September 24, 2015 • Life for Leaders
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”
Without fanfare, Genesis 12:4 announces that “Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” At 75, Abram began the greatest adventure of his life. At 75, he left all that was familiar to explore the utterly unfamiliar world beyond Haran. At the ripe age of 75, Abram started a new life.
Abram confronts one of the great deceptions of our culture, namely, that people age out of adventure, that folks over a certain age leave a life of significance to enter the non-productive season of “retirement.” You won’t find any of this stuff in the Bible. On the contrary, the example of Abram suggests that God can do great things with senior adults if they are willing to follow him.
I’ve known a lot of people like Abram. I think of Fred, who “retired” from his job running a college bookstore to become a “volunteer” executive pastor in a large church while mentoring dozens of young seminarians, including me. I think of Pam, who after raising her children, went back to college, then to graduate school, earning a Ph.D. and living a life she had only dreamed about before. I think of Betty Anne, who has continued to grow and serve well into her eighties and who once told me, “I love being old.” I think of Al, who “retired” from his executive work with a major company only to become an entrepreneur and visionary leader of many faith/work/leadership enterprises. I think of Howard, with whom I worked closely when I was with the H.E. Butt Family Foundation, who read voraciously, always challenging his mind and his colleagues with new ideas and new vision.
And I think of Ed, who came to me for prayer when I was a young associate pastor. Ed was about 75 at the time, having retired from the military years before and having lived the cultural norm of retirement. But Ed wanted more. He wanted to give all of his life to Christ, serving in new ways that made a difference in the world. Yet, as Ed told me, “I feel like it’s too late. I’ve wasted my life. God can’t do anything with a person like me.” As I prayed for Ed, he wept, at first with sadness, and then with hope. I asked the Spirit of God to fill him with vision and to show him how he might be of greater service in the kingdom. During the next ten years, Ed found ample opportunities for ministry: working in the inner city, mentoring younger Christians, sharing his newfound faith with his neighbors, and so on and so on.
So, whether you’re 25, 45, 75, or even older, it’s never too late for God to use you in amazing ways if you offer yourself to him and follow where he leads.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you know anyone who began a great adventure when the culture expected him or her to settle down into retirement?
Have you ever thought that you have somehow missed the adventure of serving God boldly?
Even now, do you sense God calling you to something new? Are you ready to follow God’s lead?
Gracious God, thank you for never giving up on us, for never seeing us as beyond hope. Thank you for calling Abram when he was 75 and using him so dramatically in your plans. Thank you for his wife, Sarai, who joined him in the adventure. Thank you for Fred, Pam, Betty Anne, Howard, and Ed, and so many others I have known who have modeled for me how to live with courage and faith when the culture says it’s time to slow down.
Help us, Lord, to give all that we are to you today, no matter what our age our situation. May we experience the adventure of following you fully, being used in unexpected ways in your work. Amen.
Photo Credit: “Tanned Old Man Smiling” – CC by joão ornelas.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.