A Biblical Look at Aging (Part 1) - Howard Hendricks

A biblical look at what aging IS and IS NOT.
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What Retirement is NOT
Day 1 of 2
Guest:                           Dr. Howard Hendricks
From the Series:         What Retirement is NOT


Bob:                There are challenges associated with moving into the retirement years.  Many of us have never thought that far ahead.  Here is Dr. Howard Hendricks.
Howard:         Retirement has four major problems attached to it, the first of which is income – the financial component; the second of which is health – the physical component; the third of which is housing – your living arrangements; but the fourth and the most important is purpose, meaning, an interest in life.  And the fascinating thing to me, and all of the research proves it, is we're making tremendous progress in the first three, but substantially none in the fourth, because it's the least recognized, and it's the most neglected.
Bob:                This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 18th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Have you started yet thinking about your purpose and your plan for your retirement years?  Stay tuned.
                        And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  Whenever you hear that voice, whenever you hear Howard Hendricks' voice, you've just got to get a big grin on your face, don't you?
Dennis:          I do, and the reason is he's one of those men who has marked my life over the past – well, I go back all the way to 1970 when I first started slipping into his class as a college student and then as a new staff member on Campus Crusade for Christ staff.  I'd slip in the back of the class at Dallas Seminary …
Bob:                You mean you weren't enrolled or anything?  You just snuck in and listened to what he was …
Dennis:          Shhhhhh – they'll probably want to charge me.  They got my tuition later on.
Bob:                You enrolled, and you took – you said you majored in Hendricks.
Dennis:          I majored in Hendricks and got everything he taught in one year, and, folks, if you have ever had a great teacher, you know that great teachers can really mark your life, whether it's a coach, a professor, a Sunday school teacher – they really can impact you.  And Dr. Howard Hendricks who was, for a number of years, the professor of Christian education at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas – "Prof" as he was known – really is – he was the finest teacher I've ever sat under, but he was more than just a professor.  He was a man who understood how to motivate men and women.
Bob:                Do you remember what it was the first time you heard him teach where you said, "I want to hear more?"  He's a compelling speaker, he's very winsome, but there must have been something about what he was saying or the way he was expressing himself that caused you to go, "This is a man I want to hear more from.  I want to learn and grow."
Dennis:          He had the goods.  In all my years at Dallas Seminary, I took five classes from him – not a boring class.  Now, I want folks to think about that – that's a lot of classes.  He was on the edge; he had the message; his wife authenticated his message; and he knew how to challenge and motivate young men who sat in those classes back then; now, young ladies as well, are being motivated by him.
                        But he became a good friend.  In fact, we were just laughing the other day when I did a conference with him, and it's one of the great honors of my 34 years of ministry to have teamed up with him now on a couple of occasions for some conferences for Dallas Seminary.  But we were just talking at one of those conferences – I set a record for the most number of laymen brought to his class when I was a student.  I'd bring them in from the highways and the byways and the hedges.
Bob:                So you used to sneak in and then, once you enrolled, you started sneaking other guys in?
Dennis:          I brought other guys in.  I want to show you how to drink water from a fire hydrant, and Dr. Hendricks is, indeed, a fire hydrant.  And you and I both know, I ran across a series of messages that I'd never heard him give.  It was actually a lectureship sponsored by Dallas Seminary a number of years ago on aging.  And I first said, "You know what?  I want our speaker team that speaks at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences to hear this series," and then I thought, "You know what?  I want you, as a listener, to hear this."  Because I don't think most of us have a very good perspective about aging and retirement and some of the issues we're going to face as we grow older.
Bob:                Now, listen, some of our listeners are in their 30s.  Do you think this is going to apply to them?
Dennis:          Oh, absolutely.  You know, in fact, if you go to the book of Ecclesiastes, I think it's chapter 12, the author says, "Remember God in the days of your youth," and then he goes on to describe old age.  It's kind of like, now wait a second, you're talking about old age, but why do you exhort us to remember God when we're young?  Well, I think the answer is your understanding of walking with God today as you're young will determine who you become when you're an elderly man, an elderly woman.  And I'm kind of on a little bit of a crusade and a soapbox about wiping out crotchety, gripey, complaining old men and bitter old ladies.  You know, I think we've got enough of them.  I think if anybody ought to have a smile on their face, it ought to be those of us who grow old with Jesus Christ.
Bob:                Well, this week, we're going to hear one of the three messages that Dr. Hendricks shared with the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference speaker team on the subject of aging, and he was really talking about retirement, which he says is not a biblical concept in the way that most people think about retirement.  Let's listen together.  Here is Dr. Howard Hendricks.
[audio clip]
Howard:         I want to talk on rethinking retirement – one of the greatest transitions in human experience.  Norman Cousins said it – "Retirement supposed to be a chance to join the winners' circle, has turned out more dangerous than automobiles and LSD.  It is the chance to do everything that leads to nothing.  It is the gleaming brass ring that unhorses the rider.  For many people, retirement is an assignment to no man's land, grossly ill-fitted for Christian culture.  We are producing men and women, a society of unemployed people without a mission, the equivalent of a death sentence."
                        It is proven by statistics – we now know that the average person dies within seven years after retirement and increasingly that figure is being changed because it is not uncommon for people to die two years after retirement, and the reason is clear.  There are two lines in every person's life.  There is a lifeline, and there is a purpose line, and the moment the purpose line evaporates, it is just a question of time before the lifeline goes as well.
                        Bear in mind that retirement is a recent social phenomenon – the arbitrary age of 65 was set in 1889 by German Chancellor Bismarck, but what has always fascinated me is at that time in history the life expectancy was 55.  So the bulk of the people for whom it was designed never enjoyed the benefits.  And increasing it, as the United States has done, is just as ridiculous.  
                        Every now and then I hear someone say retirement is not a biblical concept, and it's quite transparent to anyone who knows the Scriptures that it is not the pattern for a born-again, eternally headed individual.  But it's only partially true.  We do have one reference to retirement in the Scripture, and it's found in Numbers 8, verses 25 and 26, where we are informed that the Levites were to retire at age 50; the reason being the task was so arduous, so strenuous that men in the intelligence which God alone provided, said you need to give up the physical ministry of the priesthood.  But what is often overlooked is that He gave them an option.  He said, "I want you to spend the rest of your life mentoring younger priests."
                        Now, you may retire from a job.  You may not have the option.  But you never retire from life; you never retire from a ministry.  Stepping into retirement is stepping into entirely different universe with a distinctive lifestyle all of its own.  And I am convinced that this particular transition is, to the believer, one of the highest measurements of your spiritual maturity.
                        So today I want to move into two areas.  First of all, examine retirement negatively – what it is not; and then, positively, what it is.   Let's begin with the power of negative thinking, with apologies to Norman Vincent Peale.  I find Peale appalling and Paul appealing.  The more I am exposed to the Christian community, the more I am convinced that some of the sloppiest thinking in all of time totally infects Christians who move into retirement.  So let me give you seven things retirement is not.
                        First of all, it is not a reward.  Your reward comes in heaven not on earth.  But many people think it's a reward for good behavior, and the result is they spend their years sliding for home, reaching for the bench at the very time they ought to be tearing the place apart for Jesus Christ.
Secondly, it's not a formula.  There is no one-size-fits-all retirement available.  It's a process, but it's a process that is highly individual.  There is no contract that spells out the details and the conditions.  There is no blueprint showing you the way.  
Third, retirement is not a retreat.  As a matter of fact, it is exactly the opposite – it is intentional advance, but the key is it involves a gradual adjustment.
Number four, it is not, not busy work – something to give you something to do.  It's a balance between leisure and work.  Isn't it amazing how often we suffer from the peril of the pendulum?  We swing to one side or the other.  Throughout our life, we constantly face the danger of worshipping work as an idol, but now we worship leisure as an idol.  And is it any wonder that John finishes an epistle by saying, "Keep yourself from idols." 
Number five, it is not self-centered; it's not socially pigging out getting lost in an entertainment glut.  Retirement is meant to be more than for my benefit, and I think that's why an increasing number, even of secular people, are retiring from retirement.  The one positive thing about the baby boom is they live long enough and watched enough older people waste the latter years of their life that they are refusing to go that route.  They are asking for more time for employment where at least it gives them worthwhile to do. 
Six, retirement is not guaranteed.  There is no guarantee that those latter years of your life will be successful.  They are the bonus years, but they all depend upon two things – God's part and your part.  No question that God will come through with His part.  The question is, will you and I come through with our part and ultimately that depends on how well prepared you are.
And, seventh and last, retirement is not death – we have 100-percent probability on that.  Retirement has four major problems attached to it.  The first of which is income – the financial component; the second of which is health – the physical component; the third of which is housing, your living arrangements; but the fourth and the most important is purpose, meaning – and interest in life.  And the fascinating thing to me, and all the research proves it, is we're making tremendous progress in the first three but substantially none in the fourth, because it's the least recognized, and it's the most neglected.
[end audio clip]
Bob:                That's Dr. Howard Hendricks talking about some of the challenges that come with aging, specifically the issue of retirement.  It sounds like he could write "The Purpose-Driven Retirement," huh?  I think there's a hit book there for him.
Dennis:          I think there is.  You know, what he's challenging us to do is to not think about our retirement in a worldly way, but to think about it in a spiritual, in a biblical way.  And our listeners are going to hear a series later on this spring, as Barbara and I talk about moving from the empty nest into what we are calling "prime time," and I think retirement needs to be prime time.  We need to have that purpose that Dr. Hendricks was talking about.  We need to have realigned our lives in light of the mission God has for us, and we need to get on with life.  We need to be about His work on this planet, because the person who has unplugged from their vocation has some additional time, theoretically, to be able to invest in some eternal pursuits that he may have never had in his or her life before.
And I think knowing your purpose, knowing your mission, knowing what your life is all about, is very important, and I'd like to submit to you that Homebuilders, a small group Bible study, ought to be a very attractive ministry for a lot of couples who are moving into this phase of life, into prime time, and they are needing to sink their teeth into something purposeful – something that's going to make a difference for future generations.  Homebuilders is a small-group Bible study that I think can be used in the lives of young couples who are starting out their marriages, their families, and who are going through their own seasonal changes in their family who need help from an older generation.
Bob:                And you're thinking that young couples would want to hear what a retired couple has to say about marriage?
Dennis:          Absolutely.  I'm younger than some folks who are in this phase right now who are speaking truth and speaking vision and modeling certain realities to me, as a man.  I think all of us ought to have others who are a lap or two ahead of us in the race of life, who can guide us and direct us and make sure we don't waste any of our lives.
Bob:                Retirement is not a move from productivity and work and meaning to leisure and enjoyment and recreation.  It's a move from one set of priorities to a new set of spiritual priorities, a new set of spiritual goals that you now have some free time for that you didn't have when you had to punch the clock every day.
Dennis:          That's right, and that's why I'd suggest Homebuilders, which is very easy to lead, and I think most folks who are in this phase of life, the prime times of their lives, have the place – they've got a living room that's empty.  There's not any children running around, very few interruptions and, frankly, a lot of couples need to get away from their children for an evening occasionally and hear the biblical blueprints for building a marriage or a family.
Bob:                Well, we've got the information, as you would imagine, about Homebuilders on our website at FamilyLife.com.  You can get more information about how easy it is to start one of these groups.  Get some other couples to join with you and experience the fun but also the purpose and the meaning that's wrapped up in being in a Homebuilders group.  Go to FamilyLife.com, or if you want to call 1-800-FLTODAY, someone on our team can give you more information about Homebuilders and how you can get involved in that growing movement of small groups all across the country.
                        We also have Dr. Hendricks' message as part of a three-message series on either cassette or CD.  You can call 1-800-FLTODAY to request that series.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  
Dennis:          Order two copies of this three-CD series – one for yourself and one for your parents – maybe three copies – one for your in-laws.  I just think there's a lot of sloppy thinking when it comes to retirement and what ought to be the prime time of our lives and, frankly, here is a man who is in his 80s – very vigorous, very alive in spite of battling cancer, who is showing us how to finish strong.
Bob:                Well, again, go to our website at FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information on the series of tapes or CDs from Dr. Howard Hendricks.  And then let me encourage you to also get a copy of John Piper's book, "Don't Waste Your Life."  A lot of people think that's a book for young people who are just starting out, and I remember Dr. Piper begins the book by talking about a retired couple that moved to Florida and collected seashells.  Do you remember that story?
Dennis:          I do.
Bob:                His whole premise is you can waste your life no matter what age you are, and you can also have a meaning and purpose for your life at any stage, at any age.  We have copies of that book in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.
                        Again, our website is FamilyLife.com.  If you want to call, the toll-free number is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
                        Let me say a quick word of thanks to the many folks who have joined with us here at FamilyLife as Legacy Partners.  These are the folks who, on a monthly basis, help provide the financial support for our ministry.  You know, in December we had a lot of folks who wrote to us and who made year-end contributions, and we appreciate all of you who did that, but there's also that group who keeps in mind that we have bills come due in January, and these are the folks who, each month, send a donation of $25 or $30, $50, $100 a month to help support the ongoing ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Dennis:          And I'd like to encourage you, if you've been ministered to by the ministry of FamilyLife, would you stand with Bob and me here on FamilyLife Today?  Our Legacy Partners are real difference-makers.  They keep us going.
Bob:                You can find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner, again, on our website at FamilyLife.com or just give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY and say, "Tell me more about this Legacy Partner thing," and someone on our team would be happy to help you understand how you can join the growing team of folks who help make FamilyLife Today possible.
                        Well, tomorrow we're going to hear part two of Dr. Hendricks' message on retirement, and I hope you can tune in.  I hope you can call somebody who may be retired or retiring and invite them to tune in for part two of this message as well.
                        I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today. 
                        FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 
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