Matthew 19:30 – But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (NKJV)
A person that I knew was raised in a non-Christian home. In a polite way, her father was openly anti-church and anti-faith, and that was the way that she was raised. She was not antagonistic; she just did not bother. But late in life, through a neighbour, she went to sing in a big church choir, simply because she liked singing. That's how it started, but then, she became a believer, and she joined that church. I saw her a few weeks before she died, and she was at peace with her situation. Even though she had become a Christian late in life, she was accepted by those in her church, and she received the rewards of comfort and peace of mind when she was ailing and near the end of her life.
At my Bible class at the local Long Term Care Centre not long ago, we looked at the parable of the owner of a vineyard who went to hire some people at the marketplace at 6:00 a.m. He offered them a day's work for a denarius. Later in the day, at 9:00, at noon, at 3:00 in the afternoon, and again at 5:00, he hired some more. At the end of the day, they were all paid the same.
Jesus told this parable as a result of a discussion about who could enter the kingdom of God. Peter figured that as the disciples had left everything behind to follow Jesus, they should have an advantage when it came to the things of faith.
Some of the people who attend my Bible class, by their own admission, have not been church-going people for many years — some never. Now, at an older age, they have come to learn about Christ, both at my Bible class and also when we have a worship service there. We, too, wondered whether those who come to faith later in life will receive the same reward as those who have been Christians all their lives.
The parable is about workers in a vineyard, but it is Jesus' way of encouraging us to work in God's vineyard regardless of our stage in life. All of us have the opportunity to do God's work, some early in life, others in middle age, and others later in life. But we are all called, and we all do it in our own way. Some of the work is very visible. But some of it is done very quietly, behind the scenes: a kind word, a prayer, friendship with a neighbour or a relative, encouragement in times of trouble or worry, or a visit with a shut-in or someone in the hospital or a long-term care centre.
Those who have done it all their lives receive the same reward as those of us who have started recently. It is never too late to start; we all receive God's blessing as we work in His vineyard.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we pray that more people of all ages will come to faith in You. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
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