After last week's revelations about the goings on at Pen State and Coach Joe Paterno, I have realized again how hard it is to finish well. The older I get, I am more and more grateful for men like Billy Graham, whose recent birthday at 93 and his book, Nearing Home, let me know it IS possible to finish well. But, what about the rest of us?
I spoke on this topic this past Sunday at Legacy Church. (If you want to hear that message, you can hear it here.) I highlighted Paul's words to his protege, Timothy, that are recorded in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. I hope to state with confidence the words he confessed in his last season of life as I finish my race.
I have a mentor, Ray Rust, who is 86 now, and with whom I have shared my story and life for over a decade. He moved to the area after retiring as the leader of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. We met at 7th grade B-team basketball game when his grandaughter and my daughter were playing each other. We have been friends since.
Last week, I went to visit Ray and his wife of 65 years, Joy, as I often do. We caught up, and as we finished our slices of pumpkin pie and cups of tea, I asked him, "How would you tell someone to finish well?" He smiled and in humility hesitated to offer me anything. (His hesitation was one more piece of evidence that he is the kind of man I want guiding me.)
Here are some excerpts from our time together that may help you finish well.
"If you compare your life to when you were 45 [He's 86], you will be disappointed. What we have now is a new normal. If you will accept that new normal, you will have a better shot at being happy and being productive."
How do you finish well spiritually? He shared this verse: "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." (Deut. 33:25; KJV) God promises strength for the season. Whatever that may be, God will provide the strength for those demands. "It's not my strength that is in question, but my trust in him."
How would you tell a couple to stay married for 65 years? "Hang around a long time. [He laughed.] It's been a partnership. I don't know of any other way to survive as a couple. Joy has been a partner in ministry wherever we have been. We traveled, and I arranged to go by car as much as possible so she could come with me. We shared ministry together wherever we went, but she had her hobbies, too."
One day his new assistant asked him what AWJ meant on his calendar. He told her, "Away with Joy. And, we don't cancel those. We may cancel that, but you consider that an obligation or appointment. We don't take anything on that day."
You have served Joy almost ten years since her stroke. How have you done that? "The preacher said something about in sickness and health, and he looked pretty serious! And, I think back on that every now and then. I have not been sick one day in the last 91/2 years since her stroke. That is nothing less than a miracle. By God's grace and provision we have made it."
In closing, he commented, "My parents taught my brothers and me to respect our elders. I'm having a hard time finding my elders. There are fewer and fewer elders."
Ray Rust is finishing well. I am blessed to be influenced by such a man. My prayer is that you will have such a person leading you to finish well.
Check out Bob Buford's Finishing Well book, too. The stories are great and the advice helpful.