The Journey of "Retire? Refire" | 『退而不休』之旅

Article by Pastor Paul Shen, Minster-At-Large at Living Hope
The general perception is that retirement signifies having done what you should and could do, having completed all tasks, and now there's nothing left to do, allowing for rest and inactivity.  Some people equate  “Retire” as  “Relax, Entertain, Travel, Indulge, Read, and Enjoy”. However, for Christians, we do not lose the meaning of life and the purpose of life because of retirement. The older people should avoid what is called the "four deteriorations" in aging: aging, rigidity, degeneration, and corruption. For Christians, retirement means withdrawing into God, earnestly seeking Him with all your heart, discerning what God wants them to do, and living the rest of life according to His will. Whether retiring from the church or the workplace, there is still an opportunity to serve God, continue to unleash one's potential, and share the gifts, wisdom, abilities, talents, experiences, and love that God has bestowed upon them. While we may lack the drive, vitality, and enthusiasm of the past, we can make good use of maturity, calmness, and foresight to serve those in need. As our age continually updates our mindset, expands our horizons, and adjusts the pace of life, we can serve in places of need, utilizing our physical, spiritual, and mental strength and adaptability to nurture and bless more people.
If you retire at the age of 65, and God grants you a life until 80, how would you spend these 15 years? Or if you retire at 70, and God extends your life until 85, how would you make good use of these 15 years? For retired Christians, retirement is not an opportunity for you to start a new career, but a time for you to prepare to meet the Lord. Will we meet the Lord empty-handed by then? If the Lord asks, "What did you do during your retirement?"  How would you answer? Paul reminds us to "make the most of the time, and do not be foolish, but understand what the will of God is." The Lord Jesus also reminded his disciples, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4). The day of the Lord is near, and now is the time. We must seize the opportunity to serve so that we can prepare ourselves to meet the Lord.
In the Bible, the best example of "retiring but not withdrawing" would arguably be Caleb. Not long after the Israelites left Egypt, Moses sent out 12 spies to the land of Canaan, and Caleb was one of them (Numbers 13:6). After the 12 spies returned, 10 of them were afraid of the strong and tall local Anakim. How could they fight against the giants? It would be better to go back to Egypt and continue to live the life of a slave. At the critical moment, only Caleb and Joshua stood up bravely and told their compatriots that this was an opportunity to launch an attack immediately, because they believed that with the presence of God, they would be able to win and enter the good land God promised.
Unfortunately, because the faith of the Israelites was not firm, God allowed them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. After 40 years of testing and refinement, only Caleb and Joshua entered the Promised Land. When Joshua, as the leader, divided and parceled the Promised Land to the 12 tribes of Israel, 85-year-old Caleb reminded Joshua, “Since the Lord spoke these words to Moses, the Lord has given me just as he promised. I have lived these 45 years, during which the children of Israel walked in the wilderness. Behold, now I am 85 years old, and I am as strong as in the day when Moses sent me; and my strength was then, both for war, and for coming out and going out. As it was, so it is now.” (Joshua 14:10-11) Although Caleb was 85 years old, he maintained the spirit of “aging yet not retiring”, and he firmly believed the the God who was with them then is the same God with him today. God was his strength when he was young, and God remained his strength even now.
On September 12, 2023, I returned to Taiwan for the second time,  to lead two missionary conferences in two churches. These events presented new challenges and breakthroughs for both of their congregations. Thank God, I have seen the Holy Spirit ignite the missionary hearts, and many people dedicated themselves and were willing to step out for mission work. After coming back from Taiwan, on September 29, I went to Machala, Ecuador. There, I joined with three co-workers in Christ from the United States and Canada. The main purpose of the trip was to visit the brothers and sisters in that area and explore the feasibility of missionary work. During the three-day trip, we were careful because the country was in a state of political instability. Thank God, each meeting was filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. The local church is not big. Most of the brothers and sisters are engaged in shrimp farming. The local church is not large, and most of the brothers and sisters are involved in shrimp farming, with many being close relatives. Whenever there is a church activity, everyone responds promptly. The characteristic of their Sunday worship is that both adults and children worship together in Chinese. Their hospitality was extended by almost the entire family, reminiscent of the early Christian practice of sharing within the "house church" setting. Over the past decade, they have been guardians of both family and church. They express the belief that in the future, the church should actively engage in mission outreach.
My trip to Peru from 10/3 to 10/8 was my third trip to Lima, the capital of Peru, and it was also my first missionary journey of “Retire? Refire!”. The team consisted of nine individuals ranging in age from 50 to 82. Some were pastors and lay believers who had been retired for several years, while others were recently retired or preparing for retirement. During the five-day trip, we shared eight meetings together, including preaching, testimonies, visits, talks, counseling, and more. Some of us shared the gospel on our outings while some preached in the late hours (particularly to restaurant owners); some distributed food and visited slums, some shared during daytime fellowship meetings, and some preached on Sundays. There are 2 to 3 million people in Peru who identify themselves as Chinese. In Lima alone, there are over 200,000 Chinese, yet there are only two Chinese churches. There are many places where they gather together, but there is a lack of preachers. Believers more training, visits, and pastoral care. Of course, the indigenous people in the mountains also need the gospel, but who will be there for them? This "retiring but not withdrawing" journey was the first of its kind, and there are still improvements to be made in the planning of activities. However, I believe that with time, it will become more proficient and smoother. We pray that God will inspire more pastors and believers who have retired or will retire to come and work together to win more people to the Lord for Christ. No matter if it is a short-term mission of one week, a mid-term mission of several weeks, or a long-term mission of several months, we need workers willing to "retire but not withdraw," eager to be used by God. If you have a burden for this ministry, please contact Living Hope Global Ministries. May God bless you!
一般人以為退休表示你該做的都做了,能做的都做了,已經沒有可以做的,所以可以休息、可以不做了。有人把Retire 用英文組合成Relax(放鬆),Entertain(娛樂),Travel(旅行),Indulge(放縱),Read(閱讀),Enjoy(享受)。但對基督徒而言,基督徒不是因為退休而失去生命的意義和生命的目標。老人是要避免所謂「老人四化」:老化、僵化、退化和腐化,但Retirement對基督徒,就是退到神的裡面,專心尋求神,看神要我做什麼,只照祂的旨意渡餘下光陰。不論你是從教會退休或在職場退休,都仍然有機會服事神,繼續發揮生命的潛力,把神過去給你的恩賜、智慧、能力、才幹、經驗、愛心分享給人。我們可能沒有過去的衝勁、活力和熱情,但我們可善用成熟、沈靜和遠見來服事有需要的人。隨著年齡不斷更新我們的心態、擴展視野、生活步調,配合自己的體力、靈力、心力、適應力去服事有需要的地方,造就並造福更多的人。
假如你65歲退休,而神給你的生命到80歲,那你這15年要如何過?或你70歲退休,神給你到85歲,那你要如何善用15年的時光?對退休的基督徒而言,退休不是你開創新事業的契機,而是你準備如何迎見主的時候,屆時我們要空手見主嗎?如果主問『你退休那段時光,你做了什麼? ’你會如何回答?保羅提醒我們『要愛惜光陰,不要作糊塗人,乃要明白神的旨意如何』。主耶穌也提醒門徒,要『 趁著白晝,我們必須做那派我來者的工作;黑夜就要到了!那時候就沒有人能做工了』(約9:4)。主的日子近了,現在是時候了,我們要把握機會服事,以便能預備自己迎見主。
聖經中「退而不休」最好的榜樣要算是迦勒了。以色列民剛出埃及不久,摩西派12位探子去窺探迦南美地,迦勒是其中之一(民13:6)。 12位探子回來之後,其中的10位探子因懼怕當地壯碩、高大的亞衲族人,怎能跟巨人打仗?倒不如回埃及繼續過奴隸的生活,在關鍵時刻,唯有迦勒和約書亞兩人勇敢站出來,告訴同胞這是立即發動進攻的機會,因他們相信有上帝的同在,必能得勝進入神應許的美地。
今年的9/12,我第二次回到台灣,主要是主理兩個週末在兩個教會的宣教特會。這對他們的教會都是新的挑戰,也是新的突破。感謝神,看見聖靈點燃宣教的心,有不少人獻身並願意從教會走出去宣教。從台灣回來後, 9/29,我去到厄瓜多爾的馬查拉。在那裡與三位來自美國和加拿大的同工會合,主要是探望那裡的弟兄姐妹,並探索在那裡宣教的可行性,三天的匆忙行程裡,我們格外小心,因政治不穩定,全國正處在無政府狀態。但感謝神,每一個聚會滿有聖靈的同在。當地教會不大,大多數的弟兄姊妹從事養蝦業,大部分是自己家的親人,教會的活動一招呼就馬上來。他們主日崇拜的特色就是不分大人和小孩都一起用華語。他們對我們的款待幾乎全家族出動和分擔,有點像初代彼此分享的『家庭教會』。十幾年來他們一直守護家庭和教會,他們表示今後的教會要走出去參與宣教。
白天的團契分享或個人談道,有的在主日講道。秘魯有20-300萬自稱華人,光在利馬市就有20數萬的華人,只有兩間華人教會。有許多的聚會點,但缺乏傳道人,他們需要更多的訓練、探訪、牧養,當然山區的原住民也很需要福音,但誰來關顧他們?這趟的『退而不休』是第一次,在活動的安排上仍有要改進的,但相信今後會更熟練、更順暢。祈求神感動更多的退休或將退休的牧者和信徒前來同工,為基督多領人歸主。就算是一個禮拜的短宣、幾個禮拜的中宣或幾個月的長宣都需要,求興起『退而不休』的同工,甘願被神使用。若您對『退而不休』的事工有負擔,請與新希望全球事工聯絡。願 神賜福您!
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