If you’re human, and over 40, you’ve probably thought at least once, Are my best days behind me? (If you’re a pastor, you struggle with this just about every Monday morning!)
I’m not suggesting you need to be middle-aged or old to wonder about this question. If you felt like your high school or college years were some of your best, then you might have faced this disheartening question early in your life.
I know a guy who was a football star in high school, and he frequently talks about that time as the best days of his life—and he’s my age. It’s sort of sad. Especially since high school was over for him 40 years ago.
Recently I was at a retirement party for some friends. I’ve known them for about 20 years, and we worked together on a large church staff for five years. At this gathering, the staff said some very nice things about my friends, and there were quite a few honoring and funny stories told.
I was sitting there, listening, smiling and remembering, when a question hit me hard. Were those years with them my best years in ministry?
Then I nose-dived into thinking about the marathons and other races I ran as a younger man, the mountains I climbed and skied, the motorcycles I rode, the oceans I surfed and sailed, and the many other adventures of my life.
At 60, with a bad back and worse knees, most of what I did in my 20s, 30s and 40s isn’t physically possible anymore. I suppose if I spent two hours a day in the gym (using time I don’t have) or spent tens of thousands of dollars on surgeries (using money I don’t have), I might get strong enough to run another marathon or climb another mountain. It’s possible but unlikely.
Then, when it comes to ministry, I’ve experienced some awesome mountaintops as well. I’ve been a part of some powerful movements of God (like the Jesus People revival in the ’70s). I’ve planted churches and traveled the globe in ministry. When God said “Go!” I went wherever he led and did so without hesitation or regret. But all of that only adds to that nagging question: Are my best days long gone?
In case you’re wondering, here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: My best days are still to come!
Different, but better.
If you and I define best or better to involve more of the same, then we’re in trouble. If the measure of our future success is based on having the same balance, agility and strength we once had, then we’re bound for the blues. If we think our memory should be like it was before our mental RAM got full, we’re kidding ourselves.
However, if I believe that God is just as good today in my 60s as he was in my 30s, then I can and should expect more of his goodness in my life.
Living the adventure of following Jesus doesn’t need to be any less of an adventure just because you and I are older or physically limited.
Because the secret to a full and fulfilling life is always found in obedience. (You might want to read that again.)
Jesus’ promise of “abundant life” is always connected to abundant conformity to his will. He is Lord. I am not. He is in charge. I am not. He calls the shots. I do not. So regardless of one’s age, the key to a good, better, best and even great present and future comes down to two words: Yes, Lord!
The exploits of my youth were amazing, not because I was young, but because I chose to take risks driven by faith. God spoke, and I tried my best to obey. At times I miserably failed, but those failures became part of my journey—a learning experience—and life was never boring!
The potential achievements and triumphs of my future can be incredible too if, and only if, I choose that same path of trust and obedience.
Therefore, I refuse to be the “old guy” who sits around reminiscing about the good ole’ days as if the voyage were over. It’s not.
Instead, regardless of how uncomfortable or challenging today or tomorrow might be, when the Father says “Jump!” I’m going to leap as far and as high as I can. (Even though jumping at my age is rarely graceful.)
Obedience is the path to greatness. Faith is the way to even better days ahead. Taking godly risks is not just for the young. Those who have experienced God’s favor in their past ought to lead the way when it comes to surrender because they know he is faithful and good.
Young or old, the issue is always the same: Will you and I follow him?
For the record, I’m all in.