Summary: If we want to finish well, then we must love deeply. That means we must pursue reconciliation, reach out to strangers, and serve each other with the gifts and strength God abundantly and extravagantly provides to every believer.
There has been a lot of talk about the end of the world lately. Harold Camping is still predicting the end of the world on October 21, 2011, even though his predictions about the rapture of the church did not come true on May 21, 2011. Others are saying that the end of the world will come on December 21, 2012, when the ancient Mayan calendar runs out.
Now, most of us file these predictions in the garbage bin of our minds, and well we should, because Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour” (Matthew 24:36), but what if the end of the world should really come in the near future?
Paul Thigpen, in the book Holy Hilarity, describes how the news media would announce it. Sports Illustrated: “Game's Over!” Ladies' Home Journal: “Lose 10 Pounds by Judgment Day with Our New Armageddon Diet!” Inc. Magazine: “Ten Ways You Can Profit from the Apocalypse.” CNN: “World Ends; Women and Children Most Affected.” AOL: “System Temporarily Down. Try [Again] in 15 Minutes.” (Paul Thigpen, quoted in Holy Hilarity: Inspirational Wit and Cartoons by Cal and Rose Samra, Waterbrook Press, 1999, p. 15; www.PreachingToday.com)
Let me tell you: when the end of the world actually does come, there is no “try again.” So how do we prepare for the end, which the Bible says could happen at any time? At the very least, how do we prepare for the end of our lives, which for many of us could come much sooner than we think?
1 Peter 4:7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. (NIV)
Now, with all the persecution and suffering going on among the original readers of these words, the end of all things seemed very near. At the very least, many of them personally did not have long to live, because Nero was killing a lot of Christians in those days.
So Peter gives them and us some very practical advice on how to end our time on this earth well. This is the Bible: some Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth, and that basic instruction clearly says, “Don’t lose your head.” When you think the end is near, don’t go crazy. Instead…
BE SENSIBLE AND SOBER so you can pray intelligently.
“Be clear minded and self-controlled,” vs.7 says. The word for “clear-minded” is used in Romans 12 where it says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment” – i.e., with a clear. As the end approaches, the end of our lives or the end of the world, we must be careful not to overestimate or underestimate our own importance.
(illus.) As an eight-year-old boy growing up in Hawaii, Brian Clay dreamed of winning one of the most prized gold medals in the Olympic Games – the decathlon, which he did at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
In the decathlon, athletes earn points for their marks in ten events over two days. With a commanding lead going into the last event, the 1,500-meter run, Clay could have just coasted to the finish line and still earned the gold medal, but Clay was not one to coast. Afterwards, reporters asked him when he knew he had the decathlon wrapped up, and Clay responded, “In the last race when I was about 10 feet away from the finish line – that's when I knew I'd won.”
You see, Clay didn’t take anything for granted. He said, “I'd worked, trained, and competed for eight years to be able to … have the gold [medal] hanging around my neck. And if there was anything those eight years of competition had taught me it was that in competing against the best in the world in ten grueling events, anything can go wrong before you cross the finish line.” (Dennis Rainey, Stepping Up, Family Life: 2011, p. 180; www.PreachingToday.com)
Brian Clay was sensible and sober in the way he approached the end of the decathlon, and it’s the way we need to be as we approach the end of our time on this earth. We take nothing for granted. Instead, we do everything we can, in dependence upon God, to finish strong and to finish well.
The question is: How do we do that? How do we finish strong and finish well? Well, the answer is found in the following verses. Look at verse 8.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (NIV)
If we’re going to finish well, then more than anything else, we must…