Make the Most of Your Final Years
Death comes to us all, at least the physical death of our sin-cursed bodies. It’s unavoidable. The Bible makes it clear “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). While those who are in Christ have eternal life in a perfected body to look forward to, there are matters we must attend to before exiting earth. Yet, most of us try to avoid thinking about, talking about, or planning for our final days.
Perhaps that’s why Robert Wolgemuth’s newest book, Finish Line, is such a unique treasure. Written in a warm, conversational style, Robert invites his readers into his life and offers personal insights and practical advice gained from his own life experiences.
Set Apart to God’s Glory
His journey with God began when he was young, just four years old. It wasn’t typical for his family to go to the movies. In fact, this instance stood out because it was so rare. But his father took them to see a film about Redd Harper, also known as Mr. Texas. Mr. Texas not only enjoyed a successful career as a cowboy singer and songwriter, but he also devoted his later years to international missions and evangelism. When the movie was over, Robert knelt on the back row of the theatre floor and surrendered his life to Christ. His mother, who had the greatest impact on his spiritual life in those formative years, was at his side.
Robert married Bobbie when he was twenty-two and she was just twenty years old. He was struck by the spiritual fervor overflowing from her relatively new relationship with Christ. It was contagious. Robert, born and raised in a Christian home, found renewed joy in his own walk with God.
After they married, Robert worked with Youth for Christ, the ministry where his father, Sam Wolgemuth, served as president. Here he was first introduced to the publishing world, taking responsibility for the business and financial side of the ministry’s publication, “Campus Life Magazine.” God used this valuable experience to pave the way to new opportunities; first at Word Publishing in Texas, then at Thomas Nelson Publishers in Tennessee. By the time he started his first business in partnership with Michael Hyatt, he had a thorough understanding of his profession. Now in his mid-seventies, Robert is still an active literary agent and author.
If we believe God sovereignly ordains all our days, it’s easier to face the trials as well as the triumphs. But it still requires us to make choices about how we will live and how we will die.
There are certain practical things we can do to help our families.
- Find a godly attorney and leave behind a will or trust.
- Appoint a power-of-attorney for both financial and medical decisions.
- Have medical directives outlined, in case we are un¬able to express our wishes for care.
- Let our loved ones know where we keep important paperwork.
- Pre-arrange our funeral and leave instructions about how we’d like our service conducted.
- Leave passwords for all our online accounts with the important paperwork.
- Purge our personal belongings. Our children may love us but won’t want everything we treasure.
Finishing the race isn’t all about tying up the loose ends. There are things we can do to make our final days more enjoyable and rewarding.
- Finishing the race isn’t all about tying up the loose ends. There are things we can do to make our final days more enjoyable and rewarding.
- Find a like-minded doctor, a Christian doctor, who will function as a general contractor, guarding our overall medical care when specialists get involved.
- Mentor someone. That may sound intimidating, but it can be as simple as being available to and regularly connecting with someone younger.
- Finish our race alongside at least one man (if you’re a man) or one woman (if you’re a woman) who is a soulmate.
- Be ready to meet the Lord face to face by embracing His call to salvation, living life fully to His glory.
- God has given us life and will take it from us when He determines it’s best. But there’s no shame in wanting to die. It’s perfectly understandable, especially for those who are suffering.
We know God has prepared a wonderful, eternal home for us. (John 14:3) He put a longing in our hearts to join Him there. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) Consider these words about what God has in store for us from 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the human heart, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” Robert describes it this way in his book: “Crossing the finish line is going to be a celebration like you can’t imagine. It’s Christmas morning when you were a kid. It’s your honeymoon. It’s the birth of your first child.”
Tested by Fire
Along the way, however, he suffered a deep personal loss – one which helped shape his outlook on living and dying well. In 2012, his wife, Bobbie, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She fought a valiant thirty-month battle before, as Alistair Begg would say, she fell asleep in the arms of Jesus. But even in her suffering, she determined to live to God’s glory.
When we spoke, Robert referenced Romans 12:1-2. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The verse applies to how they both walked through these difficult days. Bobbie offered herself a living sacrifice and accepted what God sent as her spiritual service of worship. She renewed her mind, determined to take every thought captive and not complain, despite her suffering. Robert offered himself a living sacrifice to meet Bobbie’s day to day needs; securing her the best possible medical care and serving her just as Jesus had served His disciples. He renewed his mind, determined to encourage his wife and children, despite his sorrow.
A Family Blessed
Despite the hardships the Wolgemuth family faced, they kept their eyes on God’s blessings, just as Joshua did when he led the Israelites into the land of Canaan, in his eighties.
Before his death, he reminded the people how God faithfully delivered them from slavery’s hardship in Egypt to the promised land. He reminded them of their godly heritage, presented them with a choice, then planted his own flag. “But if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served… or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) He left his children and grandchildren a godly heritage. We can do the same – determine to serve God and recount the stories of His faithfulness to future generations.
We can bless our children and grandchildren with spoken blessings. In his book, Robert recalls his grandfather speaking a blessing over him before passing away. He explains a blessing is more than words. It’s something almost tangible, a gift that can only be given once. We can speak a unique blessing over each of our descendants.
We can also bless them by faithfully obeying God and teaching them to do likewise. The curse of besetting sins endures four to five generations. The blessings are visited on countless generations. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10)
Whether or not you were raised in a Christian home, you have a unique opportunity to break sinful cycles and establish a godly heritage, an avenue of blessings for your family. As Robert so aptly put it, “Legacy is built over a lifetime. It begins with one choice followed by another.”
Blending two households, at any age, can be both challenging and rewarding. When asked what advice he’d offer to people considering re-marriage, Robert said, “I have two words for you. Ron Deal.” Dr. Ron Deal leads FamilyLife’s ministry to blended families. They have top-notch resources available for those facing this new chapter in life. FamilyLife is a CRU ministry. You can learn more at www.familylife.com.
God’s Ongoing Work
Robert’s story didn’t end with Bobbie’s death. God blessed him with a second wonderful wife and a second happy marriage. Before she died, Bobbie told two friends, without his knowledge, that she hoped Robert would marry Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Robert and Nancy did marry, and both continue ministering to people in their own unique ways while encouraging one another along their journey.
Many years ago, God began a good work in Robert’s life. He’s still bringing it to completion.
Robert Wolgemuth is an author and former Chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Wolgemuth has authored over twenty books and has been in the publishing business for nearly forty years. Learn more at www.robertwolgemuth.com. His new book. Finish Line, Dispelling Fear, Finding Peace and Preparing for the End of Your Life, offers advice and encouragement for those approaching their final years.