Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Retirement: the cessation of work. Many people live their lives for retirement. They count the years until they can close the door on the office and walk away. They dream of leisurely days with no responsibilities or duties. When they arrive, they often find that retirement is not what they had dreamed it would be. Because people are healthier and live longer today, the retirement years can last as long as the work years. Many people, after having been retired for a short time, return to work in some way, just to fill the time. A leisurely vacation is fun. Endless days with nothing productive to do is BORING!
Retirement is not a biblical concept. As a follower of Christ, as long as we have the strength, we are called to be active in service for Christ. The type of service and the venue will change, but the call is the same. We are to actively live our lives for the glory of God. The Bible gives us some amazing models of people who ran their race right up to the last day.
One of those people was a man named Caleb. Caleb, along with Joshua, was one of the spies Moses sent into the Promised Land to scope it out in advance of the people entering. When the spies came back, the majority report was that the land is amazing, but the people are too strong for us. Caleb and Joshua gave the minority report. The land is amazing and our God is even more amazing. Let’s take the land! Forty years later, Caleb and Joshua finally stepped foot into the Promised Land. At a time when most people would be thinking of retirement, Caleb had different plans.
"Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." Joshua 14:10-12
A second example of non-retirement is the Apostle Paul. Paul faced many challenges on his journey through life. No one would have faulted him if, near the end of his life, he put his feet up and took a much-needed rest. But that was not Paul’s style. Paul kept his eye on the goal and ran his race all the way to the finish line. When Paul penned the letter to the church in Philippi, he was in prison and could see his death on the horizon. Yet he could honestly say that he was not done with his race yet. He gave everything he had to Christ.
I have been blessed with a very personal example of running the race well. When my parents retired from work, they went to work for the cause of Christ. They volunteered to organize humanitarian and ministry supplies for GAIN (formerly Josh McDowell ministry) at a warehouse in Lancaster PA. From there they were assigned as bus captions to go the Belarus and distribute the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. If that was enough, my Dad took the responsibility for overseeing the warehouse and all of the groups that went to Belarus when they did, and my Mom took care of the money. They did this ministry for 12 years. They stopped going to the warehouse just two years ago. Today, at 90 & 92, living in North Carolina, they are active members of a senior adult group and baby sit their great-grandchildren two to three times a week.
As Suanne and I move into the world of retirement, we see it not as a time to stop, but as a time to refocus. Although we are leaving the pastorate after 36 years, we are entering a new kind of pastorate; interim ministry. We will be serving churches in the gap time between pastors. This will keep us very busy as we continue to serve Christ. We don’t know what the future will hold for us, but we know that the race is not over.