The good fight

I am celebrating a landmark birthday this week, and such occasions usually prompt some introspection. Moses once prayed: “So teach us to number our days, that we may develop a heart of wisdom” [Psalm 90:12]. What does it look like to have a heart of wisdom? I believe this verse is prompting us to consider our mortality. Are we spending our days wisely and making the best use of the time we’ve been given [Ephesians 5:15-16]? When our time is up, will we die content and victorious, or will we be wallowing in regret?

Sadly, many of us don’t like to think about death. Yet, it’s a date we can’t avoid. Whether we like it or not, we will face it. So, avoiding the subject and refusing to question the trajectory of our lives is the spiritual equivalent of burying one’s head in the sand. As a wise sage once said: “We aren’t ready to live until we’re ready to die”. I also believe that considering our mortality helps us prioritise our time and resources wisely. Our priorities will naturally dictate our pursuits and divert our focus towards agendas that echo in eternity. People who live like this, with eternity in mind, can face death triumphantly because death to them is a conduit to something unimaginably better.

This was brilliantly epitomised by Paul. Stuck in prison on death row, he genuinely struggled to choose between living on and dying [Philippians 1:21-25]. However, when his time was up, he penned these words: “For I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” [2 Timothy 4:6-8]. Paul wasn’t afraid of death because he knew he had spent his days focusing on what truly matters.

Do you want to face death with the confidence typified by Paul? If so, what are you doing with your life? I’ve seen a few people post on social media as they celebrate birthdays that they’re living their best lives. What index is used to calculate this? Is it accomplishments, bank balance, possessions, family, power or influence? There’s a curious verse tucked away in Acts about David. It simply says this: “… David, after he had served God’s purpose in his generation, fell asleep, and was buried among his fathers and underwent decay” [Acts 13:36]. That was essentially a summary of David’s life, given over a millennium after his death. That was how God judged David’s life. How will He judge ours?

Something occurred to me recently; I was a thought in God’s mind before I was conceived — a thought so comprehensive that it included the daily details of my entire life [Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:16]. What’s incredibly amazing is that although God has a detailed plan for my days, He never compels me to do His bidding. Consequently, for most of my life, I made my plans and decided what I wanted for my life. Occasionally, when uncertain, I’d ask God for help with my plans, but that seldom worked. Interestingly, when I didn’t ask Him what He intended for me, which was often, I found joy and fulfilment elusive. Honestly, one of the reasons I didn’t ask was because I often assumed that God’s plans for me would involve suffering and doing things I wouldn’t enjoy.

I sense many people have similar struggles because many of us have warped paradigms about God’s intentions. Accordingly, we spend our days trying to build our lives ourselves, futilely expecting to do a better job than God. Intrinsically, we know we can’t, but the allure of self-determination often wins. Some realise the vainness of this path at death’s door. But the wise realise this much sooner. They grasp that God is a benevolent Father who wants our best [Romans 8:32], so they seek His will. God is all-knowing, infinitely powerful and eternally committed to loving us. So, His plans for us will always exceed ours in every possible way.

If you’re reading this, and you’ve never contemplated your mortality, maybe it’s time to do so. As morbid as this might sound, imagine your dying moments; how would you like to be remembered years from then? More importantly, how do you want God to view the life you lived? The psalmist tells us that the death of a saint is precious in God’s sight [Psalm 116:15]. That implies that God approved of such a life [Romans 14:18, 1 Thessalonians 2:4]. Here’s the thing: such a life doesn’t just happen. Our flesh, the world, and the devil are constantly fighting to prevent us from fulfilling God’s agenda in our lives [1 John 2:16,1 Peter 5:8]. But, we’re called and equipped to fight back [Ephesians 6:10-18].

Our fightback must be intentional and lifelong. We must ruthlessly pull down every stronghold in our lives and beyond that opposes God [2 Corinthians 10:4-6]. We do this as we allow God to work in us; transforming us to be more like Jesus so that He can work through us to advance His purposes. Death will come when it’s time, but today, as my days slowly ebb away, I must ask myself: what trajectory is my life on? Am I like Paul fighting the good fight, or am I living in folly, prioritising vain pursuits [Ecclesiastes 1:14]?

When my time is up, what will matter most is whether I served God’s purposes for my generation. Ultimately, everything I do with my life will be pointless if God judges that I didn’t fight the good fight, finish my course and keep the faith. I’d be wise to keep this at the forefront of my mind, always [Ecclesiastes 12:13-14].

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