I listened to Alistair Begg’s excellent teaching series The Hand of God about the life of Joseph and God’s providence. It’s one of my favorite sermon series, and there is a corresponding revised book of the same title. John Piper has also released a new book entitled “Providence”.
Toward the end of Pastor Begg’s series, and the end of Joseph’s life, is a message titled “Famous Last Words”. Joseph, who has led an incredible life, is now 110 years old and has stood the test of time. Begg then asks us if we are going to buy into the mythology that what we do in life is kill ourselves for as long as we can, to line the nest in which we plan to hibernate, so that the whole of life is just a preparation for hibernation. Or, will we, like Joseph, stand the test of time?
Perhaps you are already retired, or are close to it.
Many look forward to retirement as a time of taking it easy, sleeping in, travelling constantly, playing a lot of golf and moving to a warm climate after working for perhaps forty years. Now, in moderation, these can all be good things. God wants us to enjoy his creation and the blessings of this life. But you won’t find reference to retirement in the Bible. The Apostle John didn’t retire from ministry at age 65, for example. John Piper tells us in his book Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of God, that finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement.
Although I’ve noticed that much of the attention in some of our churches is focused on the youth, Begg states that the real resource of any church begins around the age of 50, 55. He tells us that this is the point where people have put themselves in a position—financially, emotionally, familially—to become an incredible amount of use. But he tells us that this is also when they start to talk of hibernation. He states that you can’t find them or count on them. Similarly, Bob Buford in his book Halftime, writes that leadership expert Peter Drucker once told him that retirees have not proved to be the fertile source of volunteer effort that they were once thought to be.
Begg gives a challenge to all who are beginning to think of hibernating. Thinking of what Joseph did for the Lord between these years of his life, he asks us:
What are you planning to do between the age of 60 and 110?
Are we planning to sit on the gifts and talents that the Lord has blessed us with, or are we going to use them for the glory of God?
A few years ago, I read Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz’s book Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life The Best of Your Life. The authors ask us, as we approach the remainder of our lives, what are we going to do to make them joyful and meaningful? They state that too many people see their later years as a time to endure, rather than as an exciting opportunity. I’ve known of people who approach these years in that manner, and perhaps you have as well. Now, I’m not talking about people with physical or mental limitations, but people who are physically and mentally capable of standing the test of time. The authors identified the factors that cause some people to become old before their time, and also found four areas that people can continue to refire or grow in. Those areas are:
- Refire Intellectually. No matter what age we are, we can continue to grow in this area by reading and discussing good books, listening to sermon podcasts, taking classes, take up a new hobby, learning new technology, etc.
- Refire Emotionally. The book talks about growing into being flexible and spontaneous, traits of an extrovert. This is an area that is more challenging for me as an introvert. I’m much more at ease in my comfort zone, although I understand that some can get into a rut when they get too comfortable.
- Refire Physically. We can grow in this area by joining a health club to exercise on a regular basis, getting more sleep and eating a healthier diet.
- Refire Spiritually. We can refire spiritually by reading the Bible on a daily basis, worshipping weekly in our local church, mentoring and discipling others, and serving others in our communities.
The authors encourage us to embrace life, rather than just endure it, or seeing getting older as a “life sentence”.
Piper states that finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious. He encourages us to live dangerously for the One who loved us and died for us in his thirties. He encourages us not to throw our lives away on the American dream of retirement.
So, what are you planning to do between the years of 60 and 110? Will you, like Joseph, stand the test of time?