As the calendar pages have turned to a new year, many people are making new commitments. But some are finishing theirs. It’s odd how much we focus on New Years resolutions and laud those who commit themselves to all sorts of betterment, yet we often fail to recognize the true heroism of those who finish their commitments – and finish them well.
The truth is, I didn’t know Kay Courtney as well as I would have liked, but over the past few years I have observed her family both from a distance and as partners in ministry. On January 6, 2012, she finished well, and went home to be with her Lord.
For those who don’t know Kay and her family, her graduation may seem to be of little personal impact, but for those who know her, that event is one of great significance. You see, until a couple of years ago she was simply an exemplary servant of the Lord, a dedicated wife, and devoted mother. She fulfilled her ministries in a way that inspired many. After that, she remained all those things still, but did so despite the added burden of a painful and aggressive terminal cancer. She began a struggle that she knew – outside of a miraculous work of God – she would ultimately lose. But she also knew that she would win the struggle that really mattered.
She won because she understood the difference between temporal and eternal (Philippians 3:7-14). She won because she knew the hope of the resurrection in Christ (2 Corinthians 4-5). She won because she knew that Christ was her Savior, and she had an undying hope and anticipation of eternity in Him. She won because of who God had fashioned her to be. She recognized, of course, that her victory was actually His.
She won because of the greatness of her God. No doubt, God allowed her to walk that painful path – He did not provide her an easy escape. Still, He used it for His glory – in refining and maturing the entire family, in demonstrating the power of His grace to grant the courage to finish well, and also in the pleasure of bringing His child home (Psalm 116:15).
She also won because of what, by God’s grace, she left behind. I watched her husband as he celebrated her life, and honored God because of it. Of course, there were tears, but more prominent than the tears was the undeniable love and joy he had for her, along with a deep gratitude to his Lord for His work in Kay’s life. A man can only rejoice in the midst of that loss if he has the confidence of knowing where his wife has gone – only if he has the assurance of her godliness. He had that assurance, without any cause to waver. She had fought the good fight and won. Further, I watched her children as they remembered and honored her, all the while glorifying God. Along with their tears, the joy they showed – the hope, the confidence, and the peace – provided one of the most beautiful and touching scenes I have ever witnessed. The majesty of God’s grace was on display in their faith and their courage. Kay had done her part in preparing these young people and had fulfilled perhaps the most difficult task a mother must – to equip her children for life without her.
Kay Courtney won, because her Savior conquered death and gave her the courage to look our common enemy in the face and walk toward it unafraid and unencumbered. I mean not to imply that Kay was perfect, but her God certainly is perfect, and He provides the strength needed for the path He designs. Kay and her family understand that.
In a world of flashy headlines and Hollywood highlights, a life like Kay’s may go largely unheralded. But beyond the glitz and the glamour of paper heroes are found the real heroes of the faith – like Kay Courtney and her family. These are people who simply fulfill the task that God puts before them – whatever that may be and in spite of the many obstacles that weigh down the task. And when they fall down, they rely on Him to pick them back up. These faithful saints are not hidden from God’s eyes, though they may sometimes be hidden from our own. Rather, He knows every one, and He is indeed a rewarder of those who seek Him.
As Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Inasmuch as the Courtney family reflects the character of Christ, there is much in them for us to imitate. For those who don’t know this particular family, I say, just look around – true heroes of the faith are all around us. Hebrews 12:1 references a “cloud of witnesses” which serves to show us that God indeed provides all that we need for the task he assigns – and not simply for the accepting of the task, but for the finishing of it, and for finishing it well.
I pray that God allows me to be like Kay – to finish well, and to leave behind the majestic evidence of His greatness, for His own glory, honor, and pleasure.