In 1967 The Beatles released a memorable song called, “When I’m Sixty-Four”. The song asks the question that can stir in the minds of many people who are facing old age when it repeats the words, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m sixty-four?”
The thought of no longer being needed with the advancement of old age cuts across the very purpose for which we were created.
Interestingly, I belong to a denomination that requires its pastors to retire at 65, even though it is possible to believe for a number of them that their best years are still to come.
( Sue still needed Rod when he was sixty-four)
In 2004, Gordon MacDonald wrote A Resilient Life for people in danger of losing their resilience, “the quality of spirit that increases the effectiveness of life with every passing year.” He wrote the book as a wakeup call that “one must anticipate that the greatest contribution God has for us to make will happen in the second half of life (because) the second half of life is when wisdom, intellectual vitality, physical stamina, and deep spirituality finally come together and produce a person capable of doing great work for the advancement of Jesus’ kingdom.”
I write this paper with two purposes in mind. First, as a clarion call to people who feel it’s time to take their feet off the pedal in anticipation of advancing years where society tells them that their best efforts are behind them. Second, in my senior years, I believe that the best is yet to come. For I have come to realise that the most fruitful decades of a person’s life are meant to occur in the second half of their life.
A study of four hundred noted people of all times and in different spheres of activity revealed that sixty four percent of the world’s greatest achievements were accomplished by people over sixty years of age. And yet it is the over-rated attraction of retirement that can rob us of our most productive years.
It is indeed a sad thing for us to get to the end of our lives and realise that there was more and that we did not fulfill the calling that God had on our life, that we did not live to the full the life that was entrusted to us.
Erwin McManus wrote a book about this critical issue called The Last Arrow. His intention for this book was “that you would never surrender, that you would never settle, that you would save nothing for the next life. May you die with your quiver empty. May you die with your hearts full.”
“When you come to the end of your life, will you be able to say, ‘I gave everything I had’, or will you have a hollow feeling inside of your soul that you quit too soon, that you expected too little, that you did not strike the last arrow.”
Time and again we find in the Bible many of the great men and women that were called and used by God, did so in the latter years of their lives. Moses was called by God at the age of 80 to lead his people out of captivity in Egypt to the promised land. It took 80 years for Moses to prepare himself for this great challenge. God is never in a hurry. Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born. Noah was 680 years old when he built the ark. The Apostle Paul praised Lois, Timothy’s grandmother for discipling her grandson in the faith. Caleb at the age of 85 said to Joshua, “So here I am today. 85 years old, I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out….now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me….” Joshua 14:10-12
The Psalmist said, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree; They will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord they shall flourish in the courts of God. THEY WILL STILL BEAR FRUIT IN OLD AGE; They will stay fresh and green.” Psalm 92:12 In contrast, Paul Scanlon said, “Some people are dead at 50 and buried at 80. In reality people don’t die of old age, people die of decay.”
Recently a group of Christian leaders in America started a “retirement reformation”. They claim that age 65 isn’t the time to retire. Rather, it is an age to refine, reboot and refocus on your calling. It is a time to pursue purpose, not pastime. Their Retirement Reformation Manifesto says, “Reforming retirement requires a reframing of our thinking, allowing us to shine a light into the purposeless retirement void and finding freedom from unending leisure, indulgence and self-gratification.” The manifesto urges seniors to “embrace their final quarter of life as a time to find spiritual fulfillment and meaning in using their life experiences and resources to serve and enrich others……Christians are called to bear fruit in every season of life.”
In my lifetime I have lived to see some amazing transitions. I am among the first generation to live beyond the age of 65 and still be healthy and productive. It is now possible to be actively occupied to the age of 85. I was excited to recently receive a prayer letter from my friend Dr Paul Ariga in Japan. In his letter he said, “I will be 89 in June, being anointed with the Oil of Gladness to finish well. My Doctor says that I physically am 20 years younger, spiritually I am still at His Best. The best is yet to come I am looking forward to seeing God’s mighty work done in Japan, Asia and the world.”
In his prayer letter schedule, Dr Ariga listed 19 speaking engagements that he has for the coming month.
Recent studies show that the most productive decades of our lives are the fifties, sixties and seventies and middle age can begin at 60. It follows that we are in danger of becoming the generation with the most wasted potential.
Pastor Rick Warren in an interview with Forbes magazine said, “The word retirement is not even in the Bible….What is taught in scripture is a transition. You may change jobs, you may change vocations and you may volunteer for free, but there is nothing that says you work most of your life to be selfish for the next 20 years. The Bible says as long as your heart is beating, God has a plan and purpose for your life….to grow personally, to get to know Him, to serve others, and to make the world a better place.”
KEYS TO A LIFE OF RESILIENCE
Hopefully I have encouraged you to believe that you will still be needed when you are 64 and beyond, that in your senior years the best is still to come. I close by listing eleven keys to living a resilient life, the quality of spirit that increases the effectiveness of life with every passing year.
- HAVE A CALLING
Resilient people know something; they have a purpose for living that has its foundation in a conviction that God created them and birthed in them a calling to live their whole lives for His glory. A calling serves as an anchor in life when difficult times come and when a person is tempted to give up or retire. It stops good things getting in the way of the best things. A calling is for a lifetime whereas a career lasts until retirement.
- NEVER STOP GROWING
Resilient people never lose their hunger to learn new things, to never get locked into the past, to continually be changing and doing something for the first time. They want to die with a minimum of unused brain cells. They are like the Apostle Paul who was still growing in his final years when he was living his life in a damp prison cell and he wrote his final letter to Timothy and asked him to bring his parchments. 2 Timothy 4:13 He never stopped studying.
My friend Ed Silvoso, on the recent occasion of his seventy seventh birthday wisely said, “Death sets in when nostalgia for the past that is known begins to outweigh passion for the future that is unknown. When people settle for being an expert on what God has done rather than a novice in something new that God is doing, they begin to die even though they are still breathing.”
- LIVE A LIFE OF SELF-LEADERSHIP
Paul defines self-leadership in his words to the Corinthians ; “I discipline myself for fear that after challenging others in the Christian life, I might become a casualty.” 1 Corinthians 9:17.
Resilience is the product of a disciplined life that frees a person to be able to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether they feel like it or not.
Oswald Sanders in his book, Spiritual Leadership said, “Many who drop out of Christian work do so not because they are sufficiently gifted but because there are large areas of their lives which have never been brought under the control of the Holy Spirit.” (see article)
MENTAL TOUGHNESS More important than ever for all leaders | Rod Denton (roddentoneng.com.au)
- UNDERSTAND THE SEASONS OF THEIR LIFE
God has created you for a purpose and on your journey through life you will experience a series of unfolding seasons through which He will guide you. Consequently, our understanding of the seasons of our lives, of open and closed doors, will be made easier when we make it a priority to live in intimacy with our Father God and trust Him to fulfil His purposes that He has planned for us over our lifetime.
- BASE THEIR IDENTITY ON AN UNCHANGING FOUNDATION
Resilient people have their identity based on who they are and not what they do. Doing flows out of being.
At His baptism, at the beginning of His ministry, the Father spoke to Jesus, “This is My Son whom I love. With Him I am well pleased.” Before He began His ministry (doing), Jesus learned that His deepest needs (being) were found in who He was. His need for SIGNIFICANCE came from the fact that He was a Son of the Father. His need for SECURITY came from the fact that He was unconditionally loved by His Father. People of resilience build their identity on a strong unchanging foundation that can never be moved.
- KNOW THAT THEIR ATTITUDE DETERMINES THEIR LIFE
People of resilience understand that it is not what happens to them that is important, rather it is their attitude to what happens to them that is important. For we cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude to our circumstances.
Paul explains it this way, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 People with strong attitudes have learned that failure is not final, that faith can overcome fear, that the glass is half full rather than half empty, that there is an opportunity in every setback, that hope can overcome despair, and to focus on the eternal and not the temporal.
- SEEK OUT MENTORS ALONG THE WAY
Thom Rainer wrote, “Is it possible to find one common factor in the lives and ministries of the most effective church leaders? I think so. The most effective church leaders are being continuously and intentionally mentored…….it is the difference between good leadership and great leadership for most church leaders. However, mentoring is missing in over 90% of church leaders’ lives today.”
I have learned to live life with mentoring eyes, to be continually connecting with people who can empower me in some aspect of my life, who can help me live a life of resilience. I have learned that it is my responsibility to seek out mentors and never to assume that a person better than me may not be available to spend time with me. John Maxwell explains that “mentors are people who know the way, go the way and show the way.”
- LIVE LIFE WITH GOD’S PERSPECTIVE
My Professor of Leadership at Fuller Seminary, Doctor Bobby Clinton said that the one thing that separates leaders from followers is perspective, the ability to see life through God’s eyes.
Perspective is Joseph saying to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:19-20
Perspective is Paul saying in jail, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” Philippians 1:12-13
Perspective helps us to live out God’s calling on our lives and be free of the many other demands that will surely be made on us along the way.
- MOBILISE PRAYER PARTNERS TO SUPPORT THEM
Peter Wagner wrote, “The reason I am writing this book (Prayer Shield) is that I am personally convinced the following statement is true: ‘The most underutilised source of spiritual power in our churches today is intercession for Christian leaders.’”
Billy Graham said,“The three reasons for the success of my ministry were prayer, prayer and prayer.”
On at least seven occasions the apostle Paul in his letters requested people to pray for him. I find it hard to imagine that a leader can live a resilient life without recruiting prayer partners. There are a number of reasons why leaders who want to live resilient lives need prayer partners, perhaps the chief one being that leaders are greater targets for Satan’s attacks. Matthew 26:31
- REALISE THE IMPORTANCE OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotionally intelligent leaders are people who have mastered the ability to understand and manage their emotions so that they are able to create a climate of resonance that provides for a healthy working environment and increased productivity. Leaders who recognise the powerful role that emotions play in the workplace, are able to maximise morale and motivation and contribute to the resilience of all who are involved.
Emotionally intelligent leaders have learned:
- that they will not be controlled by negative emotions
- that they cannot influence the emotions of others without first having managed their own emotions
- their strengths, weaknesses, limits and their impact on others.
- HAVE LEARNED HOW TO EXPERIENCE THE SUSTAINING GRACE OF GOD
The onset of old age is inevitable, but it does not necessarily mean that people need to fade away into obscurity if they have discovered the secret of living in the sustaining grace of God.
It seems that the apostle Paul struggled in his early ministry as he tried to serve in the power of his own strength. But there came a time where the Lord said to him,
“My (sustaining) grace is sufficient (tailor made) for you for My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And so he could say to others, “And God is able to make ALL grace to abound to you, so that at ALL times, having ALL that you need, you will abound in EVERY good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8 (see article)
AMAZING GRACE – Part 2…. God’s Sustaining Grace | Rod Denton (roddentoneng.com.au)
What an encouragement these words are to people in their senior years who long to live resilient lives following the call of God to the end of their days on earth.
A life of resilience…
- is a daily matter.
- is a choice. We are personally responsible for living our own lives of resilience; no one else can do it for us.
- comes with a price tag. It is a life of discipline, focus and faithfulness.
- Resilience is demanding, and often lived out in secret.
- Resilience makes it possible for life to become more fruitful the older we get.
- Resilience is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. It allows a person to be able to say as they near the end of their life, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (calling) …..” Acts 26:29
So when do we start living a life of resilience? Good question. If you haven’t already started, start today. It is never too late!
“So then,…..let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE (resilience) the race marked out for us (our calling). Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary or lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
FOR YOUR PRACTICAL APPLICATION
- What are the key insights you can take from this article?
- Describe the lifelong calling that God has for you.
- Give yourself a mark out of ten for each of the eleven keys to living a life of resilience.
- What steps can you take right now to ensure that you will live a life of resilience?
- Who can you share this feedback with?
- are committed to finishing strong.
- run inspired by a big picture view of life.
- run free of the weight of the past.
- run confidently, trained to go the distance.
- run in the company of a ‘happy few’ ” Gordon MacDonald A Resilient Life