Today on Focus on Family, we'll be exploring the latter years of life, that season past middle age but before retirement. It often creeps up on us and we just didn't get ready for it. It's time for reflection and maybe a time for some adjustment as well. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Bailey.
I'm John Fuller and just for fun, Jim, you're already having fun. Wait a second, you just feel like you're stumbling on this little intro. I'm feeling my age, how's that? I think it's funny. Well, we have moments. Speaking of age, okay, so you can choose your clothes and shoes sometimes based on comfort more than style.
It seems like that is a season we might be in. What about if your list of contacts, your Rolodex, a lot of the names start with doctor, Dr. So-and-so, Dr. So-and-so. Yes, this is a very common thing for me. How about it takes you longer to rest than it did to get tired? That might be a sign that age is creeping up. A night out is maybe spent on the patio. Ooh, that sounds appealing actually. Okay, what about bedtime?
Now this is not happening. You and I are down to like nine o'clock, we're already exhausted. Yes, we look at each other and it's sort of like, who's going to go first? Okay, so we're really expressing the fact that we're dipping our toe into that fourth quarter. Well, we aren't retirement yet.
We're maybe past middle age. I look at it as four quarters. Zero to 20 is the first quarter.
You're figuring out the offense and the defense. Then the second quarter is 20 to 40. Then you get 40 to 60. Yeah. Right.
And then 60 to 80. So what quarter are you in? Well, I could be in one of those. I am too. And that's the point. And we want to talk to everybody today about how do we finish well. And we've got a wonderful guest to help us in that discussion. Let's think of the Apostle Paul who said this in 2 Timothy 4.7, I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. That is the goal.
It is. That's a long term view. And I think a lot of folks either are feeling like I get to disengage from responsibility.
That's what retirement is, or they're afraid of it. What's next? What's around the corner?
How about this? God still has a purpose for you in the fourth quarter. That's the best way to look at it. And it may not be the healthiest time of your life.
You're probably coping with a few things. But God still intends for you to be productive. And I love that idea.
That's how I feel about the fourth quarter. I'm 60. So I'm just at the beginning of that. And who knows how the Lord will continue to use what Gene and I can do as a couple and as individuals.
Yeah. Well, we, as you mentioned, have a great guest with us today, John Goodale. And he is a pastor. He's at First Presbyterian Church here in Colorado Springs. He's written a book that will be the basis for the conversation today. It's called Finishing Well, Biblical Lessons to Maximize Your Later Years. And we'll have you stop by the episode notes to find the link to that book or give us a call. Pastor John, welcome to Focus. Oh, it's good to be with you today.
How much fun. Now, let me go right at maximizing those last years. I don't know if I like that idea. I might want minimize those last years.
I don't want to be working as hard. Well, and I think that's our natural tendency. You know, there's a point where we want to coast. We've worked hard.
We might have less energy. But part of what drove this book was just so many people in the Bible who don't finish well. And you just shake your head. Let's rattle some of those off as you wrote the book. What were the characters in the scripture that caught your attention that didn't finish well?
Probably the ones that stood out the most were the kings. I mean, David started so strong. And yet by the end, just kind of a shell of a person and problems with parenting that weren't so good. Solomon started out well by the end. Lots of wives had turned away from God and so many others that just they started their walk with God strong. And by the end, they had just stepped away.
Did you find in your research? I mean, what are those common human foibles that pulled them in that direction that pulled them away from God so they didn't finish well? My sense is a big part of it is we don't keep our eye on the ball. You know, we don't look ahead. We don't look down the road. We don't think about I want to finish like Paul does. What's that going to take? We just focus on today. Yeah. And we focus on tomorrow and the daily things that just can can be good, but they keep us from a bigger sense of my last years.
I want them to be my best years. No, that's good. You mentioned the story of Joshua, who was I guess you could refer to him as a general, the military general who led the Jewish people to the promised land. What did his life demonstrate in those latter years? What I love about Joshua's story is there's a point in the book of Joshua where God says to him, you are very old. And I think I think, wow, if God is going to say you're very old, then he must have been well along.
They didn't have good mirrors back in that time. God had to tell you that. I don't think so good. But but I also find myself wondering, you know, then God rattles off all these things. Joshua still had to do if there might have been a temptation on his part to think, I've done all these things in the past. It's time to kind of let someone else step in. And God said, Joshua, you've still got more life to live.
That caution. I want to really dig into that for a minute. That idea that, you know, in your 60s, perhaps or 70s, maybe early 70s, that you still see a long view because some people, you know, they may think, well, it's the fourth quarter, 60 to 80. So now it's going to be wrapping up retirement, taking care of the grandkids now and again. And then, you know, that's kind of what I see as my wrap up time. Expand that for us. What are some different ways you could be looking at the fourth quarter of your life? My sense would be for folks to look at what they still have to offer the world. You know, what kind of ripples can we still create?
Maybe it's children, maybe it's grandchildren. But what, um, what do we still have to offer to those around us? Um, and how can we do it well? Yeah.
Do you have an example of what that would look like? Words of blessing I think are huge. And you know, our kids know that we love them. Our grandkids know that, but sometimes we don't really intentionally tell them why we're proud of them. What we see in them that's developing that somehow helps them feel better about themselves. Not just cause grandma or grandpa love them, but because we're pointing out something that is God in them that they can celebrate.
Yeah. I would think that at that time in your life you become often the mentor. People may turn to you in your church or in your, you know, your circle of friendships where you might have a younger couple for example, and you and your wife might end up either intentionally or unintentionally kind of mentoring that younger couple. That's something we're doing now. John, it focuses signing, uh, you know, experienced couples up that have had longer marriages to help mentor younger married couples.
That's a good thing. How do you not stay, I guess, kind of self-focused and in your latter years be able to give back to those around you? Well, and I think you've touched on something key because there are things we lose as we get older, uh, energy, uh, maybe not quite as much chance for success as we had when we were younger, but what we gain is we have perspective. You know, we have years and decades of perspective and to be able to share that wisdom with people to look around and not regale people with our stories, but to think, who can I build up?
Um, who can I encourage? I like that. Don't regale with your stories. That's, let me tell you another one.
Yeah. Back when I was a kid. So I appreciated John, uh, the prompt for the book. And, uh, I turned 62 this past year and I was, I was kind of struck by it.
It snuck up on me in a way I didn't expect. And I think it's because my dad who is now 91 retired the month he turned 62. So he's been retired for 29 years. Now he worked hard and he did a lot of volunteering after he retired.
And I found myself thinking, how did he do that? I have no interest whatsoever in retiring. I would like a little capacity, a little space, a little extra vacation is forties. Oh, okay. So we're expecting 20 more years. Well, I love what I do. I'm not ready to walk away from that. So I'm energized to give as much as I can at focus, but there's probably the reality that as you were just saying, I'm, I'm going to wind down. My energy levels won't stay the same. I'm going to flub up intros more and more gym.
That'll be the, that'll be the time. Keep drinking coffee. How do we approach these milestone birthdays and keep things in the right perspective? I think one thing that's helpful is to not be focused on what we've lost or what we can't do anymore and to put our focus on what we still have and what we still can do. And to really keep that the focus.
I think that keeps our edge sharp. John, I want to go to legacy because that's an important part of the book. And this idea that when I first read this, I kind of stopped and thought about what what's going on in my heart. And there's a statement in there about everybody wants to be remembered for something, fame, achievements, maybe their wealth, but very few people do anything noteworthy enough for the history books. So what kind of legacy can we realistically expect to leave? I think as a Christian.
Wow. I mean that what your legacy should be is, you know, the fruit of the spirit that you loved your neighbor. You took care of people when you, you could and loved your family in a way that was, yeah, it was breathtaking. I liked that idea and that you finish well that, you know, so many times now we see, unfortunately Christian leaders that aren't finishing well, whatever it might be, pride, you know, sex or money. We speak to that whole mess of things. And then what legacy should we be aiming for? There's a lot in that.
Yeah, sorry. No, there's a lot in that. You know, so many of us are familiar with the concept of compounded interest, that you leave your money in the bank and over time it will grow. And I think one of the concepts that came to me in this book is just the compounded nature of our ordinary days. What I do today may not seem very significant, but if I do it faithfully today, tomorrow, the day after that, there's a compounded interest to that, that I may never get a street named after me, but I can potentially impact the lives of those around me because I sought to be faithful to today and tomorrow. And I trusted that God would use that. Yeah.
And that is so good. You urge older adults to not dwell on the things that we're going to lose. I mean, this is a little tough because I'm not experiencing this yet. I don't think, but maybe, but you know, your youth, your influence, your health, what should we concentrate on then? You know, I'm blessed to be able to work with an older generation in our church. And so many of them I admire just for how fully they are still living. They're focusing on each other, on community, on not just their life, but building other people up around them. And they're looking in their community for places that they can still somehow have an impact in some way, even if it's driving a vehicle for the senior citizens organization in town. Yeah. We've got a couple of relatives, Jim, in our family, godly women.
They're in their nineties and they're very frail and unable to engage with people very much. Um, and, and they both have said independent of each other, I'm just not any use anymore. And I keep thinking you love the Lord. You pray a lot. You've got value just even if you sit there and pray that's, that's work in the kingdom of God.
And too often we think that's all that's left versus realizing that's the most important thing any of us can do. Yeah. In that area of legacy, you share a story in there about a Swiss chemist. I'm not going to give the name away because I think this is really good, but this gentleman created dynamite and he didn't want to be known for that. So what did he do?
Well, it's a fascinating story. He created all these weapons of mass destruction, sold them to countries, amassed a huge fortune and his brother died and this individual was Alfred Nobel and by mistake he saw his obituary published and he read it and he was horrified to see how he would be remembered. And that's what prompted him to reassess his life and create the Nobel peace prize. That's a quite, most people certainly would know him for the Nobel peace prize. Not that he created dynamite.
I didn't know that. So he was able to really reverse that legacy and to become intentional about what was still in front of him. John, I think at a more practical level, you know, looking a little lower than the Nobel peace prize here, but you had a story in the book about a school teacher who distributed blue ribbons to the class. Describe that story and kind of the pass it on value of what took place.
You know, I think as we grow older, we have a sense to feel overlooked or undervalued by society around us. And so this particular story, there's a school teacher that gave a project to her students, a ribbon that said who I am is important. And she asked him to take it out to three other people to give it to them. So one student took it to someone who had helped with his career, gave it to him, asked him to pass two more on. That individual gave one to his boss and his boss that night sat his son down and he said, the most amazing thing today happened. Someone told me who I am is important. And they asked me to continue this boy's project. I want to give you this tonight because you're important. I don't always acknowledge that with the focus I give you with the time that I spend with you.
But I want to say right now who you are is important. And the boy began to sob. And as the story came out, he confessed after a few moments, he didn't think anyone cared about him.
And he was planning on committing suicide that night. So just the smallest of messages. We need to hear those sometimes.
Yeah, and give them. Pastor John, John just mentioned this a moment ago, but this feeling this reality that as you grow older, you grow weaker, physically, emotionally to a degree, and probably spiritually, and that can be overwhelming emotionally to us. We don't like feeling weak. We're not in a culture that lifts up weakness as a as a virtue virtue, right. So let me ask you, how do we trust that God might have a plan for us in that weakness? I mean, it seems counterintuitive.
Well, it does. And yet I love the perspective. Mike Airy said once he said the American dream is to live in our strength. God's dream is that we live in our weakness. Because it's those places of vulnerability that were reminded how much we need him. Yeah, for that person who may be living in a place where they find it difficult to lean into God, why is it important to remember to lean into God, especially maybe in the fourth quarter of life? I think because we can't do it ourselves.
Our bodies are slowing down. And we need that sense of hope that God provides. We need that sense of meaning and purpose that it adds to our lives beyond what our daily activities are. We need the loving relationship that tells us we are valued all of those things, just create a bigger story for us than whatever my daily circumstance.
No, I like that. You know, one of the things when you do encounter people that are older, you have a price certainly have more than two categories. But generally, the one category I'm always impressed by are the uplifting, kind of typically humorous kind of take it in stride kind of attitude. Usually, this is an older man who, you know, he's just got a joyful perspective about life.
He's not regretting anything, it seems, you know, that personality type I'm talking about. And that's what I want to be. I want to be that jolly guy, the joyful guy, that, you know, I would have done some things differently, perhaps in my life. But, you know, I feel like I have served the Lord well, and I can be content in where I'm at, and to help other people experience joy in life. I think that if I aim at something, that may be what I want to aim at. I want to be one of those guys. Gordon Macdonald, in one of his books, has a fascinating chapter, what kind of an old man do you want to be? And in that chapter, he describes how he looked at the older men around him, who were finishing well, and sought to identify what were their characteristics that he wanted to make his examples in his life as well. And in that regard, I mean, do you have to set your compass that way?
Does it have to be that intentional? How does a person who's in their 50s start to say themselves, especially if they haven't had that expression, maybe they're having to reconsider the way they're wired? How do you go, wow, I don't want to be a grumpy old man? You know, I was a runner in high school, and I ran the mile, it tended to be four laps. And so I always tended to think that third and fourth lap were ultimately the most important ones, didn't matter how I started. And I think whether we're in our 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, we're in that last quarter, but how we run those last miles is going to determine how we finish and how we feel about that finish. Because most people won't remember us from our 20s and 30s.
They're going to remember us from our final voyage. That's a good perspective to have, Pastor John. You've talked about the power of gratitude, and that might be kind of to Jim's question, one of those things that can help us become the joyful old person. What's gratitude about? How do we find gratitude in the midst of maybe a crumbling body and some difficult circumstances? One of the most important things we can do is notice, just to take the time to look around us, to see those things that are so small that can just easily be overlooked in a day and allow that to begin to fuel a sense that there is good in our lives, that there is good around us. And then to express gratitude, something about expressing gratitude that when we do that, it fills us back up within as well.
Yeah, that is so good. You know, in the last few minutes here, I just want to talk about hope, which is certainly a topic within your book. The idea that we need to be people of hope, hope moves us forward. You experienced the power of hope many years ago when you left your home to pursue a PhD, I think from, was it Washington State to California?
Right, right. And yet you felt lonely. What was going on as that experience as a younger man and how are you applying it to your life today?
Yeah, it was a time when I went down to seminary, moved states, found myself, suddenly realizing that the reason I had gone down there wasn't going to be a trajectory for me. And at that point, I didn't know what I was doing. How old were you at that point? I was 27.
Okay. And just prayed every day, God, I don't know if I'm supposed to pack up and go back or stay here and what classes do I take? And there was just, there was a day where as audibly as I've ever heard in my life, it's as if I sensed God say, you're where I want you to be. And I didn't know what that meant, but it was enough to know that I was where God wanted me to be. And I think that is part of what fuels hope for us, a sense that God is still out in front of us, leading us to wherever it is that he wants us to be next. Let me tease that out a little bit, because I think both for the younger person as well as the older person, when you have that experience, I think many of us could probably look back to our twenties, that decade is full of decisions.
And you know, you're, if you went to college, you're finishing college, you're selecting a job, a career, you might be, you know, that you're going to get married in that 20 something, early 30 something range. So there's a lot going on. And you can pray that prayer, you can feel what you just express, it was so tangible, it was almost audible, I'm right where God needs to be. And then there's two set of circumstances around that things start happening very positively. It's an obvious experience and right. What about the other though, where you might have felt that but circumstances aren't making it easy for you to believe that?
What does that person do? Did they make a mistake? Did they not almost hear the Lord? Yeah, well, circumstances can be fickle, can't they?
Oh, yeah. And, you know, I think about the psalmist in Psalm 46 is describing all this chaos around him, and yet there's a calm within. And I think when someone senses God is leading them in a way and then circumstances suggest otherwise, maybe there's something there. But I think that's something we need to spend a lot of time leaning into our community, asking those around us who know us well, what do they see? That's been a significant experience for me in my life, as well in ministry, to listen to those around us that God places us in community. So you mentioned in the book about building and maintaining this reservoir of hope. That sounds great, too. I mean, I want to be that person.
How do we do that? If you come from a hopeful spot, it's probably easier for you. And then you have people that aren't coming from such a hopeful spot, and they're now turning 60, 70. And they don't see much that's hopeful.
Yeah. So what do you do? Yeah, I think hope in general, just hanging out there, doesn't propel us forward very well. But if we can try to make it a little more tangential. So for someone to just look out, even in the next week, even in the next month, what is something that I want to try to accomplish?
What is something I want to try to experience? God, what is some way that you can use me in this time, and I'm going to worry about the rest of it later? And just to have something so specific in mind that we can see something that's realistic enough that we know it's possible that God really could do this in my life, or he could accomplish this with me, but also something big enough that can keep us moving forward, right, to say this is worth leaning into, you know, one thing that I'm trying to think through ahead of time, being a young man, is when I'm facing that adversity, whatever it might be, physically, I'm in my last days, my last weeks, whatever that might be, and however that might come across. Here's the reality of it, we're all going to face it, nobody gets to escape death. You can't buy your way out of it, you can't pray your way out of it.
It's the equalizer. You came in naked, you're going to leave naked. I mean, there's plenty of scripture that talks about that. That's just a reality. Now for us as Christians, how do we exhibit that in a way that people are like, wow, that guy really knew where he was going. I think one of the contrast problems I have is that people that are Christian are very worried in those last days.
I mean, they've lived their lives with this stake in the ground, that I believe in Jesus, and I live for Jesus, and I take care of the poor for Jesus, and I raise my kids in the name of Jesus, and then all of a sudden it's like, uh oh, I'm not breathing as well as I used to. I want to have that attitude that I know where I'm going, I want to go yahoo from this life to the next. And man, encourage me that way.
That's the way it should be. You know, one of the blessings of my role working with our older congregation is I get to be alongside those people who are one foot in this world, one foot in the next. And just four days ago, I visited a man who was at that point. And to see so many of these individuals that are just confidently ready to move forward. And once in a while, you know, I'll visit someone who doesn't have that confidence. And I think the key is that we wear out a path today, that we wear it deep enough that when we get to that point in life, we're not suddenly trying to figure things out.
We figured it out along the way, and we're resting in that at the end. But I just love, love seeing those folks who are at the end, and they have finished the race. You know, and really, honestly, I would love to be around those people too, because it is such a great illustration of how to do it well. And I want to be that kind of model, that role model that I'm not fearing death. And that, you know, just like the apostles, if you kill me this way or kill me that way, it doesn't matter.
Because I know where I'm going, can I pray for you before you take my life? I mean, that's confidence. And, you know, probably won't end that way for us. But just having that confidence in God that we know where we're headed to.
And this is what we believe. John, this is fantastic. What a great reminder for people of all ages to think about where this is all heading. And you're going to get there. Did you ever think you're going to get there, John?
You know, we're going to hit the 60s, you're going to hit the 70s, God willing. And then, you know, then you got to start thinking about how this wraps up. And you have mentioned so many great things to think about in this book, Finishing Well, Biblical Lessons to Maximize Your Later Years.
And it's not about working harder. It's just about trusting more. And John, thanks for being with us.
Thank you for having me today. If you want to get a copy of this great resource, I think this is one you want to look at and read, get a hold of Focus on the Family. And we will send it along to you for a gift of any amount. And in doing so, you're partnering with us in ministry, because we're going to use all those resources, not to pay shareholders, but to do ministry together. So make a one time gift or a monthly gift and we'll send it as our way of saying thank you. Donate as you can. And I request this book Finishing Well by John Goodell.
Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family or click the link in the episode notes. We hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church family as well. And then please join us again on Monday for a review of some important questions you should ask before you get engaged. Are you going to go to church together? Are you going to give? Are you going to be in a small group with others?
You know, what is it? Are you going to do some Bible studies together? Do you pray together?
All those kinds of practices. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. Did you ever wonder what it was like to meet Jesus face to face? The miracles, the teachings, the long awaited Messiah in the flesh. It's all in a new novel by Focus on the Family called The Chosen.
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