My daughter and I love to bake together. She doesn’t especially love cooking healthy meal recipes with me, but if I’m creating a dessert, she has her apron on and mixing spoon ready. On this particular afternoon, we were making two lemon pound cakes. One for my family and one for my ladies’ church small group that I lead.
The process of this pound cake was somewhat complex, and since we doubled the ingredients, we had a lot batter we were working with. My daughter sifted the dry ingredients as I scooped them into the sifter—flour, salt and baking soda. And in another bowl, we creamed together two pounds of butter, 6 cups of sugar, a dozen eggs and a few splashes of vanilla.
Once we were done with our two bowls of mix, we had to combine them into a single bowl. We added parts of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients while incorporating two cups of sour cream one spoonful at a time. As we started adding and mixing, I began to realize that the bowl was almost too small to hold all the ingredients. I had to be very careful to use the beater slowly, so the dry ingredients wouldn’t fly out of the bowl. I thought about all the work we had completed before this point, and I didn’t want to mess up the batter at the end. We had put too much effort into these cakes to ruin them in the last stages of their creation.
As I was methodically and carefully beating the batter, the Bible verse from Ezekiel about how it’s better to be a wicked person who turns away from sin at the end of his life than to be a righteous person who becomes unfaithful at the end of his life came to mind. Of course, as Christians we all have been saved by the Blood of Jesus alone, but there is a truth to be found in these verses for all of us.
“But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live…. But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die” (Ezekiel 18.21-24 NIV).
What I realized is that the fullness of our lives is like a cake—everything we choose to do each day adds ingredients and effort into the making of our life. If we mess up during the beginning of our lives with bad choices and action but turn our lives to Jesus, He in His infinite imagination can create something beautiful out of our mess. Our cake may not be the lemon pound cake that we started with, but God can use the ingredients around us to make it into something amazing if we give Him control. By the time our lives are complete, we will have a beautifully prepared cake for God’s glory.
However, we can live all our lives for God from a young age, allowing Him to add ingredients and stir us in certain ways, and our cake can be well on its way to being great. But it doesn’t matter what we accomplish on the way; if we walk away from God and our life of faith, the batter of what God is doing will not come to fruition. God can’t continue to prepare us if we decide we don’t want His help anymore. Just like my lemon pound cake—if I would have left it undone at the end, it doesn’t matter how much ingredients and effort I added previously, my cake would not be complete.
That is why the Apostle Paul says we need to finish in faith, not just start in faith: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4.7 NIV). We have a choice whether or not we will stay committed to what God is preparing in our lives. We can’t simply live on the victories of yesterday. It would be so tempting to quit while we were ahead, and spend our lives pointing to what we accomplished in the past. But God has new mercies for us each day to achieve new victories: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3.22-23 NLT).
God is preparing our lives like cakes, and there are more ingredients and processes He wants to add if we let Him. We can be patient with God and not become so proud of any one victory that we feel like God has nothing more for us. Only until the timer dings for the cake to be done should we ever feel like we have finished our race. “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7.8 NIV).