One of the defining moments in my life occurred at a restaurant table nearly thirty years ago. Across the table was a man who had been one of my childhood heroes. Years earlier, he had preached in our church and signed my Bible.
So, when he called me to tell me he would be in the area and would like to take me to lunch, I was thrilled. I could hardly wait to tell him what God was doing in our ministry and to ask him questions. I pictured a mentoring-type of conversation, and I was humbled that he wanted to make himself available to me.
To my great disappointment, he didn’t bring up spiritual topics at all. In fact, within a few minutes, I learned that he was out of the ministry and had actually taken me to lunch because he wanted to sell me life insurance! In those moments, I quietly resolved in my own heart to finish my life doing what God called me to do from the beginning.
I love the imagery the Apostle Paul gave as he told Timothy that he would soon be departing. With an unbroken record of faithful ministry behind him, he wrote, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6). As you read that, you can picture a ship preparing to pull out of the harbor—the time of departure has come.
That time will come for all of us. And when it comes for me, I want to have spent my life in such a way that I don’t have regrets. Like the apostle, I want to be able to say, “I am now ready.”
Of course, none of us know when our ship will leave the harbor. How can we live every day in such a way that we are ever-ready for that moment?
1. Nurture your relationship with God. Spend time with the Lord every day. Talk to Him in prayer; listen to His voice through His Word. This may sound elementary, but it is a foundational truth that we too easily ignore. Our walk with God should be the foundation of everything we do for God. No one falls out of ministry or his commitment to his spouse without first neglecting his walk with God.
2. Always forgive. I don’t want to leave this planet—or even finish a single day—not right with another person. There is no grudge worth the burden of carrying. As a pastor, I counsel so many whose lives are filled with pain because of bitterness or unresolved conflicts. I don’t want to live that way; and I surely don’t want to die that way.
3. Witness to everyone you can. Have you ever resisted the Holy Spirit’s prompting to witness to someone and then walked away with that nagging feeling—“I should have given him a tract”? I hate that feeling! We ought to never be ashamed of the Lord or be too busy to stop and witness to someone we meet. Every relationship or encounter with another person is a stewardship from God for the Gospel. I want to steward them wisely.
4. Invest in your family. I wasn’t as careful in this area when I first started in the ministry, although I did work at it. I’m thankful for older men who coached me along the way to make my family a priority. With my children all married now, I find myself wanting to tell younger men, “Take time with your family!” Your wife needs you. Love her. Listen to her. Take her on dates. Recognize and make time for her needs. Your children need you, too. They need you to give them lots of time—to read the Bible with them, to take them to the park, to take lots of pictures with them…to just enjoy them and let them know how much you love them and how special they are.
“Finishing well” is the result of daily preparation along the way. It is living each day so you will not have accumulated regrets at the end.
Could you right now echo the words of Paul, “I am now ready”?