The Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to being like a race. He exhorted, “…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” Heb.12:1-2. In a race, what counts is how we end.
These words became very real to me through an experience I had as a young pastor. Due to many pressures that I was enduring, I had asked the Lord to end my life and take me to heaven. In answer to my prayer, one night an angel came and woke me up around 3 am. He stood a little above my bed and I came out of my body and stood by him.
Looking down at my body, I realized that my life was over and I could no longer serve the Lord upon this earth. A certain sadness came into my heart, and then the angel turned and we began a very speedy journey towards heaven past the moon and the stars. The gates to eternity became clearer and clearer as we traveled, faster than the speed of light. But the nearer we approached, the heavier my heart became.
When we stopped before those golden gates, my life was shown to me in a series of pictures from birth to death. Some pictures were blank because I had asked the Lord for forgiveness for those offences. There was absolutely no record of those failures. Praise the Lord!
But then I was shown God’s plan for my life, which had been decided before the foundation of the world. I saw that I was dying before my time, and my heart was overcome with sadness. I cried out in agony that I might be permitted to return to earth to fulfill His plan. This was apparently granted, for although I heard no voice, the angel at my side turned with me, and we went speeding back to earth and arrived at my bed. There was my body, lying next to my sleeping wife. The angel touched me and I went back into my body.
Later when I asked the Lord why I had that experience, He told me that I was to warn His people what it is like to stand at the judgment seat of Christ. Not only will we answer for those deeds done on earth, but we will also be judged as to whether or not we have fulfilled the Lord’ s purposes for our lives. To run a good race and complete God’s plans for our lives we must consider three areas: the character we develop, the ministry that we gain, and also the fruit of that ministry.