Leaving a Legacy

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The second epistle of Paul to Timothy is a letter from a man facing execution. In it he gives a personal testimony as a valedictory — a leave-taking, a farewell — that exults life.

At the time of writing, Paul was awaiting execution for a crime he was innocent of. His friends had forsaken him, and those who had supported his cause were being persecuted. Yet in his letter to Timothy, written from the dungeon of a Roman prison, Paul expressed hope for those he would leave behind and a belief that the church would eventually triumph.

Paul’s messages

What messages did Paul leave for “Timothy, my dear son” (2 Timothy 1:2) in this valedictory?

  • The Lord will return (4:1).
  • The Lord is faithful (vv. 17, 18).
  • Preach Jesus with unceasing diligence (v. 2).
  • Endure suffering and sustain your faith (2:3, 11-13).
  • Beware of false teachers, and handle the Word correctly (4:2, 3).
  • Pray and give thanks (1:3).
  • Be gentle (2:24, 25).

What message would you like to leave your children? Perhaps the following scriptures that relate to Paul’s message will help you to develop the content for your valedictory. You can add other points and scriptural references that are important to you.

The Lord will return. “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels” (Matthew 16:27). Could you reaffirm your belief that the Lord will return so that your children can see the depth of your faith?

The Lord is faithful. “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). How has the Lord been faithful to you? Cite a special incident.

Preach Jesus with unceasing diligence. Do you believe in Jesus as the Samaritans did in John 4:42? If so, have you told others about Him? “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). How can you encourage your children to continue this message?

Endure suffering and sustain your faith. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20, 21). How have you sustained your faith? Would you explain if it were through prayer, church attendance, and/or Bible study? Have family members and friends helped you to sustain your faith? Are there other factors that have helped you through difficult times?

Beware of false teachers, and handle the Word correctly. “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them — bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Peter 2:1). Have you had to combat false teaching and, if so, how did you do it? What would you advise your loved ones do to avoid false teachers? Some outside the church would lead young people astray. You can help your children recognize the right model for teaching: “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God” (2 Corinthians 2:17). Have you ever encountered someone misquoting the Scripture or changing the meaning to suit their own use? How did you address such a situation?

Pray and give thanks. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How has your prayer life sustained you? Is a gentle reminder in order, that you need to not only ask but also give thanks?

Be gentle. “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23). How did you learn to be gentle and patient? Was it by example from someone? Cite an incident of gentleness and patience that made a difference in your life.

Personal testimony

You do not need to be facing death as Paul was or graduating from high school to write a valedictory. You might want to explain the following sentiments as your personal testimony:

What have your children or loved ones meant to you?

How have they added to the fulfillment of your life?

What have they taught you?

What would you like them to remember about you?

How has God been faithful to you in allowing them in your life?

In her 1952 valedictory, a young graduate expressed the hopes and dreams of her graduating class during a turbulent time in our nation’s history. She asked the audience, “Do you provide a supportive family environment with proper discipline, respect, praise, and most important of all — love? Can we tell our children how important respect and faith are at home because that is where values are learned? Can we assure them of our love and praise them for their accomplishments? If our children followed our examples in their activities and in relating to others, would their actions be guided by discipline, respect, praise, and love?”

Our respective valedictories can leave our children and loved ones our legacy of values in a personal testimony that we hope will sustain them as they have us. We can then affirm with Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).


Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.

Annie Laura Smith
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Annie Laura Smith has been published in over 700 publications and has published ten books. These include four novels about World War II for young readers, three biographies about NASA astronauts, and three young adult romances. Annie lives in Huntsville, AL. Read more about her at annielaurasmith.com.