By Boyd Guy
This year I turned 35. To some people that’s ancient, and to others that means I’m just a baby.
One my first thoughts on my birthday was, “I am halfway to 70.” If the LORD allows me live that long, would I be retired at that point? What would life and retirement look like? What will the state of the US be in and will there be any social security for my generation? What will ministry look like for me and what kind of race will I have run? I hope and pray that I will not have become lazy, content, or bitter.
Honestly, I don’t even know if I am comfortable with the idea of retirement. The LORD has allowed me to travel much of the world through mission work and travel on five continents. I must say that it has impacted my thinking about retirement and growing older. I have seen the elderly hard at work – old women bending over while cutting vegetables on the ground, old men sewing their fishing nets for the next day’s catch. I realize that retirement has only been available to a select few throughout the history of the world. Who am I to even ponder the thought of taking some extended time off? After all, I’ll always want to work for Him who has called me according to His purpose.
When I think about growing older, I ask myself, “Where should I set my goals?” Some say, “Don’t worry,” while others tell me, “Plan accordingly.” Yes I should set my goals on Christ and his kingdom, but what might that materialize into in practical terms?
Most ministers would enjoy having more time to dedicate to prayer, evangelism, and discipleship. One IMB missionary shared with me the tall task of paperwork he faces and how that erodes his time and focus from ministry. When I think of retiring, I love the idea of unhindered ministry–the opportunity to invest in others without a timetable, paperwork, approval numbers, and financial limitations. I understand that God uses various hurdles for good (Rom. 8:28; James 1:2-4), but I hope that one day I’ll have less of those obstacles to leap.
I remember gathering pecans as a child and selling them to buy candy at the community store. Every year I looked forward to this opportunity and enjoyed the work. I found that I could gather my pecans more quickly if I had more within my short reach and could limit my need to move around. Retiring abroad has the potential to be like placing yourself in the middle of a vast harvest field that has no workers. A lifetime of fruit available within a small space makes for efficient work.
Many Americans today are looking at the option of retiring abroad for its financial benefits. According to the CNN article linked below, it’s not just remote locations, but places like Portugal, Italy, and Thailand where an American can live for amazingly little. Sure, the world will be a very different place in 35 years, but retiring abroad could be viable then as well. If our secular society considers retiring abroad as an attractive idea, how much more should Christians who can then live there as a permanent missionary – not reliant upon the funding of others – throughout their golden years?
Retiring abroad might even mean that you can retire in your 50s or 60s rather than 70s because of the low living expense. Imagine cutting your monthly expenses in half when you compare remaining in the states to retiring abroad.
May the LORD grant us a long life that we might live long in the land and have a great influence for Christ. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. May those who work the fields benefit from a long life of harvest impact. May the LORD continue to mold my heart regarding work and rest.
Boyd Guy currently serves as Assistant Director of Public Relations and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology from NOBTS.