FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Steps to Leaving a Legacy

with Dennis Rainey | October 5, 2010
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What kind of legacy will you leave someday? We all leave a legacy behind, either for good or bad. Dennis Rainey talks about three points related to leaving a legacy: it's not about you, but God, sin's mark on each legacy, and the steps of faith and sacrifice that make up each legacy.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What kind of legacy will you leave someday? We all leave a legacy behind, either for good or bad. Dennis Rainey talks about three points related to leaving a legacy: it's not about you, but God, sin's mark on each legacy, and the steps of faith and sacrifice that make up each legacy.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What kind of legacy will you leave someday?

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Steps to Leaving a Legacy

With Dennis Rainey
October 05, 2010
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Bob:  We asked a group of kids recently, "If you could pick one word to describe your dad, what word would that be?" 

Child  1:  He's a good daddy.

Child  2:  He works hard.

Child  3:  He's really nice.

Child  4:  He's awesome, and he's nice, and he does stuff for us.

Child  5:  He's tall.


Child  6:  He's problem solving.

Child  7:  Smart

Child  8:  He's determined

Child  9:  Loving

Child 10:  He's nice.


Child 11:  Awesome

Child 12:  My daddy cuts down trees.

Child 13:  Provider


Child 14:  He likes Caleb.

Man:  He likes Caleb?  What does your daddy do?

Child 14:  He sits down.

Man:  He sits down?

Child 14:  Yes

Bob:  Then we decided to have some fun since all of these kids know Mr. Rainey.  We said, "If Mr. Rainey was your dad and you could pick one word to describe him, what would it be?”


Child:  Intentional


Child:  Intentional


Child:  Mr. Rainey?  Intentional


Child:  Intentional


Teen:  I'd say Mr. Rainey is intentional


Teen:  Oh, he's very intentional


Child:  He's intentional


Child:  He's intentional


Child:  He's intentional


Teen:  He's intentional


Child:  He's intentional


Teen:  He's intentional


Child:  Aahhh...intentional



Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 5.



Bob:  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey.  And I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see what “Mr. Intentional” has to share with us today about leaving a legacy that matters. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  And today, Mr. Intentional teaches us about…

(Dennis laughing)

Bob:  That's my new name for you.  What do you think?  Mr. Intentional.


Dennis:  That's really...

Bob:  It's based on how your son identified you.  Your outstanding character quality is your intentionality, right?

Dennis:  Yes....

Bob:  So...

Dennis:  Well, our children have been known to make mistakes, too.



Bob:  Oh, Mr. Intentional on the subject of legacy.


Dennis:  Well, you know, what we're doing here, Bob, is we're talking to our listeners about the legacy that they have been given.  And the legacy they're going to leave.

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  Because all of us are in the process of really going to the bank on the legacy we were given; hopefully, it was a good bank.  And it was a good list of character qualities in that bank, that you've made withdrawals frequently from the positive deposits your parents...your mom and dad made in your life…your grandparents, maybe some brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, coaches, teachers. 

There are a lot of people who impact the legacy that we've been given.  But what we're talking about, here, is back to the word "intentional."  We're challenging our listeners to be intentional, and think through "What kind of legacy...what are the qualities that you want to impact the next generation with?”


Bob:  What do you want to be remembered for, and remembered by when you are no longer around, and all that's left is the memories, right?

Dennis:  Right. And to this point Bob, it's really interesting that I believe the family is a “legacy factory.” 

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  It is the incubator where relationships are forged, and where the truths from one generation are passed down to another.  It is the most powerful place where a legacy can be shaped and given to the next generation.  That's why we're really talking to our listeners about this, whether they be single, or just newly married, without any children, or whether they're in the process of raising their children. 

Or, perhaps they're done raising children—like Barbara and I are—and you’re grandparents.  I think grandparents can have a powerful impact in the lives of their children, and their grandchildren, and shape the legacies that are going to be passed on there.

Bob:  Do you think most of us when we think about legacy, think outside our family, and think about, "How will I be remembered in the community?"    "What kind of mark will I leave in the business world?"  "What will my heritage be as it relates to the impact I had, in a broader sense, than just on my kids?"  I mean that can kind of also seem like, that's not very big if you just leave a legacy with your kids?

Dennis:  Right.  It goes beyond your own family to the marketplace and to the people you work with, work for, into your community, and how you've invested your life there.  I'm afraid as we talk about legacy, the word that we instantly go to is inheritance.  We think about how much money we want to leave the next generation.  I don't think that's the right question. 

Now I don't think it's wrong to leave an inheritance to the next generation.  The Proverb says a good man leaves an inheritance to his children.  But, I think the scope of our legacy should go way beyond money, materialism, gifts, property that is passed down from one generation to the next.  I think the most important legacies that are left are those in the heart—character, fun, memories, people who loved each other.  Where there were relationships that were meaningful; a life that was lived on purpose that had a sense of mission. 

It was about what God wanted.  Also, just the issue of identity passing on what it means to be a man, to be a woman.  How a man and a woman relate to each other in the marriage relationship.  I think those are important parts of our legacies, today, that we don't talk enough about.

Bob:  The heart of it all is our spiritual legacy—our spiritual identity, our spiritual relationships.  Everything flows from that seed bed, doesn't it?

Dennis:  It does.  And before we get started here, and talk about some specific ways you can begin to think about your legacy, I want to share three assumptions that I make as we talk about legacies. 

First of all, your legacy is not about you.  It should be all about God, and should be all about honoring God.  The Scriptures talk about glorifying God, reflecting Him, showing the world what He's like.  Secondly, I think every legacy is going to be, unfortunately, marred by sin.  I'll actually go a little will be marred by sin.  But I think a part of your legacy can be how you handled your sin.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis:  When my kids were little, I used to have this phrase I used with them all the time, because I would obviously discipline them when they made mistakes.  They weren't blind they could see when I made a mistake.  Many times, I would get down on one knee and look at my son, or one of my daughters, face-to-face, and I'd say, "You know what?  I'm sorry I failed when I did (such and such).  That was wrong.  Daddy wants to be a better dad than that.  And, I want you to forgive me."  We need to demonstrate to our kids, how do you handle it when you fail?"

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  Then there's the third assumption that, I want you as a listener to know—your legacy will involve steps of faith, courageous acts, and your legacy is also going to involve sacrifice.  You and I were in a meeting earlier, here at FamilyLife, and we asked our staff, "What's your greatest step of faith that you've ever taken?" 

One of the men stood up, and told the story of how he had prayed the prayer of Jabez—the prayer asking God to bless him.  And he had prayed that prayer, something like 27 or 28 years ago.  He said, "You know what?  Stepping out to obey God not only brought us enormous favor and benefits, and blessings upon us as a couple, and as family but it also modeled for our kids what sacrificial steps of faith look like.”  And he said, "I have no regrets." 

So I think for a listener you just need to know that as you hammer out your legacy, I want to give you a few principles as you hammer it out, but it's going to involve sacrifice.  Your kids need to see that the choices you're making cost you something. 

Bob:  Alright, so we need to remember that God is at the center of our legacy.  It should be about Him.  That sin is going to mar our legacy.  And that our legacy is going to involve faith, and steps of courage, and sacrifice.  Now, Mr. Intentional, you ready to start walking us through this? 

Dennis:  Yes.  As I do this, let me just ask you a question, Bob.  If you had to describe what the components of a legacy were, how would you describe that?  As you think about the elements that compose a person's lifetime, in leaving a legacy, how would you explain that to our listeners?

Bob:  There's one word that comes to mind, for me, and that is value.  It's really a question of what have your valued in your life?  Because the legacy you leave really is a reflection of what was important to you.

Dennis:  Yes.

Bob:  We all invest our time, our money in whatever's important to us.  So when I think about my legacy, it's going to be a statement of what was important to me.  People are going to remember, maybe what I accomplished or what I stood for or what my character was like, all of that is a reflection of what really mattered to me.

Dennis:  Yes.  It's interesting, Bob, I'm just reflecting through a few of the principles that I have here before me that I'm going to share with our listeners in a few moments.  That really is the essence of what I've written down here. 

In fact, let me just go to the first one.  I think your legacy begins with the fear of God.  It doesn't begin with something that you do, in terms of a task; it begins with a spiritual relationship with almighty God. 

In fact Proverbs 1:7, says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  A little bit later in the Proverbs, it says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  It's the beginning of skill in everyday living.  That's how we learn how to live is when we put God at the center.  We recognize who He is, and because we have a reverential awe—that's what the fear of God is—because we have a sense of the almighty grandeur of God in that our lives are lived in His presence. 

I think all of a sudden we begin to pull back, and we evaluate how even the smallest of decisions of how we treat people, and how we're living our lives are lived in the presence of God.  Therefore, I want to please Him, so I really want to obey Him, and live my life so that He's nodding in approval.

Bob:  Now you could have said it all begins with having a relationship with Jesus or with the Lordship of Christ, but you said it begins with the fear of God.  Why did you pick that aspect of our relationship with Christ as the beginning point?

Dennis:  Well, that's where the Old Testament starts.  It is within the context of the fear of God, that the love of God makes sense.  You must have peaked over my shoulder at the next principle, Bob, because number two, in how you leave a legacy, is your legacy is determined by who your master is.  I go back to the Old Testament for that one as well.  Just momentarily, Exodus 20:3, do you know what that is?

Bob:  It's in the middle of the Ten Commandments or right at the beginning of the Ten Commandments. 

Dennis:  You shall have no other God before you.  There is only to be one God in your life.  The question of surrender to the Master—to be a bond slave of Jesus Christ—our hearts were made to worship something or someone.  We go through life looking at people –back to your illustration of the word "value"—who value material possessions far more than people.  Or who value their net worth more than their spiritual worth.  I love what John Calvin said.  He said, "The human heart is an idol factory.”

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  The heart makes idols.  It's going to find something to worship.  We simply believe, because of what the Bible teaches in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, that the One who is the Master is Jesus Christ. 

The person who wants to leave the most effective legacy is going to be the one who makes a decision, as early as possible in his or her life, to become a bond slave of Christ; to give Him the rights to your life, to totally relinquish all rights of your life to Him.  I can safely say, Bob, that every time I've gotten into trouble, it's been because I have taken back those rights from Christ.

Bob:  Now, you know there are folks like Richard Dawkins, and the other prominent atheists of our day, who would just dismiss what you've talked about.  They’d say, "I can leave a legacy that's an outstanding legacy, without all of this fear of God, and this Lordship of Jesus, part of my life.”

Dennis:  That is a legacy.  There is no doubt about it.  A legacy of perhaps their god is intellectualism?  It doesn't have to be materialism.  Some people may worship their accomplishments, and that may be who they serve in their lifetimes.

Bob:  It was the prominent philosopher, Bob Dillon, who said “You’re going to have to serve somebody.”  Our legacy is going to reflect who or what we served in our life.

Dennis:  Yes.

Bob:  So we ought to be intentional on the front end about what that choice is.  If it's reputation, intellect, money, whatever it is, you're going to make into your idol, that's going to be reflected as a part of your legacy.  You're suggesting that the way life was meant to be lived, the way it was designed by the Creator, is that we would fear Him and serve Him.

Dennis:  Yes, and make Jesus Christ, Lord and Master of your life.  That means whatever He wants you to do with your life, you do it.  You view life through His eyes.  You view your life, your money, your possessions, your talent, everything that you have—even your family—you view it through His eyes.  You say, "I want my life to reflect how the Master wants me to use it."  Now, what is that for you?  What does He have for you? 

I believe He has a unique plan for every person and it's different for everybody.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 

When Barbara and I were first married, that first Christmas that we were together, there in our little house, in Boulder, Colorado, and before we gave each other anything, when we sat down, and we signed over a contract and a title deed to our lives.  I believe that act of surrender in 1972, I believe that single act did more to determine our legacy than any single act or decision that we've made.  Because it set a course for who is it that we're serving here?  What are our lives going to be about? 

Bob:  What's the North Star for everything?

Dennis:  Yes, is it me?  Is it all about me, and self, and getting to the top of the heap?  Is it about getting your name in lights?  Or your name on a book, on a radio broadcast?  That's not life.  Now, if God calls you and He equips you to do those things, and that happens in your lifetime, it can be a part of the plan that God has for you.  But the issue is, “Who is your Master?” 

One last quote I want to give you here, is by G.K. Chesterton, he says, “When we cease to worship God, we do not go on to worship nothing, instead we go on to worship anything.”  So, back to how Bob just described the key component of legacy being

“that which you value.”  Right now, what is your life about?  Money?  Stuff?  Family?  Influence?  Politics?  Power?  Accumulation?  Net worth?  What’s your life all about? 

I think, Bob, we live such a fast-paced life we don’t take enough time to examine our lives, and to have others from the outside speak truth into it.  And to say, “You know what?  If you’re not careful, you’re going to leave a legacy of selfishness, where the idol of your life has been yourself.”  To me that’s the definition of a wasted life. 

Bob: Yes, as compared with, or opposed to, a purposeful life.  A meaningful life, which, by the way just happens to be the title of the new Veggie Tales DVD: It's a Meaningful Life. I bring that up because once again, today, our friend, Larry the Cucumber has been listening in to today's program. He stars in this new DVD called, It's a Meaningful Life, from Veggie Tales. It really wraps into some of the themes we've been talking about here today. 

And Larry, I don't know if you know this, but, a lot of people think of Dennis and me as the “Bob and Larry” of Christian radio…

Larry:  Really?

Bob:  Yes.

Larry:  Wow! So, are you... who's me? Are you the goofy one?



Bob:  Because my name's Bob, I'll just go with that, how's that?

Larry:  Okay. So, Dennis, he's the goofy one?


Bob:  I don't know.  When people call us that, should we take that as a compliment or should we kind of scowl at them?

Larry:  No, absolutely! Take it as a compliment. You can even, try to photosynthesize like Bob and I do. You don't even need to take a lunch break then.

Bob:  You have been paying particular attention to this particular FamilyLife Today series because of the theme of having a life that leaves a legacy— which is one of the big themes in, It's a Meaningful Life, right?

Larry:  Yes, that's right. You know, just as Stewart—I play a character called Stewart.  It's kind of like, the story is like “Polar Express” and “It's A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol” all mixed up and jumbled together. But I'm a character who is not necessarily happy with the way that my life is going.  And through the course of the story, I learn that God has a plan for my life and that I have a lot to offer.


Bob:  I think it's a great DVD. In this story, you really have to confront the fact that you were focused early on, on the wrong kinds of priorities.  And when your priorities got aligned, that's when life made sense, right?

Larry:  That's right. If you focus in on the things of this world like success and money and those kinds of things, that leads us down the wrong path.  But really God wants us to look to Him and to the things He wants us to do with our lives.

Bob:  Well, Larry, thanks for listening in and thanks for popping in here from time to time to tell us more about the new It's a Meaningful Life DVD—which, by the way, this week, we're making available to the folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

Go online at and make a donation of any amount and you're invited to request a copy of this DVD. We'll send it out to you as a thank you gift for your financial support. All you have to do is type the word "MEANING" into the key code box on the online donation form.

So, again, go to  Make a donation of any amount and type the word "meaning" into the key code box, and we'll send you a copy of the new Veggie Tales DVD: It's a Meaningful Life.


Or, if it's easier to make your donation over the phone, just call 1-800-FLToday, 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”   When you make a donation just ask for a copy of the new Veggie Tales DVD: It's a Meaningful Life, and we're happy to send that out to you. We do appreciate your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and your partnership with us. It really does mean a lot to us. 

You know, as we've talked today about the spiritual foundation that needs to underlie a legacy.  How, ultimately, what we value is what's going to be reflected in our legacy.  I was reflecting on the conversation you and I had a number of years ago. This was just a few months before Dr. Bill Bright was to go home and meet Jesus, right before he died.  We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him about his life, about his accomplishments, and about his legacy.  I remember your asking about what's important in life and how that shapes every decision we face.

Dennis: Yes. We had the privilege of sitting in his living room and he was on oxygen. He had pulmonary fibrosis which is a kind of hardening of the lungs where he was having difficulty breathing. You're going to hear some of that as you hear his answer to this question.

Bill Bright: I would say, to all believers love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Seek first his kingdom. Obey his commandments. Trust his promises.  And spend the rest of your life getting to know him so you can love him, and trust him, and obey him without any hesitancy. 

Vonette and I have talked about this and concluded my own desire was to die as I've tried to live—Galatians 2:20.  Bill Bright is crucified with Christ.  And, I asked her if she would bury me in an unmarked grave as a testimony of Galatians 2:20 because dead people are dead.  She didn't think it was a good idea.

So, we agreed that we would have on our tombstone, “Bill and Vonette Bright, slaves of Jesus.”  Philippians 2:7, Jesus was a slave. God, the Creator, came to earth disguised as a slave. Paul speaks of himself, Romans 1:1, slave and Peter and others so we'd have appropriate references.

Bill and Vonette Bright—slaves of Jesus. 

We signed the contract in the spring of 1951, and we literally wrote out a contract and signed it to be His slaves. It's the most liberating thing that's ever happened to us.  I want that to be a testimony of the greatest privilege anyone can have—to be a slave of Jesus.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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