Are finals really final?

This is exam week on campus. Final projects, final papers, and final exams: this is student’s reality, for this week anyway.

We use this word “final” in many contexts in which the finality of the final is questionable. We speak of “making the final cut,” on a sports team or in a job interview process. We speak of “making it to the finals” as the final heat of the race in track or the showdown between the last two competitors in sports contest or talent competition. Sometimes final is seen as the last step in a process.

In most of these uses however, final does not really mean finality. Maybe it is the last test in the class I am taking now, or the last game of this year, or the last step in this job interview, but in all of these cases life will go on regardless of the outcome. If I fail the course or the course exam, life will go on. If I do not get this job, chances are there will be another job and another interview process around the corner. If I win or lose the last game of the season, life goes on and few will remember a year from now whether it was a win or a loss.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned in all of this is to keep before us two important truths:

  • Every “final” needs to be approached with the bigger picture of life as the frame. This allows us to take today and its challenges, opportunities, and tests seriously, but frees us from the overwhelming weight of expectations reminding us that all of these are only pieces of the whole life lived. Success or failure in this leg of the race, the stuff of today, are not the whole picture.
  • There is a final that really matters in God’s eyes for all of us. Across all the distinctions and differences of gender, race, ethnicity, and culture, all of us as humans will have a final day. Death is a reality for all of us. This is the final, that really matters for all of us. This final day can give perspective and intrinsic motivation for all of us to live a life everyday that matters; a life of love, gratitude, and faith in the God who offers life abundant and eternal in Jesus Christ.

The Psalmist reflects upon the life of wealthy, powerful, and unjust people who abuse others, manipulate the world to their advantage, and seem to live prosperous and wonderful lives. “Till I entered the sanctuary of God; the I understood their finaldestiny,” says the Psalmist (Psalm 73:17). Is this not the final that really matters?

The Gospel of Mark records Jesus’ word that reflect this same thought, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Mark 8:36).

So in the midst of finals week, take a moment to remember that all finals are not the same. Remember that final destiny really matters and the invitation to find abundant and eternal life in Jesus Christ gives perspective to our whole life and secures our life for God’s intended final destiny for all of us.

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