The day you started to die

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

The writer told how the celebrity was a regular on British television for over three decades.  Finally, the network decided his work was declining along with his audience and so 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 known of individuals who died shortly after retiring from their life work.  Whether retirement caused the death, hastened the death, or was completely irrelevant is something no one can know. But we each have our own suspicions.

Assuming that is 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 can make statements such as the following….

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 pastorates.  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 what it does to your soul.

Harper Shannon, veteran pastor and friend for decades, wrote a book about the ministry in which he told of a conversation between two friends, one of whom was actively pastoring and the other, a former pastor, who was now selling insurance.  The minister asked his friend, “Are you all right? Were you able to make this transition successfully?”  The ex-pastor said, “I miss the trumpets in the morning.”  That became the title of Harper’s book: “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. But nowhere is it written that God’s calling is given only to the young.  Retirement does not silence the trumpets, if one is regularly hearing from the Lord and obedient.  No one expects me in the office each morning at 8:30 or sends me a paycheck every two weeks, but I’m still in ministry.  Retirement does not cancel my service for the Lord, annul my calling, or make me redundant.

I think of Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 4:16. “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.”


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