Honoring Christ in Middle Age
Middle age creeps up on all of us and with it comes life changes. Children are grown, the career is fixed, and the job routine. Spiritually, we may have attempted to walk with the Lord for most of our lives and so even Christ has become common fare.
The Apostle declared that for him to live was Christ (Philippians 1:21). Living for our Lord must continue to be vibrant. It involves growing in Christ-likeness through Bible knowledge, prayer, church attendance, and living out God’s ways in our niche of life.
Middle age however brings new challenges, and if anyone is to continue to live for Christ it will require overcoming these challenges. It will demand that we have a close fellowship with the Lord, keep a heavenly view, and walk as little children before God.
Having Close Fellowship With The Lord
In middle years more personal time may become available since goals are on track and children are taking their own paths. Without close fellowship with the Lord, however, we fall prey to selfishness on one side and drudgery in serving on the other.
Selfishness due to the calm of success is that age old whisper, “I need, I deserve, or others have.” Give the flesh an inch and it will take a mile. If things are going well our ‘need’ or fellowship with the Lord may become less fulfilling and any one of us could find ourselves “walking on the palace roof” and searching for something invigorating and exciting, like David of old.
David was a military man and had led Israel’s army in great conquests. Walking with God he had taken on Goliath. David, now in midlife, counted on Joab to lead the armies successfully while he relaxed. Without immediate responsibility to occupy him, however, his selfishness was stirred by a beautiful young woman (2 Samuel 11). David could never have dreamed he was on a course to commit adultery and murder and destroy his family!
If selfishness does not get us, service may. Pressures of mid-life can wear us down. Nothing ever changes, every day is the same, work is the same, home is the same, worship is the same. It is all good, but it is so daily. If our fellowship with God is “ho-hum” all our service will leave us drained. The good life is not easy. Responsibilities of church life, occupation, family, and community can become a very heavy load. Decisions must be made, disagreements have to be handled, so determination is ongoingly required. Our Lord knew we would grow tired, so He told us, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).
Living through middle age requires a tender, thankful, and worshipful fellowship with our Lord. Only continual awareness of our undeservedness, and continual overwhelming appreciation of His graciousness in giving His Son for us will keep us from weariness in service. It is the only way we will think service is worthwhile. We must keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21) by reflection upon His mercy through Bible reading, prayer, and meditation. We must be awash in grace, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
Keeping a Heavenly View
Perhaps we have remained faithful to God, but our dedication has seemingly brought no outstanding blessing in life. Christ-centered faithful living requires us to keep an eternal perspective. J. Harvey Daily wrote, “God has not promised skies always blue, flower strewn pathways all our lives through. God has not promised sun without rain, peace without sorrow, joy without pain . . . Let us still trust His mercies right on, and sing His praises all the day long.”
Again, how can one keep going? We must reflect as Paul did, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Our culture expects immediate gratification, and in middle age if struggles are ongoing, we begin to wonder if serving the Lord is worth it. We must remember heaven will totally supersede all middle age challenges.
Did we begin our walk with God for what it would benefit us in this life? Do we really want what we deserve? Remember all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags and our best state is altogether vanity. We must turn from a horizontal view to a heavenly view. Paul penned, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:17-18). The cure for middle age grunge is a fresh vision of the eternal perspective, the glory that is yet future. If eternity is kept more prominent and more anticipated, earth’s dreariness may more likely be endured. This life is temporary, and ever so fleeting compared to endless joy with our Lord. So, let us number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Recognizing Our Dependence On God
Another great danger of middle age is attributing success to our own abilities. It is possible to become self-reliant if a person has applied himself and life is going well in middle age. King Nebuchadnezzar had to learn the hard way that we have nothing without God’s blessing (Daniel 4:30).
Self-reliance is a mask for pride. King Uzziah was a successful king. He fortified the city of Jerusalem, and the Lord prospered him. He made great war machines, was accomplished as a shepherd, and dug many wells for water. His victories in war were well known.
In middle age though, King Uzziah’s heart was lifted up to his destruction. He transgressed against the Lord and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar which was reserved for priests alone. He was rebuked by Azariah, and leprosy rose in his forehead, and he was cut off from the house of the Lord until his death (2 Chronicles 26).
King Hezekiah also became self-reliant in middle age. True, he also accomplished much for God. He opened the temple and restored worship, and he celebrated a Passover for the ages (II Chronicles 30:26). He built cities, filled storehouses, “And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered” (2 Chron. 31:21).
When Assyria encamped against Jerusalem, Hezekiah said with strong faith to God’s people, “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles" (II Chronicles 32:7-8). An angel of the Lord came and defended the nation by killing 185,000 of the enemy in one night.
II Chronicles 32:25, however, recounts Hezekiah’s middle age pride, “But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.”
The cure for pride is recognition of our absolute dependence on God. If we have been successful, it is because God made us so. “. . . and what hast thou that thou didst not receive: now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it” (I Corinthians 4:7). God has given us whatever abilities and open doors we have had. Every good thing we have received comes down from God (James 1:17). We must always say as Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10).
Middle age brings many difficult challenges. Success coupled with selfishness may lead us to sin as David. The ongoing burden of labor without benefit may cause us to grow weary in the way. Accomplishment in midlife however may tempt us to prideful independence. Can we make it through? Yes, Yes, Yes! I Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Maintain a close fellowship with the Lord, keep a heavenly view of life, and walk as little children dependent upon the heavenly Father. Dear ones, as the testimony of Christ has been confirmed in you with gifts, and in your waiting for Christ’s coming, be assured he shall also confirm you unto the end that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, (I Corinthians 1:6-8).
Richard Halbgewachs is pastor of Oak Hill Primitive Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.