Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
—1 Corinthians 9:24
Nothing is more difficult for Christians to deal with than a lost, dying relative. We all want the people we love to make it to heaven. Which is why so many of us hope for that deathbed confession by a long wayward father or irascible aunt. And many times, that confession does come. I know that in my church I hear those stories all the time.
But the one story you don’t seem to hear much comes from the other side of the coin.
What about those stalwart Christians who give 50-plus good years of service to God but in those last couple years before passing on seem to lose their way?
Fact is, I’ve witnessed this a lot. That beloved soul who ministered the Gospel so effectively and vibrantly for years goes into himself in the end of life, gets grumpy, loses that holy smile, and just fades out.
I’ve known people who loved God’s word like no one else yet in the last months or years of life lost all zeal for the Scriptures. The pillar of the church who always talked about Jesus suddenly stops doing so. That elderly saint with the warm heart sees it go cold.
Why does this happen? And why don’t I ever hear anyone talking about it? I’ve got to believe that I’m not the only one who has witnessed this phenomenon.
In those situations, what of perseverance of the saints? Does God allow some kind of special grace here? Or is this a failure to finish the race or some kind of long-delayed negative portion of the sower parable, that seed that grew and finally succumbed 60 years later to the strangling weeds?
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
And God knows that’s not how I want to finish the race.