By Larry Short
The Young Adults Ministry is launching into a study of 1 and 2 Kings, following up on our recent study of 1 and 2 Chronicles. 1 Kings starts with King David, at 70 years old, burned out on his deathbed. David, the quintessential man’s man, began his ministry as the official King of Israel at 30 years of age. His life before then was lived in the school of hard knocks. His exploits were the stuff of legend.
Sociologists talk about a variety of “generational” benchmarks in our society. You have Generation X, Baby Boomers, the Y Generation, etc. But biblically, in any given lifespan you see basically two generations, and two key functions of people living successfully within those.
The first generation is 0 to 30 years, and it is marked by training and preparation. Jewish men were not considered fully “adults” until age 30. That is when they were permitted to enter their fulltime ministry vocation. Even Jesus was relatively obscure for the first 90% of his life (until age 30).
In most cases the first 30 years were considered preparation and training for a life of service, leadership and ministry. Even if they were married earlier, young men were apprenticed or mentored while in their late teens and early 20s. And 30 was a significant benchmark in their life. Jesus began his public ministry at 30.
While Gen. 6:3 caps 120 years as the span of mortal man’s days – a number which is still pretty much considered an upper limit despite significant advances in medical technology – elsewhere Scripture assigns “three score and 10” as a normal human lifespan. Our average lifespans today are slightly longer than that, but still, most consider those few years leading up to age 70 a good time for retirement!
So if the cradle to age 30 is considered training for life, what do those of us who are somewhere between 30 and 70 supposed to consider this second generation? I think this is a question that we struggle with. We divide it up: times when we are raising children, when we become empty nest and perhaps focus on our career, and when we wind our careers down and try and enjoy retirement.
But from a biblical perspective, this “second generation” of life is much simpler. It’s about service. People who have found what God has called them to do realize the key to a happy, purposeful and fulfilled second generation is service, ministry and leadership: whether of our families, our churches, our business/career colleagues, our communities, or our Lord. And hopefully all of the above!
Too many of us live our second generation simply for ourselves, accumulating things that we think we need to keep us happy and comfortable after we retire. There is nothing wrong with preparing for the future, but in light of a God who tells us “do not worry about what you will eat or drink, or what you will wear,” we must hold such things loosely, and seek to cling instead to the true priorities of service: how we can most effectively invest and use the gifts, talents, energies, time and abilities that God has given us to serve Him, and to serve those around us.
Darlene and I tell the Young Adults that if they are not yet 30, they are still in training for service. For most if not all of them, this training involves getting a real taste of what it is like to serve others. I am thankful that Elim is investing heavily in children, in youth, and in young adults, training them for service.
And when they turn 30, they get the boot! Well, not literally, but that is the point when they are expected to turn in their training wheels for something bigger, something riskier. They need to figure out what God has created them to do – and start doing it, in service of Him and others.
How about you?
Where do you fall? If you are older than 70, perhaps you can relax a bit. We still need your wisdom and mentorship, we need to hang around you so the fragrance of your life will rub off on ours. And hopefully it will be our privilege to serve you in the midst of your retirement and to celebrate the service accomplishments of your life!
If you are 30 to 70, like me, you should be in the middle of what God has called you to do, to serve Him and others. We may change gears many times during those years (God knows I have), but hopefully those changes will be with the goal of being a more effective instrument in His hands.
If you are under 30, you are the future of service! We will invest in you, and we will expect that you will be prayerfully considering how God wants you to apply yourself to the task at hand.
Take an example from David. At 70 years of age, he was burned out and exhausted by a life full of adventure as a friend of God, as a leader, a warrior, and a servant of others. He didn’t rust out, he burned out! And you and I are the richer for it today.
Are we leaving that kind of legacy for the next generation?