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There are various types of journeys one takes in life. Really, life itself is a journey. For the sake of simplicity I will use two examples with which we are most familiar.

Many of us have taken vacations. It really is good to get away from it all sometimes. The vacation period is allotted to us at work and we begin making plans for it well ahead of time (if we’re wise). Perhaps the trip might be to visit relatives, as it generally was when I was growing up. That was fine, because I liked seeing various other family members. It could be a trip to a specific place, such as Disneyland, Las Vegas, or Paris. Whatever the case, when a vacation is planned the anticipation begins to build. Reality does raise its head as in costs and provisions for the trip as well as to mode of transportation, whether it will be by car or by plane, for instance. At long last the time arrives and you are on your way.

If with relatives you might get to enjoy Grandma’s apple pie one more time. You may get a chance to see the new horse an uncle bought, or play with the puppies a cousin of yours was recently given. Your relatives could take you to see and enjoy a new restaurant or other attraction in their town or city. If it is a specific place you went to, you and your family may enjoy a new ride at an amusement park. You could get a chance to see the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, or the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. Perhaps you might buy some souvenirs in Acapulco or London. Wherever you are and whomever you are with, the vacation offers a lot of things to enjoy. But then you draw near to its end and, regardless of how good the hotel is that you’ve been staying at or how cozy the accommodations have been that your relatives have provided, you start to yearn for the joy of sleeping once again in your own bed. The only thing standing in the way is the long trip back. When it is finally over you are happy to be home again. Whether it is a house, a trailer, or an apartment, like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

There is the journey of life as well. You start off on your journey as a child. School has become little more than a series of progressive indoctrination centers now, but when I was growing up it was still school as in education and, as one approached adulthood, the question loomed ever larger for all of us as to what did we want to do in life once we finished high school. Some went straight into a job field to work out a career while others went to college first. Most got married. Especially for previous generations, marriage and family-raising were two of the biggest considerations in life as well as career choice. Regardless of how one’s life takes shape, you live it out. Of course, life is not just a series of goals. You may have hobbies, or sports teams you follow, and you make friends along the way. You may join a church or an organization, or become part of a cause. Time runs its course. The young feel that old age is a long ways away. I know I felt like that when I was 20! The middle-aged are raising their families, seeing their kids off to college, and attaining key career goals.

For many, especially back in the times when living was not so prohibitively expensive, there came the time to retire. Even if your life does not fit this mold just described, the fact is that if you live long enough you will become old. What do you do when you’re in your sixties or older and most of life’s journey is behind you? As time draws to a close upon your earthly life and the door to eternity becomes visible when the last fog of distance is blown out of the way, how will you feel about your journey? Will you have joys or regrets? Most will have both. But above all else, will you have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ? If you have, then death will only be a doorway to a new and greater beginning: Eternity with God. If you have not, death is the gateway to hell and, eventually, the lake of fire. You most certainly do not want your journey to end like that!

King Solomon, who ruled Israel for 40 years beginning in 970 BC, was the wisest man who ever lived. For a time he went astray from the Lord, descending into the madness of pagan religions and pleasure-seeking, but before his life ended he returned to his senses and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, an excellent Biblical examination of life. His examination of living, dying, the certainty of death, and the seasonality of life should be mandatory reading. In the twelfth and concluding chapter of this magnificent book, Solomon encourages the young to get the most out of life before they grow old, and he concludes it with the admonition to fear and obey God:

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7, 13-14:  Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down; when the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows grow dim; when the doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of grinding is low; when one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of music are brought low. Also they are afraid of height, and of terrors in the way; when the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it…Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Solomon, the wisest man in history, could not figure out how to slow down time or eliminate death. Those are in the power of God alone, the One who creates and allots time, the One who gives life and death to us all. This king of Israel wrote Ecclesiastes when he was an old man, shortly before his death, and his perspective from that place in his life’s journey comes through in that book, including the passage above. For those of you who are still young, believe me, you can trust what is said here, firstly because it is from the Bible and therefore inspired. When you get older your capabilities and your perspectives change. There will be times in most persons’ lives when they will reflect along the way on how they have lived. That is certainly true when you get older.

As a man in my middle fifties I am not old yet. Lord willing, I may live another 20, 30, maybe even 40 years, or better yet, perhaps the Rapture will come in my lifetime and I will not have to experience death. There is no way I can know that in advance, though, so I have to live as though I will die someday. Along my journey in life I think back to when I was young. Even through the trauma of psychological issues I still had some idea of what I wanted in life, and what I wanted was neither excessive nor unusual: A good job, a decent house, a wife and a family. Yes, that is all I wanted. I did not get most of that. Between alcoholism and criminal activity I spent a good chunk of my adult life in prison, a grand total of 15 years between two prison sentences. I underachieved, never obtaining the kind of job I wanted, and now, due to old injuries and health issues, I had to apply for disability. One time in my life I was engaged and that fell apart, and I never really have been in a good, long-lasting love relationship. I have no children, and now I would not want any due to my age and the fact that the world is so filled with evil. My prior self-destructive tendencies and antisocial behaviors have causes much distress and embarrassment to my loved ones, and no doubt to friends and coworkers also. As a victimizer I also left behind a trail of emotional and spiritual wreckage that I can only pray God will heal and straighten out, because I certainly cannot undo the harm I have done. Yes, there are a lot of things I would have done differently if I had the chance to go back to my childhood and start over. However, we do not get to go back in time. All we ever have is today and we have to make the most of the time we have left.

As much of a trainwreck as much of my life has been, it has not been all bad. Before my father passed away, he and I mended our broken relationship. I have solid family support from some of my relatives. There are some really good friends I have made along the way. Above all else, along my life’s journey I made a decision that I have never regretted, nor will I ever regret: I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It is because of Him that my life has meaning and success. God has healed me and set me free from a lot of things, including criminally deviant behavior. Through Him I found my calling. By being placed into God’s family I have multitudes of brothers and sisters in the faith all over the world and all across the long expanses of time, including some who I am closer to than most of my natural family members. Because the Lord has given me hope, I can share that hope with others.

There are those who have much more thoroughly destroyed their lives than I did mine. In spite of that, Jesus can give them just as sure a new beginning as He gave me, and I can pass that good news on to those whose hope is wavering and who are about to give up. As a person who has been called to teach and to preach the Word of God I can educate others in the glorious truths of the Bible. God has provided for me no matter my employment status, and I have no reason to believe that will change. When my life’s journey is over I will not have to dread the door at the end of it. Rather, I can leap through it into the arms of my heavenly Father, knowing that I am experiencing the start of a wonderful eternity with Him. My sinful deeds have been blotted out, and all who come to Jesus can have the same blessing.

After the journey—after life’s journey—where will you be going? Will it be to heaven, or will it be in the burning, fiery depths of hell? No matter how badly you have blown it, if you get saved you are a winner and you can have more than the greatest in history without Christ ever had. What a wonderful and glorious hope there is in Jesus!

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