Among the words we hear describing people who are in the last quarter of the game of life, (the 65 and above) “vulnerables” is a new word brought along with COVID-19. We calendar-challenged ones are suddenly forced into a position of solitude where we are expected to contemplate our mortality. Literally, way more than “a thousand are falling at our side and ten thousand at our right hand” as victims of the virus. (Psalm 91) And unless we follow all the safety protocol, we are not at all sure that the pestilence “will not come nigh me.” After all, we are vulnerable!
I am obliged to think of end-of-life-and-beyond issues in case I might be one of those thousands falling at my side. I should examine myself soberly now, while I still have time to do something about it. How I have lived after I became a follower of Christ determines whether God will welcome me to Himself with the words “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Or I might simply hear the words “Well!—Done!” in the sense of relief that I have finally finished my life. But I may not have finished well.
My welcome into God’s presence will not be based on my being a “good and perfect servant.” All have missed the mark of perfection. Nor am I qualified by being good in the sense of depending on my own righteousness or good works.
Nor is my welcome based on being a successful servant. How I define success may be far from how God defines it; His ways are higher than our ways.
Nor will it be because I have been a well-known servant. God’s highest commendation may be given to a believer who has lived his or her life in relative but holy obscurity.
Nor will it be based on my being the always busy servant. Being busy and active even in so-called Christian service is not the same as being spiritually fruitful, which is what the Lord is after. God defines fruitfulness, and it may not be what we think it is.
“Good and faithful servant” is God’s expectation of how I should live my life on earth. I am good when I stand in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God sees me as being “in Christ” and works with me as I “work out [not work for] my own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) God’s way is to transform me through the process of my lifetime into the image of His Son. God commends me on my faithfulness to the unique purpose for which He gave me life and how obediently I have walked in His ways.
It is fairly easy to begin well—but to finish well is more important and more difficult. It shouldn't be depressing or morbid to talk about the end of life and what is our hope of life to come. It is realistic. What begins, naturally looks toward completion. Truly it seems difficult to find people who are at ease to discuss the serious matters I am dealing with in this short piece.
We don't have to be elderly to consider this subject. People finish their lives at different ages and in different ways. Illness, accident, acts of war, hereditary factors, our own poor choices and habits, or natural catastrophes cut life short for many who never attain to an advanced age. None of us is guaranteed open-end time to work on this matter of finishing well. I must live purposefully in the moment every single day as if it were my last and so be well on the way at all times in the process of finishing well.
Many Christians who begin well don’t finish well because they take detours along life’s journey. Some deviate drastically from God’s purposes for their lives, others drop out along the way, still others gradually slip back because the way seems too difficult and they feel that the odds are against them. It is never too late. There is always hope to ask for the mercy of God, re-calibrate our direction and still finish well. God is the God not only of the second chance, the third chance or the hundredth chance.
In whatever stage of life or age we find ourselves, since we are still alive, we can do something about finishing well in the sight of God and man. I don't want to limp exhausted and in last place over the Finish Line of my life’s race, or to make it through life “as well as can be expected under the circumstances.” I can't imagine that God would be grading on the curve.
Biblical examples abound of some who were good beginners but poor finishers and others who were bad beginners but good finishers. King Saul began well and finished miserably. King David began well but in some respects finished with a considerably less than perfect score. King Jehoshaphat began well and finished poorly. His son began wickedly and finished admirably. Saint Paul began terribly and finished gloriously. Contemporary examples also illustrate both good beginnings, bad outcomes and vice versa.
To finish well is the really big test! I don't want to simply coast to the end, but I'd like to finish with a flourish! In my older calendar-challenged years, it is easy to let my guard down, to drift spiritually, to grow slack in my full obedience to the Lord. I have to be careful. I am in danger of undoing all the good and positive reputation and witness for God of my earlier years. I pray that God will give me wisdom and an obedient heart so that I may not disgrace Him as I near life's end.
I titled my blog “The Rest of the Way.” Everyone has a rest of the way. It doesn't matter whether a person is barely starting out on his journey of life in his youth or nearing the Finish Line, if he is breathing, he still has some rest of the way. In my senior years, whether I have only a month, a minute, or a decade left, I must live with intentionality and spend my time well, invest it rather than squander it or passively watch it fly by.
The last few minutes of a football game can change the final score. God expects us to build our lives to outlast the storm, to persevere and endure to our last breath—to finish well, to be faithful unto death or until Christ returns.
The Rest of The Way
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