George Bernard Shaw once wrote: The statistics on death are quite impressive, one out of one people die. It is a sobering truth, but death is total and universal in each and every generation; it is the single event in life that we know is a certain reality. And yet so very often we are unprepared to face this truth and to live accordingly; to live with one eye on eternity.
For many of us, we simply need to look at our birth certificates to remind us that we’re not getting any younger. Thinning hair, failing eyesight, and arthritic hands reveal and inescapable truth: we’re only getting older. (J.I. Packer, Finishing Our Course with Joy) But that doesn’t mean we resign ourselves to a life of comfort and ease; that we sit back and just take it easy. Packer challenges us to embrace the aging process as an opportunity for continued learning and service; to press on with courage and grace and endurance—that our lives may continue to bring glory to our Saviour’; that we might live well and finish well—that we might finish our course with joy.
In the coming weeks, we are going to talk about what it means for us at Valley to do just that, to live well and cross the finish line with a confident faith and measure of joy that can only be found in those who have a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. We’re going to talk about what it means for us to live well, to with each day with purpose, to continue to serve and bless others, to let go graciously and to leave a legacy of faith and trust to those who will follow in our steps; in the words of Packer, to cultivate the maximum zeal for the closing phase of our earthly lives.
Packer goes on to admonish us: Maintaining zeal Godward as our bodies wear out is the special discipline to which we aging Christians are called. Realism requires us to remember that memory will weaken; logical tightness of speech will loosen; powers of concentration will diminish; physical exhaustion will overtake us sooner or later, and energy levels will keep going lower. Zeal, however, should be unflagging every day, all day, and all the way.
To such a life of zealous faith and service we are called! J.C. Ryle once wrote:
Zeal is the burning desire to please God, to do his will, and to advance his glory in the world in every
possible way. A zealous man is pre-eminently a man of one thing…he lives for one thing; and that one
thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies—whether he has health, or whether he has
sickness—whether he is rich, or whether he is poor—whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought
foolish—whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise—whether he gets honour, or whether he gets
shame—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to
please God, and advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it—he is
content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in the burning, he has but done
the work for which God appointed him. Such a one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot
preach, work, and give money, he will cry, and sigh, and pray. If he cannot fight in the valley with Joshua,
he will do the work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur on the hill (Exodus 17:9-13). This is what I mean when I
speak of ‘zeal’. (Practical Religion)
So often, as we get older, we get ‘set in our ways’, we are easily offended, easily distracted, easily drawn away from the very things we hold to be important; we lose our zeal for life and faith, and we fade long before we reach the finish line. May it not happen at Valley! Let’s do our part to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24). May it be said of us, ‘they finished their course with joy!