Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Spiritual Retirement

Php 3:13  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.
This is one of those verses that when asked what exactly was Paul forgetting about that was in his past, we might get several answers.  It seems the context is all about Paul concentrating on the present, fulfilling the tasks that Jesus had saved him for, namely conforming to the image of Christ in mind and body.  So whatever was in his past that would keep him from living a godly and productive life needed to be forgotten.  So in that sense I think it covers a broad range of things, but let me approach it from one specific direction.
Let’s think about how an elderly, retired person tends to approach life compared to someone around the age of 20.  We’ve all heard the line from an older person who says that he can remember things better that happened when he was young than the things that happened the day before.  For this and other reason such a person tends to think more of the “good old days” and not as much as the present time.  This can be especially troubling when we hear so many of older generations complaining of how badly times have changed.  It is not unusual for old and young alike to speak of how America is no longer a “Christian nation”, whatever that means.  What seems to often happen here is that they have given up as if since we live in a secular society all of the sudden the church has become toothless, the Lord has vacated the throne and the world is going to Hell in a hand basket.  One wonders how the church thrived in godless Rome.
A young person though tends to look forward with at least guarded hope, because his life is mostly ahead of him and so he has goals and dreams and anticipations of things not yet realized.  So the retired person can easily fall into the trap of sitting on the front porch rocking himself to sleep as he remembers the good times of his life and in the process he spends little if any time trying to accomplish anything in the present time.  The young person, though has the completely opposite lifestyle.
It seems to me that Paul is saying that there is no way he is going to retire spiritually and by inference he is telling us that this is how Christians are to think and live.  It doesn’t matter what failures you have in the past and remember, Paul persecuted the church; as long as God gives you breath there is work to be done in his service.  We can spend our time complaining that America isn’t what it used to be or the youth group isn’t as well behaved or people aren’t as friendly as they used to be and you can live in the past to the point that you don’t care about the present.  You might even live in the future in the same way.  You might have given up on life and are just sitting around waiting for the Lord to take you home.  But my point is that if this is the case, in one sense you aren’t ready to meet the Lord.
Paul who was an older man when he wrote these words is telling us that he continues to live as a young man.  He looks for ways to serve the Lord, he is listening for the Lord to speak to him, setting goals and so continues to have purpose in his life.  He can even say this while sitting in a filthy prison. 
There are people all around us dying in their sins; there are brothers and sisters in Christ that we see every week who need the gifts that God has given us; there are children and grandchildren to raise; there are the sorrowing to comfort, the weak to lift up.  There simply is no time, any age or circumstance in which we can sit back and say we have done enough.  Notice what Paul says to us in vs. 17, Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  He doesn’t qualify it by addressing the young but he speaks to us all.  There is no retirement for the saint of God.  Even when we reach heaven we will be given bodies that do not tire so we can serve in perfection for ever!  But in the mean time it is the mature ones in Christ who have the most to offer in the Kingdom of God.

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