Finishing the LONGER Race Well
My father did not live to reach the biblical “three score years and ten” (Psalms 90:10). When my dad died he was only 63 and I was just 12. I’m thinking more about my dad lately because I’ve now passed the age my father was when he died. Also I’m somewhat “retired” and I find myself in a life transition I did not fully anticipate. As I contemplate what might or might not be in my future, it seems only natural to think about the past and several loved ones, including my parents, who are now gone. Of course, I think also of those alive today whom I love and it leads me to ponder what could be ahead at this next stage of life.
Just over 100 years ago , life expectancy in the United States was not quite 50 years. When President Franklin D Roosevelt introduced Social Security in 1935, few Americans lived long enough to enjoy a life after work. Like my dad, FDR was only 63 when he died near the end of WW2. In 1955, the year my father died, the average American was lucky to reach the biblical 70 years. Today the life expectancy in America is somewhere in the 80’s. We have reached a point where retirement is no longer a brief period before death. Maybe we should retire the word retirement.
We may live longer now but God provides us with only this one day. We read in the Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.” Patsy was a coworker friend of mine whose 35 year old daughter was dying of cancer. When I visited her daughter in the hospital she told me about this verse in Psalm 118 and asked what lesson I might learn from it. I answered that God may be teaching us to bring a positive spirit to each day and to live each day well. She agreed but said the central message to her was that God promises us only today and because He extends no promise that we will even be alive tomorrow, we should live this day without regret, serving and being kind to others, seeking God’s will for this day while mindful that there is no promise of tomorrow.
I want to cherish each day as a valuable gift from God. I therefore have a stewardship responsibility to carefully consider what is good use of the time I have left. In Ephesians 5:16 we are encouraged to “redeem the time.” As people age wealth and material things often seem less significant while personal relationships take on more importance. I want to become less concerned with things and things to do and more open to ministry and about having fellowship with the people in my life.
In Ecclesiastes 2:16 I find that no matter how well we may have conducted our life, we will still surely die. I’ve read this and related scriptures over the years but I’m now paying more attention. I’m beginning to think about the harsh reality that the mortality rate really is 100 percent. But I’m trying not to worry too much. I really am focused upon a hopeful future and additional years of ministry that was not widely available to my father and to my parents generation.
What it means to be old is rapidly changing. Retirement is becoming more a process than an event . Nowhere in scripture do we find support for retirement from all work and volunteer activities. Many of us with ministries to men will have many more years of service. As long as we are able and God’s gives us the strength , we should continue to look for ways to make a positive contribution to the lives of those men we encounter in our ministries and also in our daily lives in our churches and within our communities.
I look forward with anticipation to the future and men’s ministry responsibilities. I remember fondly many life experiences but now I want to focus most of my attention upon the future. Why not? After all God may give to me several more years. And my intent and hope is to finish the work well and that whenever my last day finally arrives, I will be able in good conscience to say as Paul said in 2Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I think my dad would agree.