There have been times the last sentence took me days to come up with. I ended the essay just to get it finished, then walked away and turned the thing over in my head until finally, as long as a week later, I came up with that punchy last line. There have also been times when I never found it—I just hoped I hadn’t ruined the whole thing with my failure.
The last word of our lives is just as important. Sometimes we want to rest on our laurels, laurels that become bigger to us as the years go by, so big we often get lost in their branches. I once heard an old retired preacher who could not sit in the Bible class without reminding everyone of all he had done in the past. The subject at hand made this particularly ironic. It must have finally struck him that everyone else was talking about their past mistakes and the things they had learned in life which had helped them develop humility. He finally spoke up with, “Oh, as I became older I realized I had been wrong about a few things when I was young—but not very many!” Since we were visiting and he was quite elderly, I went away hoping that did not turn out to be his last word before the Lord.
We cannot count on things we did long ago to save us; we cannot choose what will be our last word and expect God to forget what came after. God told Ezekiel, When I say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his righteousness, and commit iniquity, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in his iniquity that he has committed, therein shall he die, 33:13. God expects us to continue doing right as long as we live. He expects us to continue serving others in whatever way we can. Those right things may change as our circumstances do; our “serving” may reach the point of simple example as our bodies deteriorate. We may actually become the tool to allow others to serve—saying “yes” when others offer to help is just as important, and humble, as offering the help. For many of us, “Thank you,” to a loving brother or sister may be the last words we utter.
God, the Righteous Judge, will be the one with the last word in our final judgment. Nothing I say or do can change the fact that I have sinned and deserve eternal punishment, but the grace of God gives me hope. The last word I want to hear before I leave the realm of Time and enter Eternity is, “Forgiven.”
This is the end of the matter; all has been heard: fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man, Eccl 12:13.