Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Finish Matters Most ...

I did a funeral today. "Did a funeral" doesn't sound good but it is the phrase most often used about a pastor leading, speaking or doing a funeral. It was for a man that I knew fairly well and yet not well at all. My first encounter with him was when the family called because the doctor said he probably wouldn't make it through the night and they should call family and a minister. I was selected as the minister and I went to the hospital, met the family and prayed with them and the patient. We talked a lot that night. I returned the next day, he was hanging on and doing a little better. My wife and I were leaving on vacation that day, in fact when we went to the hospital the car was already packed. I gave the family my cell phone number asked them to keep me informed. He continued to improve and by the time I returned from a week's vacation he was back in a care facility. That began a nearly 4 year experience of visits 2 to 4 times a month.

I got to know him and he got to know me. We each enjoyed the visits, at least he said he enjoyed them, and looked forward to them. As I got to know him I also introduced him to a good friend of mine, Jesus Christ. Through time he learned more and eventually made a decision to accept Christ's forgiveness. He had two major surgeries, which the doctors were not sure he would survive. He had a another time of us not being sure he would make it around Thanksgiving last year. He became known as the comeback kid. He wasn't a kid, but you get the idea.

As his health deteriorated I kept probing on his relationship with Christ and he assured me that it was still good. In fact just a couple of weeks ago, sensing we might not have a lot of time left, I asked him if his relationship was good and up to date. He responded firmly that it was good. He couldn't comeback this time and went to be with Jesus last weekend. Today we honored him and had the mix of emotions as we held his funeral.

I said at the beginning that I knew him fairly well and yet not well at all. What I meant was that I knew his final years, as he was mainly confined to bed and a care facility. I didn't know him as he was younger and active. I knew a lot about those years, but I learned a lot more in the past few days. But what really struck me today was that it is not the beginning, but the finish that matters most. You see he didn't live for Christ for most of his life, but in the end he received him as his savior. The finish was most important. Don't misunderstand me, the start and the middle matter a lot, but they can be overcome if we finish well.

I coached cross country for many years. It is distance racing, I know those sound like contradictory terms. The start of the race was important, the middle counted too, but it was only the finish that was recorded and remembered. The papers never published starting positions and no ribbons or medals were given for leading at the mid-point. What was recorded and rewarded was the finish.

How will you finish? No matter where you are right now, you can still finish well.


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