It is human nature to look upon our life with optimism. Whether we look upon each day as half empty or half full, we do expect to live that day. Therefore, we live each day with confidence of the next, and can easily ignore the truth that no day is promised.
Living with the End in Mind is experiencing each day with an understanding the arc of our life has a beginning and an ending. We can’t precisely know where we are on the invisible timeline which exists and is known only by God.
“All of the days ordained for me were written in your
book before one of them came to be.”
If we imagine the reality that the next twenty-four hours may be our last, what five end-of-life decisions should we have made that have allow us to spend our last chapters Anticipating Heaven? Spiritual comfort and practical wisdom are found in these decisions:
- I have decided to know what I believe. Martin Luther wrote,
“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”
From my personal experience in medicine, I have yet to meet a person who was dying who didn’t examine his or her belief system as death approached. Faith in Jesus Christ becomes the strength to battle weakness, the peace to battle fears, the confidence to battle the unknowns, and the hope that battles despair.
Regardless of what you believe this very moment that you are reading, I pray you will open your heart and mind to these scriptures.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,
which we have looked at and our hands have touched…
this we proclaim concerning the Word of life (Jesus Christ).”
1 John 1:1
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may
Have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his
Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”
1 John 1:3-4
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.
But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in
our defense…Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice
for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one
who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever
lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
I am sometimes asked how I can be so confident in my faith and what happens after my final breath. The truth is in the evidence. The evidence is in who Jesus is to me. When I came to the end of myself in my mid-thirties, I literally cried out to him, and He answered. It was a pivotal moment that even today I get emotional considering. It was just me and Him on a beach and He released me from who I was to who He knew me to be.
From that day it would be statistically impossible to calculate events in my life that clearly revealed his working in my life. The evidence is His very intimate role in my suffering and my success, my pain, and His power.
I could share the persuasive arguments of Apologetic experts such as John Lennox or Alisa Childers. I could also have you listen to the Evangelistic messages from Billy Graham or Alistair Begg. Ultimately, you will only have this side of your final breath to make your decision about what you believe will happen on the other side of your final breath.
The most important end-of-life decisions you need to make include knowing what you believe. The God of the Bible tells us to seek Him and when we do, He will be found.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
- I have decided to live a life of purpose. Purpose evolves over time. When we are young our purpose is often focused on developing ourselves. Education, careers, financial stability are our primary objectives.
With a clear path to meeting our primary goals, our purpose evolves to developing relationships. Lasting friendships, healthy marriages, happy children don’t randomly occur. We must pursue them with purpose. Yet, even our best efforts may fail to bring the desired results because we are now collaborating with another human being.
The strengths (and weaknesses) of our relationships help determine our bandwidth for developing purpose for the sake of others. We begin to focus on a life of significance, rather than a life of success.
The truth is that God doesn’t need us to still use us in any stage of life whether the early chapters or our last chapters.
“All things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Chazown means vision in Hebrew. Craig Groeschel wrote the best-selling book by the same name, and I found it to be the best book for self-evaluation to understand what I am called to with anointing.
The more we understand God’s purpose in our lives, the more we will live our lives with a sense of meaning and fulfillment. It is finding the “sweet spot” of joyful activities for which we were uniquely created.
- I have decided to fully experience my moments. Have you experienced a ride to work and arrived without remembering the details? How about reflecting on the year and perhaps remember the extreme positives or negatives that occurred but not the day at the beach or the moments you looked at your spouse and thought, “I love us.” The past five years have embedded in my mind and heart the importance of living my moments. By studying dying and death I have practiced the art of living intentionally and it feels good!
“God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David
son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;”
Many of the Psalms are written by King David, and they reflect a life living authentically and in the moment. His heart cried out to the Lord on many occasions with praise, with angst, with joy, with anger, with shame, and with desire for Yahweh.
Here are examples of King David writing about his moments:
“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.”
“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.”
“Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.’
“Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths
are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.”
David proceeds to write in Psalm 109 exactly which calamities he would like his enemies to experience. We know David lived his moments because he recorded them. I journal as a method to record my moments that are mundane and momentous.
Another method is to take a mind picture of the moment you want to remember. I do this by noticing the sounds, smells, sights surrounding the moment and how it made me feel. I then imagine I am cataloging the moment in my brain’s library. This is a proven approach to improving memory.
If memory is a problem, write a note or take an actual picture. Most phones allow you to edit the photo with a caption to help you remember.
In conversations I look intently when someone is speaking to me or when I am talking. I realized how many moments I had missed by not paying attention to all the methods of communication which occur when someone talks. Body language, facial expressions, and the eyes each participate in imparting the heart and thoughts of the speaker.
Living in the moment is being fully present in your existence. It is a practice. I fail sometimes, but less today than I did yesterday. With this decision, life becomes richer in the good moments and less chaotic in the bad.
- I have decided to choose my legacy. When we die, we leave a legacy. The legacy we leave can be good or bad when we are unintentional. Those we leave behind unconsciously assess our lives as mostly good or mostly bad. They either adhere to our choices or condemn them and choose an opposite approach to life.
In Scripture we read a death bed scene filled with the concept of legacy. In the Old Testament we meet a man named Jacob. Jacob was the son of Abraham and named Israel by God. He was approaching death and the following occurred:
“Then Jacob called for his sons and said, ‘Gather around so I
can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.’”
“When Jacob had finished giving instructions. To his sons, he drew
his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.”
Jacob spoke his legacy upon his death bed. It was passed through the generations that followed for us to read even today.
Regardless of your age or health condition, you can choose today to leave a legacy that is meaningful. It begins with an authentic assessment of your life. A good exercise is to write your own eulogy. If you have regrets, decide if it is something you can change, and if not forgive yourself and release them. If you have positive comments in your eulogy, write them down for future generations to learn.
Your life has value and wisdom even if you made wrong choices. It is the lessons you have learned from the bad decisions which may help someone else from making the same mistakes.
Develop a personal legacy statement. You can also help your family write a family legacy statement. Each of these choices you make today, and all your tomorrows will help you leave a legacy that is chosen and shaped. Leaving an intentional legacy is the exclamation point on life’s final chapter.
- I have decided to plan. End-of-life planning is probably not at the top of your list of “to dos” unless you are in your final chapter, and you are rushing to plan with a sense of urgency and possibly panic.
Winston Churchill once said, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” While failing to plan for life’s final chapters may not be considered a failure, it does bring extraordinary chaos that is entirely avoidable. Getting the “business of end-of-life” done, allows you to focus on what matters most in any chapter of life. For a detailed list of what you should consider for end-of-life planning, download the free resource: Planning for Peace Checklist.
If you have been given a timeline for your final chapter do not consider it too late to make one or all these end-of-life decisions today. There is a reason you are reading this, and God has designed this divine appointment. He will be your strength when you are weak.
Don’t wait if you have not had a brush with your own mortality to make these end-of-life decisions. A good death is not an event, it is a lifestyle. Considering death brings clarity to life. Don’t we all need more clarity in our lives?