The Air Force sent me to a conference in Virginia. A group of us rented a couple of cars on the weekend to go and visit the Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery is an amazing place. The highlight is watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. It is a fantastic example of military honor, dignity, and precision.
When the changing of the guard was completed, the commanding officer asked the crowd to remain standing in silence. On this day, a Sergeant had completed 27 months of his special duty assignment, and he wanted to pay his respect to the unknown soldiers. The guard escorted his wife and kids to a place of honor.
The commanding officer handed Jennings four roses. He approached the great Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers from the First World War, knelt, and placed a rose before it. Then he moved to the tombs honoring unknown soldiers from the Second World War and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, kneeling to place one red rose upon each.
He returned to his commanding officer and stood before him. At attention, with eyes locked, they shook hands. Then the Sergeant carefully removed his white gloves and returned them to the commanding officer as a symbol that his tour of duty was finished. He saluted his officer and left, walking away, having finished well.
As I watched this exchange, I thought of standing before the Lord Jesus someday, taking off my white gloves and handing them to Him, having finished my tour of duty.
Genesis 49:29-33 says, “Then Jacob instructed them, soon I will die and join my ancestors. Bury me with my father and grandfather in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried. There Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, are buried. And there I buried Leah. It is the plot of land and the cave that my grandfather Abraham bought from the Hittites. When Jacob had finished this charge to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and joined his ancestors in death.”
Jacob instructed that his body be taken back to Canaan so he could be buried in the same place as his grandfather Abraham and his father, Isaac. This was also where Jacob buried Leah. Could it be that Jacob felt remorse regarding how he treated Leah in his later years? Jacob realized how much Leah had suffered that she had not planned this marriage but had become a victim of her father Laban’s evil behavior. Leah gave Jacob six of his sons, that built half of the great nation Israel, as promised by the Lord. Jesus told the Sadducees that the Lord was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Mark 12:26 -27 says, “But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but the God of the living. You are, therefore, greatly mistaken.”
How we end our life, ministry, or relationship is crucial to everything that goes before. Finishing well is so important the Apostle Paul wrote the words of 2 Timothy 4:7 as he sat in a Roman jail, knowing that he was soon to be martyred for his faith in Jesus. Knowing that his life will soon end, we read of his incredible statement as he prepares to go to heaven and be with his Lord:
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.”
Take a moment and reflect on your life’s ups and downs. It is good to take stock of our life and ask the Lord to help us to finish well. Jacob lived 147 years with many successes and failures and had years of suffering and joy. For Jacob, the struggle is over. Jacob had a life of debts and credits like each of us:
Life Debts of Jacob: sickness, injury, and physical sufferings; sins committed; personal injury to Esau; polygamy; he left a legacy of internal strife; a dysfunctional family dynamic, spiritual struggles wrestling with God; His name means one who struggles with God and Jacob struggled with the Lord throughout his life.
Life Credits of Jacob: Committed his life to Jehovah; learned reliance upon God’s guidance; he had a deep and abiding devotion; great faith in God; the father of 12 sons and one daughter; although many transgressions of moral immorality marred his life, yet there were exemplary moments of faith and life lived for the Lord. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac. He was chosen by God despite personal faults and shortcomings and became the recipient of the amazing promise made to Abraham!
On an average day, a person will spend 1,000+ minutes awake. That’s 1,000 minutes to be productive- working toward your goals and making decisions that cultivate the type of person you want to be. And yet, the first five minutes of these 1,000 minutes are the most important for setting the tone of your entire day. Studies show your brain is most susceptible to take in information during the first five minutes of the day. This means that 0.5 percent of your time will determine the other 99.5 percent of it. We end our day, and the same math can make the difference between a good night’s rest or a bad night of tossing and turning. That’s crazy, right?
If you want your day to reflect on Jesus, start your first five minutes with Him and your last five minutes with Him. And if you want the fruit of the spirit to overflow throughout your day — Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” then start your first five minutes and last five minutes with Jesus.
I have fought the good fight each day. I have finished the race of the day. I have kept the faith for the day! I finished well today! Never forget that God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.