“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” Hebrews 3:14 | KJV
It is the last step that wins; and there is no place in the pilgrim’s progress where so many dangers lurk as the region that lies hard by the portals of the Celestial City. It was there that Doubting Castle stood. It was there that the enchanted ground lured the tired traveler to fatal slumber. It is when Heaven’s heights are full in view that hell’s gate is most persistent and full of deadly peril. “Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” “So run, that ye may obtain.”
The problem of getting great things from God is being able to hold on for the last half hour. (Streams in the Desert)
None of us fully understand death until we die, and then it is too late to do anything about it, but what we can say is that what matters most is what we do before the end comes. Who did we love? How did we love? What difference did it make? Who will continue to tell our tale, and what will its color be? For better or worse, our story never ends with us.
Fortunately for many of us, the way we finish will be the way we are remembered. We want our children and grandchildren to get off to a strong start and we pour ourselves into them to that end; our parents and others likely did the same for us. I know that Henry and Lois did for me. But life has a way of throwing us off course, often of our own choosing. Headstrong and heart-hard we march smugly away from our upbringing and stumble onto treacherous trails that steal pieces of our heart on our way down. The Father waits at the end of each wayward road to set us back on course when we come to ourselves and the end of our pride. That moment of reckoning begins the best and most fruitful period of life, regardless of how heavily the scale of time tips toward what went before. What matters for eternity is what I do with the days that remain. It is never too late to begin living well. I have told my wife on more than one occasion that I request only three words engraved beneath my name on my cement headstone, if she can honestly say them when my end comes: “He finished well.”