The older I get, the more I find myself crying to God, "Let me end well." I have been stunned to discover how many esteemed leaders in church history did not end their lives well. Even some of my Puritan heroes went to their graves with a lack of assurance in their own salvation, and today many may find themselves in this situation. Let me share with you some of my own greatest fears as I near the end of the race.
First, that God would take His hand off me. This happened to King Saul. He was chosen of God (see 1 Sam. 9:15-16), who had a brilliant beginning (see 1 Sam. 10:9-10), who lost his anointing (see 1 Sam. 16:1; 18:12), yet whose prophetic gift flourished on his way to kill his enemy, young David (see 1 Sam. 19:19-24).
Second, that I would teach what is not exactly true. I cannot bear the thought that I would pass on any measure of theological error. I want to get my thinking right before I stand in a pulpit or take pen in hand. I will have to give an account of every word I have uttered, including every "careless" word (see Matt. 12:36).
What is my assurance that I will not teach heresy? Not my training or level of intelligence, but my unconditional obedience to the Holy Spirit. If my relationship with God is right, I will be kept from any serious error (see John 7:17).
Third, that I could be out of the will of God and not know it. If this could happen to Joseph and Mary, it could happen to us. They went an entire day before they realized they were missing their son (Luke 2:44). It is sobering to realize that God will not bend the rules for any of us. If we proceed without Him, we are on our own.
The only prevention I know of is to develop such an intimate knowledge of the ways of the Holy Spirit that I instantly sense His absence. I do not want to go a day, not even an hour, without His conscious presence.
Fourth, that I could have had much more of God and be used in a greater manner but was prevented by my stubbornness. I just finished a book called How to Forgive Ourselves—Totally. I have made so many mistakes and would give anything to have a second chance in certain areas—especially with my family.
I know I am a forgiven man. Furthermore, I hang on to Romans 8:28, "that all things work together for good to those who love God" (NKJV). I believe this promise with all my heart. But I cannot help but wonder how much better it might have been had I listened to clear cautions from the Lord over the years.
Fifth, that I might not hear God say to me, "Well done." You may believe that all Christians get that very same commendation when they get to heaven. I don't agree. A "rich welcome" is promised on certain conditions (see 2 Pet. 1:11). Some say they don't care about rewards, just getting to heaven. I reply: "You won't feel that way then!" Rewards were very important to the apostle Paul (see 1 Cor. 9:27).
In a word, I want to end well. In a day when there are more and more shocking revelations of those we esteemed so highly, I urge every reader to fall to his or her knees.
This means following Paul's example: "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27, NKJV). One of the reasons the Bible tells us about the judgment seat of Christ is so that it will make a difference in the way we live.
R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Total Forgiveness, The Anointing and The Word and the Spirit. Visit his Web site at: www.rtkendallministries.com.