The path of the righteous is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
In spite of the examples of Solomon and several other kings, we need not assume that a man’s last days should be days of spiritual decline. Think of Jacob after his return to Canaan. He who had always been so restless settled down quietly in the land. There, in the sphere of his own family, he underwent many sorrows and disappointments, yet in them all he displayed a patience and concern for others quite foreign to the selfish character of his earlier years. Or see him again in Egypt, as father of its mighty ruler Joseph. Whereas the Jacob of former days would have eagerly grasped at this new opportunity for self-advancement, the mellow old man he now was seemed quietly content to maintain in the background. The mature prophetic blessing of such a man afford a fitting climax to the book of Genesis.
The Bible teaches us in multiple passages that we are running a race- the race of life in which how we finish is as important as how we start. Far too often there are those who have begun well who drop out along the way, if not fully then partially as they lose their enthusiasm and desire to continue to pursue Christ and righteousness. Indeed there are those who love as though the Christian life is a career in which we put in our thirty years and then we retire, content to watch the activity of God from our recliner. Others find themselves in older years giving themselves to the pursuit of pleasures at the neglect of their souls. Many are there who have said, “As soon as I retire, I’m going to give God more of my time,” only to choose instead to continue to fill their lives with other things.
Solomon was such. We read that he began well. As he starts his reign as king, we find him engaged in building the temple. His request to God is for wisdom and understanding rather than power or wealth. At the dedication of the temple, the glory of God fills it so powerfully that none can enter or minister. The wisdom that God granted Solomon soon became evident in the story of the two women and the child. Unfortunately Solomon decided to begin to pattern his life after the social norms of the day by marrying daughters of heathen kings for the sake of making alliances and allowing them to bring and continue to worship their gods. This path led him to experiment with life and according to his words he withheld nothing. The final chapter of his life is recorded in the words of Ecclesiastes:
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher.“Vanity of vanities! All [that is done without God’s guidance] is vanity [futile, meaningless—a wisp of smoke, a vapor that vanishes, merely chasing the wind].”
What a sad ending to a life that began well. The question for us then is there another ending? And there is!
The Apostle Paul describes such an end in his final letter to Timothy:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure [from this world] is at hand and I will soon go free. I have fought the good and worthy and noble fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith [firmly guarding the gospel against error]. In the future there is reserved for me the [victor’s] crown of righteousness [for being right with God and doing right], which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that [great] day—and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved and longed for and welcomed His appearing.”
2 Timothy 4: 6-8
In previous sentences, Paul describes how one may obtain such an end:
“This is a faithful and trustworthy saying:If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him;If we deny Him, He will also deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful [true to His word and His righteous character], for He cannot deny Himself.”
2 Timothy 2: 11-13
Let’s compile a list:
We died with Him indicating that we gave up our selfish, self-centered ways and placed ourselves completely at the disposal of Christ, allowing Him to choose for us our path.
We endure. Sometimes we have to keep walking by faith and not by sight especially in the dark, stormy times of life when we feel like we’re being blown by the winds of adversity and tossed about by waves of troubles. We sink our anchor deep into the rock of our foundation, Jesus Christ and trust in His keeping power.
We refuse to deny Him even when we are taunted by those of the world who ask us n the midst of our sorrow and disappointment, “Where’s your God now?” We do this knowing that He will never deny us if we continue to confess Him.
We hold to the truth that He us ever faithful, never leaving, nor forsaking, but with us always. David reminds us of this powerful truth in Psalm 23: “Yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou are with me.”
Staying on course isn’t always easy for the storms of life often blow us off course. In such times, make a course correction. How can we know we’re off course? Ships off course and in the fog look for the lighthouse sending out its light so they won’t flounder and sink on the shoals. We have such a light in Christ who shines even through the most intense mists and His light never dims or fades from view.
The writer of Hebrews sums up instructions on how we can finish well:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]. Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12: 1-2
What then is the reward for staying the course and finishing well? Will it be worth the effort and the energy expended? You’d better believe it. Listen to what Jesus said about it:
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.’
Many are the stories of those who stopped feet from safety and died because they gave up too soon. Let us keep running the race!
Dr. John Thompson