During the fall of 2021, the Thursday morning Men’s Fellowship Breakfast group spent some time discussing the idea of the gun lap. In track meets, the longer races traditionally begin with the sound of a starter’s pistol. After several laps around the track, the gun is fired again as the lead runners start the final lap. That is the signal for the runners to begin their last kick toward the finish line. As we all hope to finish our race well, the gun lap is a fitting symbol of the final years of life.
The men’s group discussed how to do well in our gun lap because every man in the group is either in the gun lap or hopes to be at some point. (I have yet to meet a person who told me that they sincerely hoped they would die before their 60th birthday; we all want to have a long and productive life.)
Surprisingly, the New Testament confirms this picture of the end of life as the gun lap of a great race in several places. In Acts 20:24, the apostle Paul described his life as a track meet in these words: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me.” In the final chapter of his last letter, 2 Timothy 4:7, he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And Hebrews 12:1 says, “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
What does God desire for each of us in our gun lap? We discussed the priorities that should be uppermost in our minds as we live out our final years and finish our race well. The last decades of life are meant to be a time when we apply our acquired wisdom and offer support to the generations who will follow us. As our health allows, they are ideal times to give back in meaningful service. Unless an illness invades our brains, there is no reason why we cannot keep learning and growing until the end.
The final years allow us to cherish accomplishments from our earlier years and memories that nothing can take away. They are also a time to make peace with the past, ask forgiveness of anyone we have wronged, and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Final years can be a time to enjoy the fruit of our labors. These are the ideal years to deepen our faith, get to know God better, and prepare for the eternal home He is making ready for us.
While some may dread getting older because of the physical decline aging usually brings, we believe that those problems are counterbalanced by the great blessings that can come in our gun lap. The writer of Psalm 92 envisioned this when he wrote:
But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the LORD’S own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. (Psalm 92:12-14, NLT)
by Pastor Doug Pratt