[E]ven to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. Psalm 71:18
Jim Sandberg and his team led our seminar drawing from John Piper’s booklet, Rethinking Retirement. Jim retired for two weeks before realizing he needed to refire! Today he lives on mission, relishes his prayer ministry, has seen God miraculously at work, serves others selflessly, and gives all the glory to God. Jim points out that the word ‘retirement’ is not in the Bible.
As John Piper puts it, many Christians set their sights on a “Sabbath evening” of life – a time of resting, playing and traveling. American Dream retirement is the secular world’s substitute for heaven. ‘Heaven now’ is what the secular world believes in because it doesn’t believe there’ll be a real heaven beyond the grave. According to this line of thought you should reward yourself now in this life after long years of labor, and just kick back and retire! Sadly, many Christians think the same way.
The Retirement Trap
As a matter of fact, retirement is simply not a good idea. Although on average retirees should have 20 years of life ahead of them, many die within two years of retirement. Most men don’t die of old age, they die of retirement. Retirement is a disease, not a blessing.
The Alternative to Retirement
No-one in the Bible retired. Instead of retiring, finish strong! Aim to finish life in a way that honors Christ as your greatest treasure. This entails resolutely resisting the American Dream and the empty uselessness of the secular world’s view of retirement. Rather live and die in the glow of love, as Christ did upon the Cross. Finishing life to the glory of Christ means using whatever strength, eyesight, hearing, mobility and resources we have to treasure Christ and continue the Great Commission. Our deep desire should be to bring others with us into the everlasting joy of Christ. Following Christ entails spiritual battle. So keep on the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-18) and remember: soldiers don’t retire in the middle of a war!
Persevere to the End
According to Scripture, says John Piper, perseverance of faith is essential. Consider these truths: the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Mk 13:13). As you have always obeyed, so now…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you…(Philippians 2:12-13). Strive…for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14). I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord…will award to me on that day, and…also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim 4:7-8). As these passages make clear, there is no salvation for people who do not persevere in faith. So fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. Don’t opt out!
God is at Work from Within
While perseverance is essential, don’t depend on your own efforts to secure God’s favor. That will lead to pride or despair. At the moment of justification, God, by His Spirit, indwells His people in order to continue shaping and forming them. This means that all those in Christ will persevere because God is at work in them. Perseverance in good works is not the means to earn God’s favor, it is an outcome of the fact that God is already indwelling us and working out His purposes through us. We persevere and work hard, not to earn God’s grace, but as a result of God’s grace.
How do we Overcome the Fear of Not Persevering?
Sometimes we grow anxious about not persevering. Therefore we should keep preaching the good news of the gospel to ourselves. Let’s keep finding in Christ our highest treasure. Keep on believing. Keep looking to Christ and valuing Christ and receiving Christ every day. Relish His promises:
- 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. (Philippians 1:6).
- He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:8-9).
- [God] is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, (Jude 24).
- Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:3-31).
As God works within, we will discover that the soul that lives with Jesus perseveres in a life of ongoing mission.
Says Piper, it’s inconceivable for Christians to live a life of self-absorbed leisure when there are millions of people who need Christ. What a tragic way to finish the last mile before entering the presence of the King — who finished his last mile so differently! Don’t waste your final years. Don’t buy into the American Dream of retirement, with month after month of leisure, play, hobbies, putzing around the garage, rearranging the furniture, golfing, fishing and sitting in front of the TV. Lord, spare me this curse!
[E]ven to your old age…
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save. (Is 46:3-4)
This life is not for me, it’s for Him. We are secure in Christ, so live fully refired for the One who lived and loved and died for you. The Great Commission is a permanent commission. Keep on loving people with gospel intentionality. Don’t throw your life away on the American Dream of retirement. Finish Strong! Magnify Christ and keep on following Him in anticipation of that wonderful welcome from the Lord: Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Master (Matt 25:21-23).
Dear Jesus, help us persevere. We grow older and our affections cool. Don’t let us forsake the love we had at first in exchange for the emptiness and boredom of retirement. Give us a holy discontent. Restore us, we pray, in the joy of being infinitely loved by you! Ignite our souls with the passion of your love. Thank you for lavishing us with the love you gave so willingly upon the Cross for people like me – a foolish, idolatrous rebel — and for making us your much loved bride! Help us fan into flame the gifts you have given us so we can finish strong and serve you forever. And thank you, Lord, for the privilege of the mission! Amen.
Piper, J. Rethinking Retirement: Finishing life for the glory of Christ. Crossway, 2009.