Over the course of my 10-year ministry, the majority of people I have served have been near retirement age. Regardless of age, I find that most people have dreams, desire great things, and want their lives to count for something. However, my observation is that those of retirement age are less likely to act out on those dreams. Some suffer from declining health, and their confidence has been shaken. Some have been told by younger church staff that times have changed, and their wisdom is no longer needed. Others have been flat-out told to stay out of the way.
The result is that we have a generation of seniors who have built the church, but are becoming less involved as they are led to believe they no longer have anything to offer. They are being led to believe that they are obsolete.
You don’t have to be 65 to feel this sense of obsolescence, either. This feeling of obsolescence can engulf a college athlete whose career has ended due to graduation or injury. It can hit the IT professional whose job was just outsourced to India. It can hit the recently-singled mother whose life has just been upended by divorce, and it can hit the pastor whose ministry has just ended due to Spiritual struggles.
The one constant in life is change, and as we hurl faster toward the return of Christ, change will become more drastic, and more frequent. Right now, the American educational system is preparing kids for jobs that, may not exist yet, or that may exist but be phased out in the next few years.
20 years ago, a liberal arts education insured success. 10 years ago, a technological education insured success. 5 years ago, a vocational education insured success. Today, we are trending back toward liberal arts and IT. Today’s kids will have endure far more career changes than we did, not because they lack commitment, but because the economy will change that quickly and that drastically.
Change happens, and change is coming. Sometimes that change happens, and we weren’t ready. We feel left behind, locked out, and obsolete. While this feeling is very real and powerful, it isn’t grounded in the truth. The fact is, if you remain alive on this Earth, you are not obsolete.
Whenever I think about this, I think of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was raised and groomed to serve as a priest in the Temple. That was his dream, his life’s ambition, his mission and his purpose.
Then, it happened. Before Ezekiel had the opportunity to become a priest, Babylonian troops invaded, carrying him and thousands of others into captivity. While he was being transported as a prisoner to Babylon, the invading soldiers advanced toward Jerusalem, which would surely fall after a difficult siege. With the nation being lost, and the Temple most certainly being doomed, Ezekiel would never be given the opportunity to serve as a priest.
What is a man who was trained to be a priest do as a prisoner in a foreign land? The change had come, the change had blindsided him, and he probably didn’t know what to do. What do you do when your career field has just been eliminated? (Not your job, but entire industry?)
In Ezekiel 3:17, God told Ezekiel, “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel.”
Far too often, we get excited about the “watchman” part and start talking about how we need to spread the Gospel. But before we do that, let’s consider the context. Ezekiel had just lost his life’s purpose, and God enters and says “I have made thee a watchman.”
When God told Ezekiel “I have made thee a watchman,” he was telling Ezekiel “I am not through with you.” Indeed, He wasn’t. God went on to use Ezekiel in a mighty way, from prophesying about the fall of Jerusalem, to prophesying about the coming of God’s Kingdom and the restoration of the people. In captivity, Ezekiel was moved beyond the office of an anonymous priest, and elevated to becoming the Spiritual leader of his people. Change had come, change had upended his life, but God was not finished. Ezekiel was used in a mighty way, penned a book of the Bible, and left an eternal legacy. It wasn’t what he planned. It was better.
So, if you feel that life has left you behind, that you’ve become obsolete, look up! God is not done with you yet. If you follow His leading, God will reinvent your life to something better than you imagined, and you will no longer feel left out.
One more thought. Our purposes are often intertwined. Come visit with us. Grace Pointe Missionary Baptist Church meets for Sunday School at 10 am, Morning Worship at 11 am, and we meet at the Early Chamber of Commerce building, 104 E. Industrial Drive, Early, TX 76802.
-Posted by Pastor Leland Acker. You can follow him at Facebook.com/LelandAckerMinistries, or on Twitter @LelandAcker.