The day you started to die

I was reading the bio of a British entertainer whom you might know but who will remain anonymous here because his name does not matter.

The celebrity was a regular on British television for over three decades.  When the network decided his work was declining along with his audience, they  canceled him.  Within three years, the man was dead, even though he was still in his 60s.  This sentence remains with me: “The day they canceled his contract is the day he began to die.”

We’ve all heard of people who died shortly after retiring from their life work. I’ve done the funerals of some of them.  Whether retirement caused the death, hastened it, or was a contributing factor is something no one can know. But we each have our own suspicions.

Assuming that to be a legitimate statement, that when the human spirit is “canceled,” so to speak, the human body begins to shut down and death is imminent, we come to conclusions such as:

1) The day you begin to die is when you no longer have anything to live for.

2) The day you lose all hope for the future, you begin to die.

3) The day you begin to die is when your inner spirit–the real you–shuts down.

4) The day you begin to die is when you turn your back on everything you have believed in and invested your life in.  I think of pastors who, in a seizure of attraction for another woman, leave their families and abandon their ministries.  Too late, they wake up and realize their pain is more than they can bear.

5) You begin to die when you violate your conscience and go against all the principles that have guided you for momentary gain.  The price you pay is enormous and not worth the damage to your soul.

Harper Shannon, veteran pastor and longtime friend, wrote a book about the ministry which he titled Trumpets in the Morning.  Harper tells of a conversation between two friends, one a pastor and the other an insurance salesman who at one time pastored churches.  The minister asked his friend, “Are you all right? Are things going well for you?”  The ex-pastor said, “I miss the trumpets in the morning.”

Every pastor–every minister of any kind–knows those trumpets.  I’m in my 75th year of life and the 6th year of retirement ministry, and know those trumpets. They roused me from sleep this morning at 3:30 am.

The day I begin to die is when the trumpets go silent. Nowhere is it written that God’s calling is given only to the young.  Retirement does not silence the trumpets.  Even though no one expects me in the office each morning at 8:30 or sends me a paycheck every two weeks,  I’m as much in the ministry today as I ever was.  Retirement does not cancel my service for the Lord, annul my calling, or make me redundant.

Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 4:16 sums it up well: Even though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

This is no day to be thinking of dying. The trumpets are sounding and I have things to do.

“Miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.”

(Note:  This is being reposted five years later.  Soon I will be eighty years old, and I’m still going strong. So grateful.)


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