By Kathryn Graves, Crosswalk.com
Workers in the modern world hold the word retirement in a sort of awe and reverence. We eagerly look forward to those “golden years” when we can relax on the porch with our feet up, or travel to all the places we didn’t have time to see before, or visit the grandkids as often as we please.
Our government and businesses have set up systems whereby we put money away over the course of our working years. Then we can withdraw it to live on after reaching a certain pre-determined age. That number seems old and far-off when we begin our careers, but all of a sudden, one day we realize it’s right around the corner.
This plan was set into place without consulting the Bible, and we don’t have a choice about whether to participate. All of us will retire from our careers at some point.
Is Retirement a Biblical Concept?
The word retirement isn’t in the Bible. In fact, the concept of retirement is only present in its pages in the context of becoming physically unable to work and taking to bed. Moses walked over the mountain to where he would die—with a good bit of mystery about the whole incident. Abraham kept going long after Sarah died. Isaac became feeble and blind, and then stopped working. Jacob managed to keep his remaining family afloat until long-lost Joseph brought them to Egypt. On and on the stories go, with no mention of work stoppage while a person is still relatively young—or not so young!—and vigorous.
What are modern Christians to make of this? How can we reconcile our lives in retirement with the Bible? Although they didn’t necessarily speak to stages in life, the biblical writers did focus on how to live our lives—from youth all the way to death.
While our career working years seem to drive us to do, all our activity can distract us from who Christ wants us to be. Retirement can present the opportunity to press the “Reset” button.
Romans chapter 12 begins with how to become transformed in verses 1 and 2, and then contains a list of imperatives in verses 9-13 to help us live out our transformation. Paul admonishes us to be good, kind, diligent, fervent, to serve and rejoice, be patient, prayerful, generous, and hospitable. Then there are the Beatitudes in the fifth chapter of Matthew. Some call them the “Be-Attitudes.” There is no statute of limitations on our mandate to be.
Retirement just may offer us opportunities to express this Christ-life that we might not have had previously. So use the following suggestions as a spring-board for your own ideas, and plan to make your retirement years full of being for the kingdom of God.
Ground Your Day—Remember Who and What You Are
Who you are: Being requires focus. Without the time constraints of a 9 to 5 job, spending an hour every morning with my Bible and journal is not only doable, but my favorite part of the day. It is also what keeps me centered on my identity in Christ and His plans for me—minute by minute. I can set priorities guided by prayer. I can listen for His instruction.
What you are: Being requires action—at least for Christians. When we spend time in prayer and Bible study every day, the Holy Spirit motivates us, even propels us, to share the gospel with everyone we meet. He plans to use His people to accomplish His purposes in the world.
Establish Your Faith Legacy
Do your own children know your faith story? We parents were concerned about the spiritual growth of our children when they were young. We read Bible stories to them, took them to church, and immersed them in all the appropriate activities. But did we remember to tell them our own stories? If you can’t remember the time you shared your testimony with your children, and now they’re adults, it’s not too late. Oh yes, they probably do know about your faith, but do they know how you came to the realization you needed it? Set up a coffee date, or other favorite activity conducive to conversation, so you can talk about your spiritual journey.
Have a conversation with each grandchild about their relationship with Jesus.
This may require more than one trip out of town. Retirement provides the time. If you have made it a habit to read a Bible story and pray at bedtime, this is an ideal chance to let the child talk. Permission to stay up a few extra minutes might be all the encouragement he or she needs. Other opportunities can present themselves at surprise moments—always be ready. Last summer, an impromptu ping-pong game with my grandson provided cover for us to express deep thoughts in a casual setting. If we are present and engaged with our grandchildren, they will open up.
Take teen grandchildren on an international mission trip.
Don’t just send them. Take them with you. Let them see your faith in action. My husband and I go with our church on mission trips every other year. Our grandson knows this and has expressed his desire to go along when he is old enough. These trips are often life-changing for anyone. How wonderful to be like a fly on the wall and watch a grandchild experience something like that.
Begin a tradition of an annual summer mission outreach event in your grandkids’ neighborhood.
A Saturday morning backyard carnival with games and then refreshments and a Bible story time is a great way to connect with local children and their parents. Or if a swimming pool is nearby, invite your teen grandchild’s friends to a swim party and give salvation bracelets to the guests, along with a card explaining the colored beads.
Brainstorm ideas with your grandchildren to share Jesus with their neighbors and friends.
Whatever you concoct, do it with them. Making the salvation bracelet mentioned above is a good way to help a child learn the basics and become able to share with friends. Hosting a small tea party for girls with your granddaughter as the featured “speaker” can transform her life—and her friends’ lives.
I remember when my two sons, in kindergarten and second grade, set up a “revival meeting” in our garage one summer day—without my knowledge. They fashioned a pulpit out of a cardboard box and set up their little boom box to play music. They invited their neighborhood friends and sat them in a row in front of the pulpit. At the appointed time, Phillip preached and Jeremy led the singing.
Apparently, Phillip told them they were all going to hell if they didn’t repent. The next day I received a phone call from one of the mothers who was upset because her son told her he was going to hell. I was able to relay the truth in a manner that helped her—and at the same time introduced the gospel message. We managed to salvage the friendship, and that family became active members in their church, which they had previously only attended on special occasions.
The lesson we learned from this experience—and taught our boys—is to focus on the positive. Tell friends and neighbors that Jesus loves them and desires a relationship with them. The benefit is eternal life in heaven. Then tell them how they can have this good thing.
Choose a Local Ministry in Which to Invest
At your church. Before retirement, there just isn’t as much time to be involved in church ministries. But when a career ends, we can choose how to spend our days. Check out the community ministries of your church and decide on one that interests you.
Para-church Ministries. There are many groups doing a lot of creative and meaningful things to share the gospel that you might not even know about. Search online or ask your pastor for these in your area and read up on them. If something jumps out at you, consider investing time with that ministry.
Travel with a Purpose
Many of those I know who are approaching retirement say they want to travel more. I will be one of those also. Just as there are eco-tours and health vacation spas, travel can have a mission purpose.
Camping. If an RV is your attraction, and you are an electrician, welder, carpenter, engineer, interior designer, good cook, personnel manager, or just about anything else, then a camping mission group might be for you.
Short-Term Mission Trips. A two-week trip to a far-flung location can become much more than a great getaway. You can impact the lives of the local people for eternity. You can also bring encouragement to the missionaries who work there. It may sound glamorous to live in an exotic locale, but it can often be draining and just plain hard. The gospel workers need news, faces, and even chocolate from home.
Stealth Missions. If you stay at an all-inclusive resort or go on a cruise, or fly to a destination and stay in a hotel, try to meet other travelers. Dinner table-mates often become life-long friends after cruising together. Engaging another couple in conversation at poolside on a Caribbean trip led my husband and I to invite them to share a taxi ride into town for shopping. We steered the conversation toward telling about our lives, and that provided a natural transition to our faith stories.
Minister Through a Health Crisis
At some point, we will all face illness and death. Rather than shrinking in fear from the very thought of such times, we can plan ahead for how we will walk with courage and faith through them.
Hospital Personnel. Many of the older folks in our church congregation take advantage of the captive audience they hold within their hospital rooms. Nurses and doctors will all have heard the gospel before the sick one is released to go home. If rehab is recommended, then those workers also receive the benefit of a Christian patient sharing their faith.
Hospice or other end-of-life caregivers. There is no greater witness than facing death unafraid. This is the ultimate chance to let others see who we are at our core—to be in front of them. When Christ resides in our hearts and the Holy Spirit pours grace on us at the end of our lives, the professionals—and everyone else—witness it. My pastor husband says he has seen—and the nurses and doctors with whom he’s spoken about it agree—the vast difference between a dying person who knows Jesus, and one who doesn’t.
Rather than being the end of our useful lives, retirement years can actually become our most productive—in terms of souls. The key is to be transformed by Jesus, and then search for any way we can find to be His hands and feet and physical voice.
Kathryn Graves, author of the book Fashioned by God, is a style expert, fashion coach, and Premier Designs jewelry consultant. She is also a pastor’s wife, Bible teacher, and holds a degree in Psychology. Kathryn helps women discover the source of real beauty in Jesus, freeing them to gain confidence in their personal styles. She is Mimi to three grandsons, and loves to play with color, both in fashion and interior design, and painting with pastels. You can learn more at KathrynGraves.com or find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Yannes Kiefer