I was never one who counted down the years to retirement. Until the day I left the organization I worked at for nearly 38 years I loved my job and the people I worked with. So, how should Christians think about living for God in retirement? Is it all about taking it easy, sleeping in, traveling and playing golf? Or perhaps taking a part-time job and doing some volunteer work?
John Piper has been helpful in shaping my thoughts on retirement. He writes that the Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about retirement. We don’t, for example, read about Moses or the Apostle Paul retiring at age 65. Piper writes: “Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement.” He charges us to: “Live dangerously for the one who loved you and died for you in his thirties.” I know this may be unpopular with some, and some may object to this concept, feeling that they deserve to take it easy after working in jobs for perhaps fifty years. But I believe that type of thinking may be culturally based and ultimately unbiblical. Continue reading
The idea of finishing well has been on my mind a lot recently. I now find myself closer to the end of my race than the beginning, though I pray I have many more years left to serve Him. I want to finish well in all aspects of my life, specifically in faith, ministry, relationships and vocation. After all, don’t we all want to hear our Lord tell us at the end of our race, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:21
Growing up, my parents would tell me that it’s the last thing someone does that people remember. There’s a lot of wisdom in that. For example, think of a certain comedian who was much loved for his portrayal of Cliff Huxtable and consider what people think of him now.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. I want to finish well just as Paul did. I also want you to finish well. I can think of four main areas of life to finish well in:
Finishing well in our vocations. Many of the colleagues that I have worked with over the years have either retired or are now planning for their retirement. It’s easy to at least mentally coast into retirement. Early in my career in a meeting with our supervisor, my peer, who was going to be retiring soon, fell asleep. Our supervisor looked at him and said “Don’t retire on me yet”.
We all know those who have started well, but not finished well. I think back to one of my early classes at Covenant Seminary where we studied the kings. As just one example, King Asa was a king of Judah who is referred to in II Chronicles 14:2 as someone who “did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD, his God”. But he did not finish well. Or think of any number of modern-day politicians, celebrities or sports figures (you can fill in the blank) who haven’t finished well.
One of my favorite verses is Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”. I want to finish well, doing my work heartily for the Lord not only until my retirement from my primary vocation, but long afterward as I hope to use my leadership experience and seminary education to serve the Lord as long as I am mentally and physically capable. Let’s finish well in our vocations.
Finishing well in our relationships. In his prayer for March 17 entitled “A Prayer about Friends Finishing Well” Scotty Smith in his wonderful book Everyday Prayers writes “I’ve already gripped the handle of a couple of friend’s caskets, and other friends will do the same for me one day. More than ever, I want us to finish well together for the gospel.” I too want to finish well in all of my relationships, family, friends, co-workers, etc.
Are there relationships that need mending so that you can finish well in them? With Scotty pray, “Help us to know how to preach the gospel to our own hearts daily, and to each other, until today gives way to the day of your longed-for return”.
Finishing well in our ministry. The Apostle Paul writes in Acts 20:24 “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” I long to finish well the ministry that the Lord has provided me with to date, and hopefully additional opportunities in the future. I hope you are encouraged to do the same. Ministry is hard, tiring and can be frustrating. I am encouraged today because of two peers in the organization I work at whose hearts are for the mission field. I believe we can make a great impact in our organizations as Christ’s representatives, but the examples of these two to serve the Kingdom humble me. Let’s use them as examples to finish strong in our various ministries. Hebrews 12:1-2a states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Note: the great cloud of witnesses is called ‘the roll call of faith’ in Hebrews 11, starting with Abel through Samuel and many more. They all were great examples of living by faith when they died and witnessed/testified of God’s faithfulness.
Finishing well in our faith. Lastly, and most importantly, I want us to finish well in our faith journeys. We all know those who are examples of the parable of the sower or soils, in Matthew 13:18-23, who have fallen away after professing faith. However, although they may struggle for a period, no true believer will have a full and final fall. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.
In his new book Intentional Living, John Maxwell writes that “Nobody finishes well by accident”. Let’s finish well!
Be encouraged with this passage from the Apostle Paul from Philippians 3:12-16:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
There is much more that could be said about finishing well. What would you add?