There is a saying, “there is no rest for the wicked,” which, if taken to mean that the wicked must continually suffer and worry because of their wickedness, is true enough; but if taken as a reference to actual work being done, may or may not be true. Plenty of wicked people are also lazy.
But what about a rest for the righteous? More pointedly, can a person take a break from their righteous labors, resting on the laurels they have already gleaned from having made the right decisions?
One of the Psalms speaks to the righteous individual in their old age. Notice what is said. “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright.” (Psalms 92:12-15; ESV)
The righteous, declares God, continue to bear fruit even in their old age; they are still active in their praise and service to God. Such activity is a hallmark of their righteousness.
The Bible is filled with numerous examples of righteous men who continued to serve God, despite their years. Moses and Aaron were 80 and 83, respectively, when they worked to lead the Israelites of out Egypt (cf. Exodus 7:7). Moses served as the judge of Israel for another 40 years after that. Joshua, when given the charge of leading the Israelites into the promised land was also 80 and he led until he was 110. (cf. Joshua 24:29). His friend Caleb was of a similar age and was also much involved in the conquest of the promised land (cf. Joshua 14:6-11).
Daniel began serving God as a youth, but when we get to the account of His time in the Lion’s den, seventy years have passed and Daniel was at least 80, and very well close to 90. At this age he was still active in government, but also as a prophet (cf. Daniel 6, 8-12) God chose Zacharias and Elizabeth as the parents of John the Baptist when they were “both well advanced in age;” and at this age Zacharias was still serving God in the temple (cf. Luke 1:7)
Clearly, God thought that men and women of good character were still able to be active servants for His cause, even in their later years. God didn’t expect them to simply retire from His service, simply because they had logged in a certain number of hours, or even years.
We live in a culture where a good many people expect to “retire” from secular duties when they reach a certain age (assuming economic factors cooperate); but there is no retirement age from spiritual duties. Indeed, the Bible speaks to the wisdom and capabilities of those who have spent a lifetime doing what is right. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:13; NKJV)
But just when some might be most useful to God, they decide to quit, allowing “younger” folk to pick up the slack for them.
But that’s not how God planned for it to work. God wants individuals of all ages to serve Him. He desires that they prepare themselves for the work and then present themselves to Him for service.
Paul, as an older man (cf. Philemon vs 9), penned a letter to the Philippians, in which he confessed, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” (Philippians 3:12-15; NKJV)
There is a rest, a retirement plan, for Christians, but, as another saying goes, “it’s out of this world.” Meaning, God will give us rest when our physical days are done; until that time, lets emulate the apostle and continue to press heavenward, regardless of our age.
The church of Christ invites young and old alike to study and to worship with us as we seek for our eternal rest; at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.