By Rhonda Stoppe, Crosswalk.com
Does retirement exist for Christians? I pondered this morning while going over my to-do list.
As a mother of four grown children, I have time on my hands like no other time in my life. When my kids were little, I remember thinking the days of an empty nest were so far off, I thought they'd never become a reality.
Oh sure, I had older mentors who reminded me to enjoy every season of parenting because, "It'll be over before you know it."
But honestly those years of raising toddlers and teens kept me so busy I rarely took time to ponder how soon they’d be gone.
During that season my husband was in youth ministry so you can imagine how busy we were. But looking back, my favorite ministry of all was and is the parenting our children.
When only two of our kids were still at home, I started accepting more speaking opportunities. One year at a minister’s wives retreat, the speaker's words pierced my heart. It revolutionized the way I would spend the years remaining with our kids at home.
He shared his own regret as a parent in ministry. He tearfully unfolded how his ministry outside took priority over his calling to his family. The consequences were regretfully played out in his kid's rebellion. He said, “It was a mistake I have no power to undo. But with God's help I’ll train others not to make the same mistakes.”
Before this I’d been excited about the growth of my speaking platform, however, after the retreat I promised the Lord I would redirect my zeal toward finishing well this season of my ministry of motherhood.
And do you know what I found? I had more time to study God's Word, pray, and enjoy my children. Attending every event of importance to them became a priority. Laughing and playing with them while making our home a place their friends could come became of utmost importance.
So, what happens to a momma after she’s set aside her own aspirations to parent her children? Does she then get to retire?
God certainly didn’t let me tap out!
I've heard women say, "It's me time now," as they indulge in whatever entertainment or comfort they believe they're entitled.
But what if this time in your life isn't about your retirement? What if God's plan for you far exceeds your wildest imagination?
Rather than devoting yourself to travel, or collecting sea shells by the sea shore, what if God wants:
1. To use you to equip a younger generation to follow Him with passion?
2. To warn those in your sphere of influence not to make same mistakes you've made?
3. To empower you to spread the hope of the gospel?
4. To intercede powerfully for your family and this generation? Like Moses on the mountaintop with his arms held up interceding for Joshua in the battle.
5. To show Christ's love to widows, the lonely, and the shut-ins?
6. To use the money you once spent on raising kids to:
- Support missionaries. You may not realize how many students study to be missionaries but must put off going to the field until their school debts are paid.
- House a college student to help keep down the costs of student loans. Especially students studying for the ministry. After graduation their loans are staggering. And most in ministry will earn far less than other college graduates.
- Give sacrificially to support your church and their ministries.
- Sponsor a child through a Christ-centered organization.
You ask, "Now hold on just a minute. I've already done all those things and I'm just tired. When is it someone else's turn?"
It’s disheartening when you've devoted your life to serving and the generation behind you is happy to let you keep working yourself to death. I get it. I've been there. But throwing in the towel because they won't help has never been God's design for His followers.
So, what does God want you to do?
1. When you are worn out, take a break. Jesus often snuck away from the crowds to be alone with The Father. If Jesus needed to find strength in retreating with God you can be sure you need it too.
2. When others let you down, seem lazy, critical, or self-serving learn from Scripture: At the height of Elijah’s ministry, when he called fire from heaven, he fled in fear at Jezebel’s threats. By focusing on his difficulties, Elijah's perspective was so skewed he believed he was the "only one" who cared about serving God (see: 1 Kings 19). I love how God encouraged Elijah, not in the sensational fire, wind, or quake but in the quietness of His voice.
If you're tempted to give up because others haven’t measured up to your expectations, remember you are not alone in your experience. In every generation God’s servants are met with trials and people who would steal their zeal and make them want to quit.
3. Remember that God’s in the business of taking our little and making it much. When we feel like we’re equipped to handle things, God often shakes things up until we feel inadequate or ready to quit. It is then that He shines brightest.
In those times, rather than focusing on how ill-equipped, tired, or discouraged you are what if you press in to Christ through prayer and Bible study?
What if God has waited your whole life to accomplish what He put in your heart when you were young?
Remember Abraham? God promised him he’d be the father of a great nation, but then waited until he was old to fulfill that promise. Why, you ask? Maybe because God says:
“My ways are higher than your ways…” (Isaiah 55:9)
This season––where you feel tired and ready to put your feet up––God can be most glorified because only He can help you do His good pleasure in your golden years. Then maybe, just maybe, He doesn’t want you to retire.
Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong for a pastor to retire from his position, or an accountant to throw in his calculator to collect social security. Not at all. But what I am saying is:
What if God will do through his senior servants more than they could have dreamed so He will be glorified in ways beyond their imagination?
Collecting sea shells by the sea shore? Okay. But can you do it with one eye on the shore line and the other on Christ? Ask Him to make you always ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you. (For help with evangelism watch this video.)
Maybe you’re not the traveling type. If you regularly attend church, what would it be like if you prayed like never before for your pastor and his family?
There was an elderly woman named Helen in our church when our kids were young. This woman was frail and spent much of her time at home listening to teaching on Christian radio and praying for others.
Each week she came to church––despite her children’s prompting to stay home away from illnesses. At church she’d ask Steve how she could pray for him.
I’m confident that Helen’s intercession for our children is what protected them from Satan’s deceptions. Her prayers for God to capture their hearts and guide them in Truth are being answered long after she’s gone to heaven.
What a legacy––right? Others might have overlooked this white-haired saint, but her prayer opened heaven’s floodgates of protection, power, and blessing upon our family and our congregation.
Seniors, we need you––you matter. When you regularly attend service, come to Bible studies, fellowship, and intentionally engage with others, your pastor sees you––and he is grateful for your help. (Read: 4 Things You Can Do to Encourage Your Pastor’s Wife)
Often pastors and their wives feel alone. What if you made a point to pray for your pastor, encourage him with your words, smile and show up? I know it’s tempting to travel every weekend when you’re retired, but what if you didn’t?
You may never know the effect you’re having on your pastor and his family. I’m sure Helen had no idea how she blessed us. But God knows. He sees. And He’ll do through you more than you can imagine if you resist the temptation to retire and surrender to Him this season of life. And I’ll bet one day before the throne you’ll have no regrets!
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