I went to Liberty University while Jerry Falwell, Sr. (the founder of the school) was chancellor still. He preached at convocation about once a week. I marveled at his energy, drive, and passion for the gospel and making disciples, what he called, ‘making champions for Christ.’ One analogy he would often use was to think of our lives in terms of a game of football: four quarters, divided into groups of about twenty. We as college students were still in the first quarter entering into the second. He was in the fourth quarter, but joked that he hoped to go into overtime. The point was that he wanted us to make the most of our lives, to make every season count for Christ and his kingdom.
Based on life expectancy, I’m now nearing the end of the second quarter and heading into the third. Lord willing, I have many years left to live, grow in Christ, love my family, preach the gospel, and serve the church. Following this analogy, what quarter are you in? Of course, we don’t know for certain. God alone knows how many days he has given you (Ps. 139:16). But if you consider your life in quarters, based on averages, where would it be? How would it affect the way you live right now?
I’d like to draw special attention to what is perhaps the most important quarter of life: the fourth quarter. After all, it isn’t so much how we begin as how we finish that matters (Mt. 13:1-9).
For many, the later years are the time when ministry and life begin to wind down. This is understandable. The primary working years have passed. Child-rearing is largely completed. Energy levels are lower and matters of health grow higher. All of us, if we live long enough, will feel our bodies begin to work against us. What once was our strength and glory (Prov. 20:29) may hold us back. Yet even in old age, the saints of God have many advantages in life and ministry, and a unique role in serving God’s church. Consider Psalm 92:12-15 (ESV):
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;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
I’d like to offer some encouragement on how you can remain fruitful in your walk as years pass by.
Be Strong in righteousness
Though our bodies may begin to work against us, our faith can grow stronger with age. Therefore, you older saints who are further along in sanctification and in the pursuit of holiness, continue onward. Continue reading the Word and allowing the Spirit to root out the sin in your heart; do not grow lackadaisical in it. Every day, be strong in repentance and kill your sin. Pursue righteousness and purity. Dedicate yourselves to prayer. Those strong in righteousness will bear fruit at any age. God will be most pleased to use his saints who are pursuing him still in later years. The church and the world will benefit as well.
Testify and declare that the Lord is upright
The church benefits from saints who have walked with God for many and long years. You’ve wrestled with many hard questions about faith and doctrine that sweep away some. You’ve endured hardships and afflictions in the storms of life. You’ve experienced loss and fear. That you are still walking in God — and growing in faith– is an incredible encouragement to younger saints and those who are in the midst of trials. You are particularly positioned to testify to God’s goodness with the authority of experience. You can say not only is God the Rock, he has been my Rock all these years. Your voice matters. Your life’s testimony matters.
To return to the football analogy, the fourth quarter isn’t the retirement stage. It isn’t the time to rest in the Christian life. Rest is for after the victory when the fourth quarter is finished. So let this be a time for continued fruitfulness, even if it looks different than it did in earlier years. Press on. Pursue righteousness. Grow in faith, hope, and love. Pray with greater fervency than ever. Undertake the ministry of encouragement and support. Declare that God is good to every generation as you have opportunity.