The seasons are in the process of changing, and I was walking beneath a beautiful maple tree whose leaves were making a beautiful gold and red panorama. With some rain and wind, most of the leaves will be falling to the ground. On this day as I walked along, I noticed a leaf that must have been forty or fifty feet high beginning to drift toward the ground. It was a beautiful golden leaf and the slight breeze was picking it up and making it appear to be dancing on the way to the ground.
Back and forth, with an occasional uplift, the leaf had even more time to reach the ground. It was a solo artist dancing its last encore. I watched it as it finished the presentation. As it hit the ground and I moved on, I thought about the fact that it had only been a few months ago that this tree was covered with a light green, lime green color and each of its limbs had those little sprouts that would within weeks become leaves that would be beautiful and provide shade and cooling during the summer.
That’s only a memory now, and those beautiful leaves are coming to the end of their full, productive lives. With winter ahead, the tree has begun the process of shutting down in preparation for the cold and bitter days it may face. Sometimes it looks like leaves by the hundreds — if not thousands — would be flying through the air, but on this day it was a solo act and the end of this leaf’s journey.
It was the picture of the life cycle. We often lose sight of the fact that death is a natural part of life. In the life cycle for each human being, there is a beginning and then come all the challenges and opportunities that he/she will face. A child begins to learn to crawl and walk and learn and live and interact and succeed and fail and get up again only to come to the fall season of life, and then the conclusion.
The truth is that for the leaves on the tree, the most beautiful part of life is its conclusion. It is a fact that it can be that way with us, too. Most of us view death as the exit door of life, but the Bible portrays it as the entrance door into the very presence of our Lord. The psalmist says it this way in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” What a precious thing to think how precious we are to God. Even in the moment of death, He counts it as special, unique, and wonderful as He welcomes us from this world to His eternal home.
In the closing chapters of the Bible in Revelation 14:13, John writes, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” For those who know the Lord, the end of this life is not tragedy but triumph. It can be a beautiful conclusion of the presentation of life. You can see it in a number of settings in the Bible where one of God’s saints comes to the entrance door.
One of those occasions is found in the book of Acts. We generally refer to Stephan as the first Christian martyr. Don’t lose sight of the fact that in those moments, those concluding moments of life at death, the Lord Himself stood as though to welcome Stephen home. Stephen concludes his life by asking the Lord to not hold the sins of the people who were killing him against them. With grace and forgiveness, this precious saint marks his last step from this world to the world to come.
I think about the Apostle Paul in a jail cell awaiting his own execution. He seems to bubble with joy and anticipation of being with the Lord. He had run his race, finished his course, and now he was ready to be with the Lord. Christians can live that way and experience that joy. No greater picture is even given us except that of our Lord hung on the cross for our sins. For six hours He died in pain and agony, and He looked forward to being back with the Father. Among His parting words were these, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46), and soon life ended and joy began.
Faithful to the end, full of peace and joy forever, all around us the leaves have been changing, and whether we notice it or not, all around us life is changing. We need not live in dread and gloom and doom, for our future is bright. Jesus wanted us to know we will be with Him forever, and in the presence of our Lord and His people we will enjoy heaven forever. Maybe you are in the last days of life and you may be finishing up your song, your dance, your contribution, but it does not end in vain but victory! You can in faith and joy conclude life with a golden glow.
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