WAYPOINTS: What retirement?
Moses was 80 years old when God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt in the 40-year journey that we know as the Exodus. Joshua was almost 80 when he was given charge of the conquest of Canaan. Daniel was more than 80 when he served as one of the three governors over the kingdom of Babylon. Zacharias and Elizabeth were an old couple when they became the parents of John the Baptist.
The list of folks in Church history who served the Lord well into their “golden years” is long and illustrious. I am 66 years old — young by biblical standards — yet on May 31 I am stepping down as senior pastor of the Immanuel Anglican family of believers. Yea!! I have been involved in parish ministry continuously since I was ordained in 1973. Now I can sit back and ... oh wait!
All this means is that God is simply preparing me for my next ministry challenge. Nowhere can I find any scriptural precedent for retirement. Instead, I find throughout church history the expectation that our ministry here on earth will not end until we take our last breath. Even then, who knows? Maybe ministry continues in heaven as well. After all, who wants to spend an eternity sipping mint juleps while swinging in a hammock beside Bing Crosby? I like Bing Crosby, but, you know ...
Jesus has given to each one of his children who follows him an abundance of natural talents and spiritual gifts. He does so to equip us to serve him. And there are as many ways to serve the Living Lord as there are people. Each one of us has been given just what we need to do whatever God calls us to do. And God’s call on our lives varies with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Part of our challenge as believers is to hear God’s direction and then have courage to follow that direction. The ministry curve for many believers will move from one stage to the next, tracking very much the same path that Jesus marked with his own disciples. I do, you watch. I do, you help. You do, I help. You do, I watch.
From the beginning of our lives to the end, we all need to remain teachable. There will be times when we are actively learning and times when we are actively helping those who are teaching us. There will be times when we are leading the way while our mentors help us, and there will be times when we become the mentors of others and start the cycle all over again with new learners. It is how the gospel is passed on from generation to generation. There will be times in our lives when we are active in serving the Lord and his people. There will be other times when we are less active and more instructive of those we are training for ministry. Throughout every stage, we are all called to wrap everything in prayer. After all, how can a person serve a Lord he or she doesn’t take time to hear?
Whether toddler or octogenarian, no one is ever too young or too old to be used by the Lord. So here I am. I have finished one race, but the meet is not over. I am in the starting blocks waiting for the Lord to tell me what the next event is going to be for me and then send me off with a bang. I am fired up and ready to go. I can feel the adrenalin coursing through my system — or is that the Holy Spirit? I feel like I am 18 years old. I am just trapped in an older body. I don’t exactly know what lies ahead, but I am confident that the Lord will never give me anything that I can’t handle in the power and direction of the Holy Spirit. God is not finished with me yet.
As the poet Robert Frost once wrote, “There are miles to go before I sleep.” The same is true for you. You see, the Lord is not finished with you either.
The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.