Aim for a Better Ending

"The LORD appeared to Solomon one night in a dream and told him, "Ask me for whatever you want and I'll give it to you" - 1Ki 3:5.

Usually a good beginning is indicative of a good ending. This is why people plan so that they can start right and hopefully end right. No sane person would start something knowing that the ending is a disaster. Even those who fumbled and stumbled in the beginning will still hope for a happy ending if they can.

But not all good beginnings end well. Practically all marriages are good and happy beginnings but we know how many of those marriages end up in bitterness and painful separation. Friendships can also go sideways. Once very close friends can bow be brutal enemies. A good career today doesn't mean a happy retirement because it can end up rather abruptly in a termination. A good ministry today can lose its credibility and name, shattered by a scandal or an accusation.

Solomon is a perfect example of one who started well and ended up not so well. As a young ruler, he was asked by God what he wanted. The possibilities were endless and the opportunity wide open for any request. Where many would have opted for things with instant gratification like riches, power and fame, Solomon picked wisdom so that he can rule well. God was pleased with that answer from the young king and his request was promptly granted, making Solomon the wisest king who ever lived.

Naturally, Solomon's wisdom was widely sought by other people and even other kings. Those kings didn't just offer Solomon their riches but also their daughters for marriage. Solomon became very rich indeed and also very polygamous. Soon, this man who gave out so many wise advice to others, forgot what he taught and began to follow a path that will lead him and the nation into a sad ending. The last book that he wrote was the Book of Ecclesiastes which contain not just a bitter conviction of his wasted life bordering on cynicism. The word that he repeatedly used to show for this is "vanity" which he mentioned a total of 33 times. Of the twelve chapters in the book, only one chapter does not contain that word but there he also mentions that even fools can sit in high places or riding horses while the rich and the prince can be walking on the ground. Another example of a situation which he refers to as vanity in other chapters.

What caused Solomon to become cynical and frustrated at the end of his life? What caused him to this sad ending, worse compared to his good beginning? The simple answer is he disobeyed the commandments of God. His own writing confirms that he indulged himself in many sensual things. It appears he was not very kind to ordinary people whom he used for his many ambitious projects. His love for money may have caused burdens to his people in the form of taxes. His love for women enabled idolatry to enter the nation and corrupt that land. There may be more but the sum of the matter is that in the end, God made a judgment upon him saying that because he disobeyed God, the nation will be torn apart into two after him.

Aiming for a better ending means living your life in such a way that today is better than yesterday. In practical terms, it can mean that you have improved at least in one area of your life today compared to yesterday. It's not enough that you can say I know more today compared to yesterday because even without doing anything you are likely to know more today. The events of the day will make sure of that. But that's accidental learning. You have no control over those things that you learn accidentally and therefore they may not always be of any benefit to you. Being an improved version of you today is more than simply knowing more, passively. It requires intentional not accidental learning.

The first place to check is in the intellectual area. Have you read at least one article or listened to at least one talk by some expert in some field? If your readings are just for pleasure or entertainment, it won't do. There must be something in what you're reading that will stir up your thoughts to be analytical, to process information using reason and logic and better still to impact an area of your life.

The next check area is in skill. It can be a new recipe that you have tried for the first time. A new software or productivity app that can improve your craft or help you do your daily work more efficiently. Or it can be a tool or an instrument that you need to learn inside and out to maximize it's usefulness. If you are a teacher, are you a better teacher today than yesterday? If you're a sports person, what new technique have your learned or what old skill have you practiced more that improves your play today?

Third is your living environment and that includes not just the space but also people. Putting order into our living space is easier said than done. The number one impediment to that is that we always find something more enjoyable to do or "more important" to do. But we heard the saying that a disorderly environment hardly encourages an orderly thought or mood.

How often do we postpone rearranging that closet? Or moving some furnitures around? Or finally sorting out things that we ought to have thrown away a long time ago and have become unnecessary clutters?

When it comes to people, have we upgraded our relationships? Do we connect more today to people we should be connecting to than yesterday? Have we reached out more today than yesterday? Have we done a "house cleaning" as far as who should remain in our inner circle and who should better be demoted to the outer circle of friends? This is where we decide who are the people who help us grow as a person and whose company we should have more or less with.

Another area is, yes, entertainment. I have to include this because it will always be part of our life. No one can live without this, unless we are the kind who can turn work into an entertainment or we have so conditioned our mind to think that what we do is also enjoyable. We are blessed if we enjoy what we do but not all of us are in that situation. The reason I include this is not so that we can have more entertainment today than yesterday. If anything, today's entertainment, especially the technology dependent ones, are usually designed to hook us and cause us to spend more and more time in them. This is not for our best interest but for the interest of the game maker. Therefore, an area of improvement here is in the increase of our self-control and discipline. Are we in control of our time here or is the game in control of us. Is the cost of playing this game costing us more and more with every new day or is it decreasing?

Finally, and most importantly, our spiritual life. Is every day a spiritual improvement? Are we studying the word of God more? Are we serving more? Are we convicted more? What new thing did you discover about the Lord today that you don't know yesterday? What new insight has He impressed in your heart? What additional divine desire is developed in you which you didn't have yesterday? What increase in dedication, commitment and sacrifice has the Holy Spirit planted in our souls? Will you give more to God this coming payday than you did in the last one? Will you spend more time learning how to make the quality of your servitude reach a higher level? Is your work output for the Lord getting better in terms of quality and quantity? Are you more thankful, more forgiving, more patient, more prayerful?

It's necessary to evaluate our life on a regular basis if we want to end better than we started. We can't avoid this evaluation. Some may hesitate to do this for several reasons. One reason is that, one can suspect there's not much to evaluate because one can already predict no improvement or if there is, its nothing to write home about. Another reason to hesitate is it forces one to think. It can sound trivial but you will be surprised how many people would avoid thinking much if they can. Thinking can give some people who are not used to it a headache. Then there is always the issue of plain laziness. For many people, evaluating one's life is a boring exercise. An time-consuming activity that's better spent on something else.

But can we really live a life like we don't care whether we end it well or not? Would you rather be like Solomon? Or it's better to be like Apostle Paul who, at the end of his life was not enumerating all the vain things that he did but instead declared these words: "I have fought a good fight, I have completed the race, I have kept the faith"? Your choice because you actually have so much to say about your ending.

(Photo credit: Christian Fitness Ministry)