Consider the “End Afterward”
LIFE’S journey presents us with many choices. Surely it is the course of wisdom to try to find out what is at the end of any road before we take the first step along it. Some have bitterly regretted decisions that they have made. Perhaps you too have said, ‘If only I had known how this was going to turn out, I would never have started it in the first place.’
An experienced traveler wants to know where each road leads. He may consult a map and talk to people who know the area. He will certainly take note of signposts he encounters along the way. On life’s journey, though, how can you be sure which is the best path to take? Regarding the people of ancient Israel, God once said through Moses: “O that they were wise! Then they would ponder over this. They would consider their end afterward.”—Deuteronomy 32:29.
The Best Advice
We do not need to be in doubt as to the “end afterward” of the paths that life’s journey may offer. From his vantage point, God is in a unique position to advise all human travelers about the best road to take. He has seen the many ways that humans have traveled and has observed the outcome. The Bible says: “The ways of man are in front of the eyes of Jehovah, and he is contemplating all his tracks.”—Proverbs 5:21.
Jehovah cares for those who love him. By means of his Word, the Bible, he maps out the best path for them. We read: “I shall make you have insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give advice with my eye upon you.” So before you take the first step down any road, it is wise to seek Jehovah’s advice, as did King David of ancient Israel, who prayed: “Make known to me the way in which I should walk.”—Psalm 32:8; 143:8.
Following the route indicated by a trusted, experienced traveler can give you a sense of confidence and security. You do not worry about where the path is leading. David asked for and followed Jehovah’s guidance and direction. As a result, he enjoyed a peace of mind that is beautifully expressed in the famous 23rd Psalm. David wrote: “Jehovah is my Shepherd. I shall lack nothing. In grassy pastures he makes me lie down; by well-watered resting-places he conducts me. My soul he refreshes. He leads me in the tracks of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear nothing bad.”—Psalm 23:1-4.
What Will Be Their Future?
One traveler on life’s journey, a psalmist who was either Asaph or one of his descendants, admitted that he “almost turned aside” from the right way. What had happened? He had seen the prosperity of the dishonest and violent ones and had envied the “peace of wicked people.” To him, they seemed to be “at ease indefinitely.” What is worse, the psalmist had begun to doubt the wisdom of following the path of righteousness that he had chosen.—Psalm 73:2, 3, 6, 12, 13.
Then the psalmist entered Jehovah’s sanctuary and prayerfully thought about the destiny of the wicked. “I wanted to discern their future,” he said. He meditated on the prospects of those whom he envied. What would be their future? He realized that such people were “on slippery ground” and would be “brought to their finish through sudden terrors!” What of the path that the psalmist himself was taking? He acknowledged: “Afterward you [Jehovah] will take me even to glory.”—Psalm 73:17-19, 24.
Reflecting on the consequences of the actions of those who achieve prosperity through expedient or questionable dealings reassured the psalmist that he was on the right path. He concluded: “As for me, the drawing near to God is good for me.” Keeping close to Jehovah God always results in lasting benefits.—Psalm 73:28.
“Know Where You Are Headed”
Similar choices may confront us today. You may be offered an attractive business contract, a promotion, or an invitation to become a partner in a profitable venture. Of course, there is an element of risk in any new undertaking. Even so, can you not see the value of first considering what the “end afterward” of your choice might be? What are the likely consequences? Will you be required to be away from home, potentially creating stress for your spouse or for yourself? Will you be exposed to unwholesome company with business associates or those in hotels and elsewhere? By taking a close look at the road ahead, you will be able to make a wise decision. Heed Solomon’s advice: “Know where you are headed.”—Proverbs 4:26, Contemporary English Version.
All of us would do well to ponder that counsel, but especially should young people do so. One young man rented a video that he knew featured sexually stimulating scenes. He later related that after viewing the video, he felt so aroused that he sought out a prostitute, whom he knew to be living nearby. He ended up with a heavy heart, a guilty conscience, and anxiety over possible disease. What occurred was exactly as described in the Bible: “All of a sudden he is going after her, like a bull that comes even to the slaughter.” If only he had considered the “end afterward”!—Proverbs 7:22, 23.
Trust the Signposts
Most people would agree that it is unwise to ignore signposts. Sadly, though, that is what some do on the road through life when the direction given does not fit their personal preference. Consider the case of certain Israelites in the time of Jeremiah. The nation was at a crossroads, and Jehovah God advised them: “Ask for the roadways of long ago, where, now, the good way is; and walk in it.” But the people stubbornly responded that they were “not going to walk” that way. (Jeremiah 6:16) What was the “end afterward” of their rebellious course? In 607 B.C.E., the Babylonians came and completely destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took its inhabitants to Babylon as captives.
Ignoring signposts that God has set up will never work for our good. The Scriptures urge us: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
Some of God’s warnings are like “Do Not Enter” signs. For instance, the Bible says: “Into the path of the wicked ones do not enter, and do not walk straight on into the way of the bad ones.” (Proverbs 4:14) Among such harmful paths is the one described at Proverbs 5:3, 4: “As a honeycomb the lips of a strange woman keep dripping, and her palate is smoother than oil. But the aftereffect from her is as bitter as wormwood; it is as sharp as a two-edged sword.” To some, an immoral relationship—whether with a prostitute or anyone else—may appear exciting. But ignoring “Do Not Enter” signs that should regulate moral conduct can lead only to disaster.
Before taking the first step down such a road, ask yourself, ‘Where is this leading me?’ Just pausing to contemplate the potential “end afterward” may suffice to prevent you from taking a course that can have serious consequences. AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, ruined relationships, and guilty consciences litter the path of those who have chosen to ignore such signposts. The end of the road for those practicing immorality is clearly stated by the apostle Paul. They “will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
“This Is the Way”
Sometimes it is difficult to see where a path is taking us. How thankful we are, therefore, for God’s loving concern and clear direction! “This is the way,” Jehovah has said, “walk in it, you people.” (Isaiah 30:21) What is at the end of the path that Jehovah is showing us? Though the path is narrow and difficult, Jesus said that it leads to life everlasting.—Matthew 7:14.
Take a moment to think about the path along which you are traveling. Is it the right one? Where is it headed? Seek Jehovah’s guidance in prayer. Consult the ‘road map,’ the Bible. You may even feel the need to consult an experienced traveler, one who has been endeavoring to walk in God’s way. If you thus see the need to change direction, do so quickly.
A traveler is often encouraged when he sees a signpost that reassures him that he is on the right road. If an examination of your course in life reveals that you are walking the path of the righteous, be encouraged to continue. The most rewarding part of the journey lies just ahead.—2 Peter 3:13.
Every path leads somewhere. When you reach the end of the course that you have chosen, where will you be? Little will be gained by standing there wishing, ‘Oh, if only I had chosen another way!’ So before taking your next step down the path of life, ask yourself, ‘What is going to be the “end afterward”?’
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What Will Be the “End Afterward”?
Young people are often exposed to temptations and pressures to experiment with things that seem popular. Here are some likely scenarios.
▪ Someone dares you to smoke a cigarette.
▪ A well-intentioned teacher urges you to pursue higher education at a university.
▪ You are invited to a party where alcohol and possibly drugs will be freely available.
▪ “Why don’t you post your profile on the Internet?” someone suggests.
▪ A friend invites you to watch a movie that features violence or immorality.
If you are ever confronted with any of such situations, what will you do? Will you simply give in, or will you carefully consider what the “end afterward” could be? You would be wise to ask yourself: “Can a man rake together fire into his bosom and yet his very garments not be burned? Or can a man walk upon the coals and his feet themselves not be scorched?”—Proverbs 6:27, 28.