I want to take this opportunity to encourage everyone here and to share with you what I came to see as God’s purpose with the earth and with me. As we near death our faith gels into reality and we make real for ourselves what we believe to be true about life, death and life beyond that. From living my life as a Bible reader and also a “life observer,” this is what I came to believe with my whole heart.

God wanted a family! He created an environment for His family to flourish; He created Adam and Eve then gave them laws, rules and consequences to live by, just as parents do for their children. Sadly, Adam and Eve broke those laws and consequences resulted.

But God didn’t stop there — He didn’t wipe them out or destroy the world but devised a method of reconciliation to achieve His aim of having a family, a group of people like Him, imbued with His family values and characteristics.

To understand what God’s characteristics and family values are, we need to read and meditate on the Bible—God’s word to us. We need to know how God acted in circumstances, the things that He values, the principles He lives by and how He wants us to live. Taking heed to God’s word is one way our character is developed; the other is through suffering. It is through that medium that we learn obedience to God and recognise the need to change behaviours and characteristics that are not aligned to His.

We have the Old Testament, which gives us insight into God’s character and we are shown through His laws what He values. We are expected to value those same principles because we are part of the family of God: qualities such as compassion, meekness, taking care of the fatherless and the widow, honesty and integrity to name a few.

We meet people like Abraham who demonstrate God’s family values of faith, trust and belief (learning through failure and suffering). God also gave us a timeline as to when He would achieve His aims so we know where we are at—Christ’s return is certainly sooner than it’s ever been.

God gave us His son who demonstrated throughout his life what the family characteristics are, giving us principles to live by—demonstrating how we should live. God also showed us the only way we are going to develop those godly characteristics is through suffering—as exemplified in His son’s life. There is no other way for us. If we understand this then we embrace suffering and what it teaches us.

Some of our suffering comes from our own stupidity, poor choices or circumstances either allowed or directly brought to bear… we won’t always know; sometimes it’s obvious. Either way, God wants our response to be a spiritual one not a natural one — sometimes in my life I felt that God was directly testing me then just as I felt the screws couldn’t get any tighter, they did. Everything is a test… being able to put God between us and our problems is important, just as is the ability to have a spiritual perspective and ultimately be able to change to behaviours that are godlike.

Earlier in my life I experienced a great crisis of faith. I believed that the Bible was an amazing power that could direct us and inspire us to live lives of holiness and godliness. But I was shattered when I realised that there were some people among us who were living double lives capable of great wickedness and damage whilst they were teaching the principles of the word of God. It took at least two years of my life to reinvent my relationship with God and to work out for myself what mattered and what God was wanting, not only with me but with His family.

The verse that says, “he that hath ears to hear let him hear,” resonates with me. The words of God have to impact our lives, affect our behaviour and change the way we live otherwise Bible study is a worthless exercise. It is possible to read the Bible, to study each word minutely but not to actually hear the message that is being given. God’s word has to impact our hearts and minds and transform us to be like His son, to become a family member with His characteristics.

This character transformation requires openness, honesty, genuineness and truth. Don’t hide your sins—confess them. We can help others by our openness. If we are true, then this encourages others to be honest about their own failings and sins. We need to create this culture within our families and community.

This life is not about obtaining perfection now, it is about development, which includes mistakes. Let’s be real. We are all in different developmental stages so therefore don’t judge each other harshly; let God work in each life and in His time. There will always be tension in ecclesial life because we are all in different stages along that pathway—acknowledge and respect that. We have all had different upbringings, experiences and differing knowledge of God’s word—we don’t all have to agree or be at the same place—we are all heading in the direction of becoming a fully perfected son and daughter of the almighty God. It is not where we start but where we will end up.

So if God’s medium is suffering to develop that godly character, then I’m thankful for each and every experience I have had because it has helped me understand God better. Every experience can be learnt from. We can teach our children from the bad behaviour of others, and from our own failings, what is the right way to behave and what God wants from us. God uses people and circumstances to teach us lessons and to mould our characters.

The last two years have been the best of my life. When I realised two years ago that I would die my thoughts were, “What sort of a wife was I, what sort of a mother?” For me it is very much about behaviour. I didn’t necessarily read my Bible more or set up a great Bible Study Plan—when it came down to the wire it was about: How does what I already know impact my life? Who was I? What was my character?

I set about becoming the best wife and mother I could be, the best sister and child of God shining those characteristics to the world. I worked on the rough edges of my character and can happily say they are somewhat smoother—I practiced godly behaviours so they could become second nature to me. To my amazement, they did actually become somewhat automatic—what amazing brain neuro-plasticity God has created.

I did not reach perfection of course, no-one will, but I came to an understanding and appreciation of who God is, what He wants with the earth and what He wants in particular with me. To me, the whole purpose of life is to develop a character/behaviour like God. I believe I will be resurrected and made immortal because I have absolute faith that God can do it.

He will make up the lack; I’ll never be perfect… but I know He will give me the desires of my heart—to be in His kingdom, living a life of helping others and learning and growing myself in a perfected, sinless world—amazing! This may seem bizarre to you all but I always felt I was going to do something “great” with my life, and I did—God used me to encourage my brothers and sisters and those around me by being an example in suffering and to remind everyone that our mortality is very real so redeem the time. I also received so much comfort, love and support from all of you in so many ways. Truly a blessing of being part of the family of God.

Some of my favourite verses are 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV): “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too”.

I am ready to die with only love in my heart for you all. For me, my travail is over; no more struggling with human nature: the battle is done. I am but a sleep away from seeing Jesus Christ’s face.

The other beautiful quote that I love is Psalm 17:15 (ESV): “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness”. I have no doubt that I will be in the kingdom of God, not because it has anything to do with my strength or achievement but because I have the faith that God can save me despite my imperfections… I believe God and I want more than anything to be a part of His kingdom on earth.

You are all living in such difficult times—it’s not popular now to espouse Christian views—we could be even guilty of feeling ashamed of the Gospel—so hold on to your faith, encourage each other and pray fervently that God will send His Son soon to a sick and decaying world. We can’t imagine what this world will be like with righteous rule and physical healing but it will be an incredible time for us and our families and the families of the ages.

May God bless you and keep you.