Legacy of a Father Image


Download the Notes:



The Legacy of a Father 

A father wrote to his family a letter that they would read after his death


Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • June 18, In the year of our Lord, 2017


  1. What shall we as fathers leave behind for our families? 
    1. What have our fathers left behind for us?
    2. I read an article recently of a letter written by a man to his family
      1. to be read after his death.
      2. He hid the letter in his desk
        1. where he knew that his family would find it after his death.
        2. His son then published the letter.
  2. You will see what this father valued, and why he valued it. 
    1. What he left behind did not depend upon his wealth or lack of it.
    2. I have reprinted the article/letter in the bulletin.


  1. The Time of Our Departure Will Arrive

    “The following is a letter my dad wrote several years before his death, which he left in his desk, where he knew we would find it:

    ‘Dear Family,

    ‘The time has come for my departure’ (2 Timothy 4:6). It’s strange to write this when I’m feeling well and vigorous, but unless Christ returns first that departure time will come. When you read this, it will have happened.”

    1. He was right.
    2. I often look at old pictures and think to myself
      1. that everyone of those people have died.
      2. You know the only exceptions so far have been Enoch and Elijah.
        1. The last generation on Earth will also experience the exception.
        2. As Paul indicated in First Thessalonians 4, (as the father alluded to)

          16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1Th 4.16–17).
    3. You can avoid funerals,
      1. you can ignore discussion about death, but
      2. you will die.
        1. Therefore, prepare for it, because
        2. not preparing for it does not make your departure disappear.
  2. Walk with Christ and Do Not Fear Death

    “I have had a great journey with Jesus Christ. From childhood I have known about God and revered Him. The name of Jesus has always been precious to me. I thank my dear parents for this heritage. Now, life on earth is over, and I go to meet the Lord face to face. I trust in Him as my sure Savior and rest in His grace at this momentous time of my death. I do not fear death. (I don’t like the pain, blood, and guts of it all!) Actually, I have been anticipating this new adventure and at the time you read this I will be with Christ in heaven. So it’s happened, and I’m now in God’s presence, probably shocked at all I’m seeing for the first time.”

    1. The only way to prepare for death is to walk with Jesus of Nazareth.
      1. We walk with Jesus by
        1. knowing God,
        2. revering God,
        3. making the name of Jesus precious to you,
        4. trusting in Him as your Savior, and
        5. resting in His grace.
      2. If you so walk with Jesus,
        1. you will not fear death.
        2. Remember that Jesus said,

          “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matt 28.20).

          1. He knows our thoughts on death.
          2. He has been there.
            1. Therefore, somehow as you die,
            2. the Lord will be there with you.
      3. Granted the father who wrote this letter did not like a painful death, but
        1. even so the Lord knows about a painful death.
        2. He promises to stay with us during that moment.
    2. Taking the journey with Jesus will actually make you anticipate death.
      1. Listen to the rest of the context from Second Timothy 4,

        6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2Ti 4.6–8).
      2. He showed the Philippian Christians a spirit ready to die,

        21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you (Phi 1.21–24).
    3. This father who wrote the letter overcame the fear of death
      1. by anticipating the unimaginable wonders of heaven,

        “So it’s happened, and I’m now in God’s presence, probably shocked at all I’m seeing for the first time.”
      2. Have you talked with another Christian about what heaven must be like?
        1. It will lift your spirit like other conversations cannot.
        2. If you have never had a discussion like that,
          1. how about the two of us getting together and
          2. we will go to a restaurant and talk about it.
            1. The server will hear our conversation and
            2. who knows where that will lead.
              1. I heard of a woman who served doctors.
              2. They were trying to solve a problem.
                1. They kept going to her restaurant and
                2. she kept listening.
                  1. Then she started researching their problem and solved it.
                  2. She presented her conclusion to them,
                  3. which shocked them.
                  4. They then paid for her to go to medical school, and
                  5. she is now a doctor.
      3. What will happen if someone listens to our talk on heaven?
    4. The dad said that he would be shocked by that he saw for the first time.
      1. How many times have you heard a description of something,
      2. then you saw it in person and the wonder of it shocked you?
  3. Find Forgiveness in Christ

    “I am sorry for my sin and failures, which have been many, but I know Christ has forgiven them. ‘There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1).  Some of those sins have been against you, my dear family, and I am sorry. You probably know my sins better than I. Some you don’t know, I know all too well. But ‘where sin abounds grace does much more abound’ (Romans 5:20).

    1. The family of this father probably thought he was a wonderful man.
      1. Yet, he confessed that he had sinned.
    2. Likewise, the most wonderful people you know have sinned.

      23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3.23).

      9 Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? (Pro 20.9).

    3. This man knew his sin, but
      1. he also knew Jesus Christ, and
      2. he also knew grace.
  4. Theme of Your Life

    “My dear Anne has been my most treasured friend. If she is still living as you read this, I know you will treat her well. When she goes to heaven, God will give her blue ribbons and gold medals. What a great woman and wife! She has loved and stood loyally by me all our life together. And our last years have been our best. May God reward her for hard work, a forgiving spirit, relentless faith and enthusiastic acceptance of life as it came. She is a woman of God. We shall meet on the other side and sing a duet of praise to God. As you know, Psalm 34:3 has been our verse. We trust you’ve seen that we did magnify the Lord.”

    1. What does Psalm 34.3 say?

      3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
      And let us exalt His name together.
      (Psa 34.3)
    2. Can you think of a better theme for a married couple, family, or friends?
    3. If you do what Psalm 34 says,
      1. you will find that you want others to join you.
      2. Yes, you can praise the Lord when alone, but
        1. to praise the Lord with others
        2. will really thrill your soul.
  5. Find Joy in One Another

    “Each of you children and spouses have been the joy of my life, as have been the grandchildren. I include Melinda and John in this because they are family to us, too. I have never doubted your love for me, and you have been too kind. I will see you in heaven, and we’ll bless God together.”

    1. Many people come and go in our lives, but
    2. we always have our family.
      1. Why not find joy in them?
      2. It will make your life better.
  6. A Father’s Counsel

    “I urge you to remain true to your Savior. I have no doubt that you will. Love each other deeply in your marriages. Keep your family ties strong. Lay up treasure in heaven, because the stuff of earth is empty. Bank accounts, houses and furniture mean nothing to me now. Actually they never did. Beware of sin, and confess it as soon as you discover it in your life. And let the Spirit’s gift of joy color all your life. As you mature, remain a happy person in Christ. Get even sweeter as you get older. Sour old people are a pain.”

    1. Be loyal to Christ Jesus.
    2. Love your family.
    3. Build your treasure in heaven.
    4. Confess your sin.
    5. Let joy fill your entire life.
  7. VII.Glorify God in Death

    “In my death, be sure God is glorified. Jesus glorified the Father most in His death. John 17:1-5 tells us He faced impending death with that prayer for the Father to be glorified. So at my memorial service, glorify God. Have a holy party. I was saying to Anne recently that this world has become less attractive lately, and I feel a bit out of place. So it’s good to go ‘home’ now. I’d like my burial made simple. Cremation is fine with me. Bury my remains in a simple container to wait for the resurrection of my new glorified body. If cremation upsets you, then don’t do it, of course. I want you to be comfortable with it all.”

    1. If we have lived our lives to the glory of God,
    2. glorifying Him at death, and
      1. wanting our family to glorify God at our deaths
      2. comes to us naturally.
    3. Listen to what Paul said in First Corinthians 10,

      31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1Co 10.31).

      1. Is dying one of the things we do?
      2. Is the death of our fathers one of the things we experience?
  8. VIII.Look to God to Equip You for Life

    “Hebrews 13:20-21: ‘May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’”

    1. The letter writer ended his letter
    2. the same way the writer of the Book of Hebrews ended his letter.
      1. Both of them wished for God
        1. to equip the people they loved with everything good for doing His will
        2. that He would work in them what pleased Him.
      2. They wanted it all done through Jesus Christ
      3. to whom belonged the glory for ever and ever.
  9. Remember Those Who Love You

    “I love you all, and each one.”

    1. The father of that family
      1. loved them all as a group and
      2. loved them individually.
    2. Even after he had died,
      1. he wanted them to remember his love for them.
      2. What father does not want his family to remember his love for them?
  10. Your Death Shall Happen Sooner Than You Imagine

    “I’ll see you sooner than you think!”

    1. How true is his last sentence!
    2. The only ones for whom time does not move fast enough
      1. are those in school,
      2. especially young people in school.


  1. The Ultimate Relationship


    1. He signed himself, “Dad.”
    2. He was their father.
      1. He helped bring them into the world.
      2. Other people knew him as Mr. Ortlund, or by his first name.
    3. But only a couple of people on Earth knew him as father.
      1. What did that mean to him?
      2. What did that mean to them?
  2. So it is with our heavenly Father. 
    1. We know He is God.
    2. We know His names, revealed mostly in the Old Testament.
      1. However, as His children we know Him as Father.
      2. We call Him Father.
        1. Twice Moses referred to Yahweh as the God of the spirits of all flesh
        2. (Num 16.22; 27.16).
          1. The Book of Hebrews even goes so far to refer to Him as
          2. “the Father of spirits” (Heb 12.9).
  3. However, when we sin, such as by 
    1. deceiving people,
    2. living in lust and pleasures,
    3. living in malice and envy,
    4. living in hate, or whatever
      1. we go astray from our heavenly Father, and
      2. the relationship needs restoration.
  4. Restore your relationship with your heavenly Father by 
    1. accepting Him again as your Father and Jesus of Nazareth as His Son,
    2. turning away from your sin, and
    3. being born again through water
      1. so that you can once again
      2. call Him, “Father!”