If you’re like me, you dream of the day when you retire. Or better yet, the day when you win the lottery so that you can retire early (Bonus: you’re young enough to actually enjoy it). You know what I’m talking about: the day when you are free to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and have the means to do it. After all, isn’t that what we labor so hard for? We work 40+ hours a week, invest in RRSPs so that one day we can retire with our nest egg and take it easy. After all, didn’t God tell us to be good stewards of money?
Imagine, though, the exact opposite. A life where you worked every day, until the day you die. Every day, the same routine: wake up at seven, hit the snooze button and accidentally oversleep, fight morning traffic for forty-five minutes before you arrive to work ten minutes late, plaster a smile and greet your co-workers with comments about the weather or the Canucks, attentively watch over Mr. Computer, your cubicle pet, until lunch time, only to return to your poorly-lit cubicle-dungeon for another four hours, interrupted only by a washroom break and incessant demands from incompetent co-workers, watch the clock count down to five, and rush home to the even greater responsibility of being a husband, wife, or parent. Rinse, lather and repeat… for eternity. If the thought of this scares you as much as it scares me, you’re human. But praise God for his unreasonable love for creatures such as I.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of life recently. What is it, exactly, that I live for? Is it to find happiness? To find love? To climb the corporate ladder? To purchase a nice car or a big house? What is it that you dream about? What must you do before you can say to yourself, “I’m now where I want to be.”
I recently asked my high-school-friend-turned-Christian this question. She gave me an answer that put me to shame: The purpose of life to do the will of God. An answer so clear but one I have a hard time practicing: once I lived for myself, now I live for God.
That’s exactly what Joshua did. Joshua was Moses’ successor who had the responsibility of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. Apart from conquering Jericho, he defeated numerous kings—thirty one in total (Joshua 12:24)—all in fulfillment to God’s promise of delivering the promised land into the hands of the Israelites. Impressive, no?
But as I try to imagine myself in Joshua’s shoes, these questions come to mind: Wasn’t he tired? Didn’t he ever get carpal tunnel from repetitive motions of sword-stabbing or shield-swinging? Did he ever asked for a raise, or complain that his rights weren’t being upheld? Now read Joshua 13:1, “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the Lord said to Joshua him, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” Imagine that. After winning over 31 kingdoms, what did God say? It wasn’t, “Well done! Now sit back and retire. Enjoy the good land and the melon-sized grapes.” It was more like, “Hmm… You’re getting kinda old, but there’s still more work to be done…” Now imagine God saying that to you.
Imagine yourself as a burnt out employee of XYZ Manufacturing for 31 years. You’re finally reached retirement age. You go into work on your last day, enjoy a slice of cake in your retirement party, and are about to leave the office when the big boss approaches your desk with a look of focused determination. You expect to hear praises for your 31 years of hard service, but instead, he says this: “Leaving already? We’re just getting started. You’re missing the best part!” What would your reaction be?
Joshua fought hard. He fought hard until the day he died. He fought for the glory of the Lord. I recently watched a film where a foster mom in Africa spoke about the joy she receives from being a mother of eight adopted kids. She loved the kids as if her own—washing, cooking and cleaning after them. She said of her role: “I will work until the day that I die”.
There is much to be done. God’s kingdom is coming; In fact, God’s kingdom is here. And as long as you’re alive, you have a part in it. In my humanness, I struggle with my sinful nature of self-pity, of laziness, of negligence and cowardice. I, the tiny speck in God’s time-less panoramic domain, will cry out, “It’s too hard God, just take me home. Take me now.” But God says, “No. There is something more.” I’m sorry to break it to you (and I’m especially sorry to break it to myself), but there is no retirement in the life of a Christian. We work hard. We do not work in order to live (and retire); we work to die. We die daily so that God’s work can be alive in us—and in the world—for his glory. What kind of work is God asking you for your participation? Ephesians 2:10 says that God has prepared good works for us to do. That’s right: he designed you, from eternity past, and has specific works for you to do. Works that complement your personality, your personhood, your skills, your giftings, and your desires. If you’re unsure, ask the Lord to direct your heart to these works. Ask Him, Who needs to know the gospel? Who needs to be loved? Whom can I serve? Ask and listen carefully, lest you commit yourself to a good work that the Lord did not intend for you to do. Then, commit these works to the Lord, asking for his blessing, his abiding, and his power. Now that’s the kind of work that’s worth living for.
Meditate: Luke 17:7-10 (New International Version)
Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? Would he not rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”