From John Piper:
One of the greatest hope-killers is that you have tried for so long to change and have not succeeded. Now you look back and think: What’s the use? Even if I could experience a breakthrough, there would be so little time left to live in my new way it wouldn’t make much difference compared to so many decades of failure.
That’s not true. Suppose you only had five years left to live with a new victory over some old way. Or suppose you only had a year, or a month, or an hour? Would it matter?
At this point stir the thief on the cross into your thinking. At first he was railing at Jesus (Matthew 27:44). Then he was broken by what he saw and repented and cried out for mercy: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus received this faith-filled cry and promised, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Then the former robber lived for another hour or so before he died. He was changed. He lived on the cross as a new man with new attitudes and actions (no more reviling). But 99.99% of his life was wasted. Did the last couple hours of newness matter?
They mattered infinitely. This former robber, like all of us, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of his life. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2Corinthians 5:10). How will his life witness in that day to his new birth and his union with Christ?
The last hours will tell the story. This man was new. His faith was real. He is truly united to Christ. Christ’s righteousness is his. His sins are forgiven. That is what the final hours will proclaim at the last judgment. His change mattered. It was, and it will be, a beautiful testimony to the power of God’s grace and the reality of his faith and his union with Christ.
Now back to our struggle with change. I am not saying that struggling believers are unsaved like the robber was. I am simply saying: the last years and the last hours of life matter.
If in the last 1% of our lives we can get a victory over some longstanding sinful habit or hurtful defect in our personality, it will be a beautiful testimony now to the power of grace; and it will be an added witness (not the only one) at the last judgment of our faith in Christ and our union with him.
Take heart, struggler. Keeping asking, seeking, knocking. Keep looking to Christ. If God gets glory by saving robbers in the 11th hour, he surely has his purposes why he has waited till now to give you the breakthrough you have sought for decades.