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My Website where you will find: ordering information and chapter summaries for The Beauty of God for a Broken World; audio sermons; a few poems and hymns; and some other essays.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Importance of Ending Well

When Heather and I were students at Moody Bible Institute (1967-1970), the president of the school was Dr. William Culbertson. One of the things he stressed in his chapel messages was the importance of ending well. I don’t suppose I thought much about that during the early years of my ministry, but this year I turned sixty-three, and Dr. Culbertson’s exhortation has been echoing in my heart. What does it mean to end well?

William Culbertson

Dr. Culbertson
(He looked older when we knew him.)

First, it means to maintain a good Christian testimony and reputation to the end of my life. Dr. Culbertson was contending with cancer by the time we left Moody. He was too weak to attend our graduation and he died some months later. We were not aware of his illness until very near the end of the year, but I never saw anything in him except Christ-honoring gentleness. I remember one day when I was hanging out one upper stories of Crowell Hall washing windows. My partner accidentally dropped a water soaked sponge that hit Dr. Culbertson as he walked by. I don’t remember if he even looked up as he continued walking, but all of us on the crew were petrified. We assumed that we would be called into his office and raked over the coals. After a few days had passed and nothing had happened, we decided it was better that the sponge had hit Dr. Culbertson than the vice president of the school. That may have been very unfair to the vice-president, but that is what we said.

Second, ending well means to stay at my post. In this too, Dr. Culbertson is my model. Certainly I may have to reduce my workload in a few years, or the Lord may change my assignment, but I don’t believe God will want me to spend the last years before I meet Him in idleness. I have many hobbies that could keep me occupied for a long time—fishing, hunting, hiking, reading, making telescopes, and observing the stars. Sometimes I wish I had more time for these pursuits, but I dare not make that my goal. I want my service to Christ to last as long as He gives me strength and a reasonable portion of mind. Hobbies are for renewing body and soul, not for living.

Third, ending well means pushing myself to keep growing in Christ and acquiring new useful skills, or at least maintaining old ones. For a number of years I have read the Greek New Testament through every year. This year I am reading a chapter a day alternating between Greek, Latin, and German. The goal is to keep my mind sharp and to force myself to notice things I might pass by in the familiar English version. About three evenings a week I read a chapter from the Hebrew Old Testament. This is a new endeavor made possible by the acquisition of A Reader’s Hebrew Bible, which provides vocabulary entries at the bottom of each page for words used fewer than 100 times. I have become more intentional about getting something out of my reading as well. Except on the busiest days, I make sure I write something about what I have read.

Fourth, ending well means staying flexible and being willing to try new things. I don’t know what that might mean, but I pray that the Lord will enable me to hear His quiet voice. Should we be doing something different at church? Does He want me to write another book? How can we reach out more effectively to lost people in our area and around the world? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but may God graciously keep my eyes and ears open to His work.