things that she put down.  One was I could only go to church once a week.  She thought of it as being brainwashed by the church community, and I did not tell her, I must confess, that I continued ministering.  I was ministering at a – at that time, they had separation of institutions of the Negro Orphanage Home.  I was going and playing basketball with the kids, and then having Bible studies with them, and that made her very angry because of the racial attitudes.

And so there was this very tense situation with my mom for many, many years this stayed there – after I was married – for a long time.

Dennis: So as you came to faith in Christ, you had to struggle with what most of us do at that point.  "I want my parents to know.  I want those I love to know."  And the temptation is to go back home and to preach to our parents.  But you didn't do that, did you?

Sammy: Well, I started off – and I have to say that my mom, the first thing she said to me was, whenever I started telling her what Christ had done for me, and I told her that I wanted her to know Christ, and she said this to me – she said, "I am not a Christian, I'll never become a Christian, and don't ever talk to me about Jesus again."  So I could not talk to my mother about Christ again, but I could talk to Christ about my mother.

And so I began to pray for her, and I began to pray for my dad and my brother and my sister.  My dad, not long before he died, just – and he died just three years after that – some men from my church came over to my home, knocked on the door of our home, came in, sat down at the bedside of my dad who was so ill, and led him to faith in Jesus.  And there is an incredible story about that.

But he came to Christ, he was the first one. Then I was invited to speak in Tennessee where my sister was going to school, and I spoke up there later on.  She came to Christ.  And then 20-something years later, out of the clear blue, my mother calls me and she says, "Sammy, I've been a bitter woman.  I've been a proud woman.  I need God, I need Jesus, I need help." I couldn't believe it.  On the phone right there, I prayed with my mom and my prayers, for over 20-something years, were answered.

And my mom gave her heart to Christ, and she became one of my greatest supporters, prayer supports, and behind me so much, and everything changed.

Dennis: There has to be a ton of listeners right now who are hearing that story, and they've got a family member that they've been burdened for for a number of years, and they care about them.  What's the one thing you'd encourage them to do on behalf of that family member who doesn't know Christ?

Sammy: Don't give up, don't give up.  There were so many times when I just said, you know, it's hopeless for my mom.  My mom, especially – she was the hardest – my mom and my brother, because my brother you couldn't talk to unless he was drunk.  That was the only time he'd talk to you.  But my mom just – she was so bitter, and I don't know why she was so bitter, but she was so bitter towards God, and I'd just like – I just wanted to quit. 

In fact, there was a time when I thought she was going to try to get our kids taken away from us because we were bringing them overseas with us traveling, and she thought that was abusive to bring them overseas traveling in ministry.  And she just had this anger in her heart, and I just – I wanted to quit so many times and just walk out.  But the Lord said to me, "No, don't do it."

And I'll tell you what – with my mom there was a turning point that I saw with her.  One day I was praying for her, and it was several years afterwards that she had said all this stuff and done all this stuff, and I was having my quiet time, and the Lord spoke to me and said, "Sammy, the problem is not with your mom, the problem is with you.  And the problem is this – that you have been an ungrateful son.  Your mother raised you, she had a hard life.  She got up early in the morning, worked until late in the evening, came home, took care of you kids, and you have never once said 'thank you, Mom, for your sacrifice.'  And here you are, you became a Christian, you've done all these things, and you've never told her that."

Dennis: And you are how old at this point?

Sammy: I'm married, I'm in my late 20s.  So it's been about a 10 years since I've been a Christian.

Dennis: Wow.

Sammy: And so the Lord just spoke to me and said I need to call my mom and ask forgiveness.  So I called her on the phone.  I said, "Mom," I said, "I need to ask your forgiveness for something." And I told her what the Lord had spoke to me in my quiet time, and there was silence, and I didn't know what she was going to say, because she was a pretty tough lady, and then she said, "Sammy, I cannot tell you how much this means to me.  This means more than you will ever know."

Now, she did not give her heart to Christ.  It was close to 15 years later after that, but from that point forward, I could talk about Jesus in front of her.  Before that time, I couldn't mention the name of Jesus, couldn't mention God, couldn't mention what we were doing.  I mean, I had to stay away from that subject, but from that point on, it was different.  Something happened.  There was a barrier that was broken, and it was with me having the, first of all – I was praying to God, "Change Mom, change Mom," and, really, the more I prayed for mom to be changed, the spirit of God was tenderizing my heart to say, "Hey, the problem is not with your mom, it's with you."

You know, and so God did that work in me, and then as that happened, over the years, all the bitterness began to just fall off, and she began to be more open and more open until one day she said, "I need God."

Bob: Dennis, you've written on that very theme that Sammy is talking about – encouraging adult children to honor their parents, to ask for forgiveness, to speak encouraging words, and you've heard stories like that over and over again from men and women who have taken that step that's sometimes a hard step to take, but God has honored it.

Dennis: You know, I think there's a reason why the First Commandment that has anything to do with human relationships out of the Ten Commandments has to do with our relationship with our parents, and God commanded it.  He says, "Honor your mother and your father that it may be well with you."  And I think the tendency we want to have when we hear a story like Sammy's is we want to turn it into a formula.

Sammy: Mm-hm.

Dennis: And we want to think, "If I do this plus this plus this then it will equal this."  And God goes beyond the formulas.  As you said, Sammy, He wanted to do a work in your heart just as He did in mine.  It's interesting – the spirit of ungratefulness, that was where God convicted me that I had not been a grateful son and expressing appreciation to my parents just for what they had done, and the whole concept of honoring them really came from some baby steps that I took just of saying, "thank you," and of saying "I love you," and then, ultimately, as Bob was talking about – writing a tribute to both my mom and my dad just honoring them for the impact they had in my life.

Sammy: Let me share with you a word on that tribute, because I heard about that, and the Lord spoke to me about writing a tribute to my mom, and I wrote a tribute to her and gave it to her as a Christmas present, and four weeks later she died.  She was diagnosed two weeks after I gave her that Christmas present.  She was diagnosed with lung cancer, and just three weeks after the diagnosis she died.

Dennis: Did you read that tribute to her?

Sammy: I read it to her, and I gave it to her, personally, and she just wept.  And, you know, I was so thankful that I was able to do that.  At the time, I didn't know that she was going to be diagnosed with cancer and she was going to die.  I was able to do that before her death, and I was very honest in it.  You know, I said, "Mom, we've had some rough times together, but I want you to know what," and I told her what she had imparted to me that had been such a blessing and how I appreciated her and thanked God for her, and she hung it up right in the living room.  Of course, I grew up in a fairly poor family, you know, and not much hanging up, but that was hanging up there right in the center of the living room whenever she died.

Dennis: I like what you say – "I decided I would – instead of talking to Mom about Jesus I talked to Jesus about Mom."  And, to me, the toughest part of prayer is the persevering prayer – the prayer that doesn't get answered in 30, 60, 90 days, a year, five years, 10 years.  That is tough, tough stuff.

Bob: Well, you get to thinking, "God knows what's on my heart.  I've said this over and over again.  Do I really need to say it another time?"  Why is it, Sammy, that God would have us keep bringing this before the throne?  He is omniscient.  He knows what's on our heart.

Sammy: Well, I believe one of the reasons for that, and it's not the only reason is we don't understand what prayer is.  Prayer is intimacy with God.  It's having communion with Him.  God is more interested in our communion with Him – He wants to have fellowship with us.  He loves us.  He wants to spend time – and in doing that, as we see Him, and we behold Him and who He is, then we are transformed.

And, you see, what happens in perseverance is not changing the person.  I am convinced that when we read that parable over in Luke, chapter 18, where the Scripture talks about the woman who went to the unrighteous judge, and we sort of compare that to our prayer life with God.  Well, it's not a comparison, it's a contrast, because there are two things it says about the judge – he's unrighteous, and he doesn't care about people. 

Well, there are two things we know about God – He's righteous, and He loves people.  So the tarrying, the waiting, the persevering is not to change God, but as we go into His presence and get to know Him, we are changed.  So He says, "Wait, tarry, persevere, in prayer."  And what happens is God changes us.  God does something in us, and then there's another thing, and that is that there are certain mysteries in prayer, and sometimes we – you talk about the formulas – prayer is a great mystery where the sovereignty of God and the will of man come together, and you don't understand everything.

Dennis: Right.

Sammy: And yet those two things – I like to say, and I say in my book, that "prayer is the corner at which the sovereignty of God and the will of man intersect."  They come together, and it's at that point that God is able to do things that are so far beyond anything that we would have ever dreamed, and that's where the legacy is left because it comes into even future generations.

Bob: This is an important theme, though, Dennis, because as Sammy is praying for his family, we can pray not only for the family members we know, but there are family members coming along in the future that we don't know, and we can be praying for them as well.

Dennis: That's right.  The ones that God has given us now, that's the challenge for the day, and that's what Sammy has challenged us with here on the broadcast, and I just want to read a passage from 1 Thessalonians 5 – "See that no one repays anyone, evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  And, really, Sammy, you story illustrates all three of those verses.  You did good to your mom, you didn't give her evil for evil, you didn't match her bitterness with your own.  You prayed without ceasing with her.  You never stopped praying for her, and ultimately you embraced those tough circumstances as God's will for how God used it in your life and ultimately in your ministry. 

And I think that's really what Sammy is challenging us with today, Bob, is to live a life by faith and really trust what we can't see in the future.

Bob: Yeah, I'm just sitting here thinking about the resources we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center that are devoted to the issue of prayer for families, because we really believe that this spiritual discipline is an essential part of what it takes to be a godly family.  We've got the book that Sammy's written called "Praying for Your Family," as one of those resources.

We've got John Yates's book, "How a Man Prays for His Family," the book, "While They Were Sleeping," a prayer guide for parents, we've got prayer cards, the devotional you and Barbara wrote for couples called "Moments With You," is designed so that couples can pray together each day.

And I want to just challenge our listeners – go to FamilyLifeToday.com and just review those resources and ask yourself this question – is this something that I need to make more of a priority in the coming year?  Does praying for our marriage, praying for our children, praying for our legacy, need to be a bigger priority for us?  And, if so, maybe some of these resources can help make that happen.

Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.  It will take you right to where you need to be to review these resources, and you can order online, if you'd like, or call 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-FLTODAY.  When you contact us, someone can let you know more about these resources and help you pick out the ones you need, and then make arrangements to have the ones you need sent to you.  Again, the toll-free number – 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. 

Speaking of your devotional book, "Moments With You," with the new year just getting underway, couples may want to begin that regular spiritual discipline of praying together as a husband and a wife, and this month we want to make a copy of that devotional available to any of our listeners who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  Because we are listener-supported, we depend on those contributions to be able to continue this ministry on this station and on other stations all across the country, and this month when folks are able to make a donation, we wanted to be able to say thank you by sending a copy of this daily devotional guide for couples – 365 different devotions for husbands and wives to read through together.  There is a Scripture verse each day and some suggested questions for conversation and a suggested topic for prayer.

If you are making a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com and you'd like to receive a copy of "Moments With You," just type the word "moments" into the keycode box that you find on the donation form or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and simply mention that you'd like a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey's devotional, "Moments With You." Again, we're happy to send it out to you, and we do appreciate your financial partnership with us.

Now, tomorrow we're going to be back to hear more of Sammy Tippit's story about the faithful prayers of a grandmother that were a part of his coming to faith in Christ.  I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 

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