By Commissioner SAMUEL L. BRENGLE, D.D.*
[* Retirement is something we must do when our earthly frame becomes old and frail: but many Christians - (not old or frail but who are retired) - may be doing very little or even nothing at all for the glory of God! I once asked a Christian man if he found it difficult to put in his time? and his prompt reply was: ‘The day’s not long enough!’ I suppose for many that is true. Sporting interests; about the home interests; personal fitness interests; holidays abroad and travel in general interests: all of these and many more can be catered for during one’s retirement!
But a self-centered and worldly Christian lifestyle is of no interest to every retired servant of God. I know a godly widowed lady who spends hours in correspondence and prayer each day for others: and what an encouragement and blessing she has given me every time I visit her!
“We trust you are keeping well. … We send you all our love and the assurance of our prayers. May the Lord make you aware of His nearness and fill you with his peace, which passes all understanding, His joy, which no one can take away from you, and His love, which passes knowledge.
From all your friends in the SALT group.”
How true it is that we reap what we sow! Take time to encourage and pray God’s blessing on others, and they pray for His ‘nearness,’ ‘peace,’ ‘joy’ and ‘love’ for you!
This little tract is dedicated to that godly ‘sister in the Lord’; and may our God and Saviour long continue to give her the grace and strength to write to her many Christian friends throughout the world, and more and more opportunity to encourage and pray down His blessing upon them. – Ed.]
When I was a little lad, time went by so slowly, and the years seemed so long, that I felt I should never be a man. But I was told that the years would not seem so long when I got into my teens. So I waited in hope, and after what seemed a century or two I reached my teens, and sure enough the years tripped by a bit more quickly. Then I got into my twenties, and they sped by yet more swiftly. I reached the thirties and speedily passed into the forties, and almost before I had time to turn around I found myself in the fifties, and about the time I hoped to catch my breath, the wild rush of years carried me into the sixties, and now I am bracing myself for the plunge into the abyss of retirement!
But is it an abyss? Will it swallow me up, and shall I be lost in its dark and silent depths? Is it not rather a sun-kissed, peaceful slope, on the sunset side of life where my often overtaxed body can have a measure of repose, and my spirit, freed in part from the driving claims of the war can have a foretaste of the Sabbath calm of eternity? So I am taking forethought against the day of my retirement. I am praying for grace and wisdom for that time, and already I am considering what seem to me to be possible dangers, and arming my spirit in advance against them. I believe in preparedness. Jesus said, “Be ye also ready.” So I watch and pray and prepare, that I may not be found wanting. I do not want to lose the dew from my soul. The dew of the morning passes away, but there is also the dew of evening - I do not want to miss that.
Sunset is often as glorious as sunrise; and when the sun goes down, “the eternal stars shine out”. Often the splendour of the night is more wonderful than that of the day. The sun reveals the little things - flowers, grasses, birds, hills, seas, and mountains. These are little. But the larger things - the immensities of the heavens with their flashing meteors, their silvery moons, their star-strewn depths sown thick with flaming suns - these are the great things, and they are hidden by the garish light of day, but revealed by the kindly darkness of night. So I suspect the greater glories, the surpassing splendours of the spiritual world, are yet to be revealed to me as the sun of this life begins to sink beneath western hills. “At eventide it shall be light.” Hallelujah!
I do not expect to fold my hands and sit in listless idleness or vain repining when I am retired. There will still be abundant work for my head and heart and hands. I shall probably not be so active on the field, or be “going to and fro in the earth” - on long campaigns as in the past. But I hope to pray more for my comrades who are on the field and in the thick of the fight. There will be plenty of knee work to do, and we have need of knee workers more than ever, for this kaleidoscopic age-electric, restless, and changeful as the wind-swept sea - does not lend itself to prayer, the prayer that gets into close grips with God and the great wants of men, and brings down heavenly resources to meet vast earthly needs. I shall meditate more - at least I hope to - and read and ponder my Bible more, and try to match its wondrous truths with life, the life I still live and must live, and by its light try to interpret the life that surges all around me and manifests itself in the great movements, the triumphs and agonies and birth throes of men and nations. Oh, it will be a fascinating study!
I shall find plenty to do. If I cannot command a corps or a division, or take part in councils, or lead on great soul-saving campaigns, I can talk to my grocer, and doctor, and letter-carrier about Jesus crucified and glorified and the life that is everlasting. I can still take an interest in the children and young people, and maybe out of the books of my experience find some helpful life lessons for them. And in doing this I shall hope to keep my own spirit young and plastic and sympathetic. I do not want to become hard and blind and unsympathetic toward youth, with its pathetic ignorance and conceit, its spiritual dangers, its heart hunger, and its gropings after experiences that satisfy, its eager haste, and its ardent ambitions.
Then there are letters I can write to struggling officers on the field - letters of congratulation for those who are winning victory; letters of sympathy and cheer for those who are being hard pressed by the foe; letters to missionary officers to far-off heathen lands; letters to those who are bereaved, who sit with empty arms and broken hearts in the dark shadows and deep silence beside open graves where I, too, have sat, whose heartache and deep grief I know, who in vain long
For the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still;
letters to those who in pain and weariness and possible loneliness are nearing the Valley of the Shadow of Death where only the Good Shepherd can go with them every step of the way, but where some word of hope and cheer may still reach them from a comrade who thinks of them in love and ceases not to pray for them.
So when I am retired, I shall not sulk in my tent, nor repine, nor grumble at my lot. Nor shall I seek a secular job to while away my time. For years I resisted God’s call to preach. My heart was set on being a lawyer. But against my protest and stubborn resistance was God’s insistent call. The snows of seventy winters are now on my head, but the sunshine of seventy summers is in my heart. The fading and falling leaves of seventy autumns solemnize and sadden my soul, but the resurrection life up-springing in flower and tree, and returning song birds, the laughing brooks, the swelling rivers, and the soft, sweet winds of seventy springtimes gladden my spirit. I am glad that I am not carrying into my retirement a burden of grouches, a lot of bitter and painful memories. Some painful and a few bitter things may have come my way during these seventy years, but I do not recall them. I refuse to harbour such memories. Why should I pour bitter poison into the sweet wells of my salvation and joy, from which I must drink daily if I would live?
I must so live that I shall “make full proof of my ministry”, for the solemn day of accounting is coming, surely, swiftly coming, when I must render an account of my stewardship to the Lord. Paul and Peter, apostles though they were, never lost their awe of that day, nor must I. I watch, I pray, I read, I meditate on His words. I look to the Lamb slain for my sins. I cling to the cross. I fight the good fight of faith. I refuse to faint. I gird on my armour, I grip my sword, and watching, praying, rejoicing, I sing:‑
My soul, be on thy guard 1
Ten thousand foes arise
The hosts of sin are pressing hard
To draw thee from the skies.
Oh watch, and fight, and pray
The battle ne’er give o’er!
Renew it boldly every day,
And help divine implore.