Gerard Chrispin has recently retired as General Director of DAYLIGHT Christian Prison Trust – but not from sharing the gospel! Here he challenges his ‘fellow dinosaurs’ to use their retirement to serve the Master.
How easy it is to get institutionalised! It is sad to see men and women who were once dynamic and innovative reduced to creatures of unimaginative habit. We know one man who manages to get himself back into prison soon after every release because he has grown so accustomed to being there.
Inside, he didn’t need to think for himself. He had worked in the City before his greed for money and a lavish lifestyle propelled him into a vicious circle of crime.
One of many things that impress me about Lord Jeffrey Archer is the length he went to in order to maintain his individuality while serving a prison sentence. And I know others who keep prison rules without ever losing their ability to think and make decisions. But many flounder once released – because life inside, however tasteless, is served up ‘on a plate’.
But this does not just apply to prison! Every year thousands of able-bodied, sound-minded Christians are ‘discharged’ from employment into the liberty of retirement. But often their liberty to serve Christ is swallowed up by ingrained, unimaginative habits. For many – but thankfully, not all – it is too easy to continue a limited Christian service as before.
If you are one of those ‘set free’ from work, what can you do for God after your discharge?
Just like the 85,000 men and women incarcerated in the prisons and immigration removal centres in the United Kingdom, most of us settle down in our earlier years to a ‘life sentence’ of work. Like prisoners, we are governed by rules, systems and peer pressures.
Perhaps we are too career-minded, and allow our witness to be gagged by the thought that a brave stance for Christ might damage our career prospects. Are we too concerned about keeping our reputation intact? Do we spend too much time on work itself – or recovering from it – and too little of our free time labouring for Christ?
Have we got used to saying that we have no ‘gift’ with which to serve the Lord, when in fact we do not know – never having tried to serve him anyhow? Often I have been pleasantly surprised when people who confessed themselves ‘not gifted’ in preaching, visiting or leading Bible studies, suddenly discovered that they were more gifted than they thought!
Sometimes it was not so much a ‘gift’ but a willingness and opportunity to work beyond their comfort zone that led them into fruitful Christian service.
So, fellow ‘dinosaurs’, what shall we do with our retirement freedom? I personally have found my ‘official’ retirement years the most productive of my life – in terms of how many people God has allowed me to reach with the gospel. I do not say it is anything like as many as I should have reached. Sadly, I have missed many more opportunities to share Christ than I have taken.
This ‘second retirement’ is not from preaching the gospel, or teaching the Bible, or sharing the claims of Christ with individuals, inside and outside prisons. Rather, I wanted to pass on the leadership of DAYLIGHT to someone younger while I could still pass the baton at full speed!
I long ‘to bear fruit in old age’ (Psalm 92:14). I have even thought about forming a Dinosaurs’ Club, or a Caleb Club – citing Caleb as our founding member – to encourage those in the golden ages of 60-70 and platinum ages of 70-80 plus to covenant with the Lord and one another to ‘go out fighting’ for the gospel.
We should make our ‘freedom’ count. There is nothing wrong with a constructive pastime or hobby, but it is not for those redeemed by the blood of a Saviour to give the climax of their lives to gardening or golf, poetry or pictures, television or the Financial Times.
We should prayerfully consider investing our time in seeing men and women come to Christ; disciples made; churches and Christian groups encouraged and blessed by our faithful support; and Christ honoured.
In a blaze
After I had been best man at his wedding, Trevor Knight (my good friend and long-time colleague in United Beach Missions and Young Life) gave me a copy of R. A. Torrey’s How to work for Christ. In the front of the book he copied this poem, called ‘When we are dying’:
When we are dying how glad we shall be
That the lamp of our life has blazed out
We shall not care that the way has been
That his dear feet led the way was
We shall not worry how much that we
In time or in money one soul to save.
When we are dying how glad we
That the lamp of our life has
blazed out for thee.
Nowhere does the Bible teach that those used by Christ have a sell-by date! Nor does it teach that we are on the spiritual scrap heap at 60, 70, 80, or 90+. May those who retire from work never retire from serving the Master! Opportunities abound on every hand; the need is even greater than before and the time is shorter than ever.