The end of the year tends to be both a time of reflection and anticipation. We look back at where we’ve been and look forward to where we intend to go.
This is the 61st year-end for me, and as my life gets closer to the finish line, the important things, and not so important things, become more clear to me. And one of those important things is ending well.
Ending well is more important than beginning well. What divides those who succeed and those who don’t is perseverance and staying true to oneself. That’s why I believe ending well comes from living well.
Living well has little to do with being famous, financially successful, or being more advantaged. Beyond the very basic necessities of life, it matters little if one is rich or poor. The good news is that one can live life well regardless of these superficial trappings that people seem to grasp after. I believe it has more to do with perspective than popularity or privilege.
As the 60s prophet, John Lennon, once wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” I’ve found this to be true.
So, wouldn’t it better to let good things happen while we’re making other plans?
For me, living well means living fully, without fear of what might happen, without regret, doing what you love, being loved without conditions and learning how to love without them, enjoying friendships and meaningful relationships that last through thick and thin and for better or worse.
It’s found in stopping to smell the proverbial roses, it’s in the joyful discovery of the unanticipated treasure of the moment, it’s seeing beauty in everyone, and staying in childlike wonder about the miracle of life.
I believe the key to living fully and ending well is in maintaining our heart. The heart is the gatekeeper of all things. Here’s how Proverbs puts it:
23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Prov.4:23 NLT)
Did you read that? It’s says that our heart (seat of our affections) determines the path our life will take. How our heart goes, our life goes. This has to do with who we will become, where we will work, how we will live, what we will believe (see “Believing is a heart issue“)…our outlook on life. How we respond to a circumstance is more important than the circumstance.
The Passion Translation says it this way:
23 So above all, guard the affections of your heart,
for they affect all that you are.
Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being,
for from there flows the wellspring of life. (Prov. 4:23 TPT *)
King Solomon had all the wealth and wisdom of the world, yet he didn’t end well. Here is his sad testimony:
4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. (1 Kings 11:4-6 NIV *)
While the testimony of Solomon’s father, David—hardly an example of perfect behavior—was that he was “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), Solomon’s heart led him into idolatry. That alone should be instructive to us.
As a pastor, I’ve seen too many people not end well…in their marriage, family relationships, friendships, careers…their faith in God. And the one common denominator I find is a heart not managed well. Something happened to make them close their heart to what it was once open to.
Jesus said this about why He came:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV).
I’ve said this before: the goal of following Jesus is so that we would become fully human. To be fully human is to be fully alive and emotionally whole. Conversely, some of the “thieves” that rob our life are: anger, unforgiveness, self-pity, resentment, envy, disappointment, regret, greed, lust, fear…these insidious “demons” victimize us and create trapdoors that lock away our heart and hides this ‘life fully lived’ from us.
And when our heart closes, so do our possibilities. We forget who we are, we don’t see the path before us clearly anymore. Our perspective grows dark and our lives get overly-complicated and full of anxiety. The biggest problem with a closed heart is that we don’t see it, so we usually blame it all on a whole host of other things. And so it goes.
Beloved, make sure you take care of your heart. As we close this year and get ready to begin a new one, don’t just make more empty New Year promises, do a heart check-up. Ask yourself, “What am I glad, mad, or sad about?” Be honest with yourself, rejoice in the good, recognize the bad and let it go. Most importantly, resolve to remove the trapdoors over your heart. Then, look up, because a life fully lived has just opened up before you.
May you have the best year yet in 2018! Blessings to you.