Recently I've been thinking about my age, specifically about what it means to live life in my mid-40s. Who knows when each of us will breathe our last breath? Only the Lord knows. Yet, as we age, most of us begin to look retrospectively on the first halves of our lives, and for good reason. And it's so important that we use the wisdom of Christ to help us gauge just how we are using the life God's given us. Therefore, some questions could be asked of ourselves.
What did I do right? How did I miss the mark? How could I have improved? What people did I bless? Who did I hurt? How did I manage my resources? Did I glorify God and if so, how can I do more of that in the second half of life?
Three words have dominated my thoughts in recent weeks: kindness, humility, and most of all, gratitude. How can I take what I've learned from the first half of life, and life live to the fullest, on behalf of Christ and his Kingdom, in the 2nd half? Again, no one is guaranteed as many years as their first half, but every day, every hour, every minute, every second...
...counts for Christ.
I've been watching some of the 2021 NBA Playoffs and Finals over the last few weeks and as most of you know in basketball, as is most sports, there is an intermission period known as "halftime." Based on the ways that pros play sports, giving their all, it comes as no surprise that a halftime period provides rest, clarity and focus for the 2nd half that awaits. The coach and the players assemble together, drink water and replenish their bodies, learn from 1st half mistakes, pledge to honor, celebrate and do more of what worked in the 1st half, and find ways to get psyched and fired up to achieve the goal of winning the game in the last two quarters. Usually, before the 2nd half begins, players try and "pump one another up," shouting encouraging words to one another, jumping and yelling, in order to instill a desire to fight to the finish. Everyone believes--truly--that's it's never over...
...until it's over.
I wonder--what would members of Christ body be able to do if, after years of living on this earth, could look back analytically, retrospectively and introspectively and find out what could be used for the 2nd half of life and ministry? What if brothers and sisters in the Lord decided to spend the rest of their lives using their spiritual gifts in ways that do good for the people who need God's love now? What if certain activities were modified in order to adapt to current needs? And what would happen if new habits were formed that maximized the potential of Christ's body by exercising more faith through prayer, service and compassion more than ever before?
In other words, how is the past helping us prepare for the future? What are we seeing in the present that we'd like to see in the days, weeks and months ahead? What kind of person is Christ wanting us to be as we realize the truth of the famous cliche, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"? I believe that when we ask ourselves the tough questions, we are then faced with the opportunity to make necessary changes in order to maximize effectiveness in the way we lovingly serve others. Some people call this "taking inventory" ; other might call it "finding a new focus" for the days ahead. Whatever your perspective on the future is, the reality is that God gives us "halftimes" in our lives, especially after a few decades of life, in order that we might rearrange necessary priorities for the 2nd half of our journeys.
That work alone is a gift of God's grace!
My thoughts turn to Paul's words to Timothy in the New Testament, reminding the young disciple to not let others look down on him because of his age but to set an example for others in faith and in purity (1 Tim. 4:12). Paul knew that his time was short, but his past became a way to teach his protege about faith in God and in God's future. Paul poured out his wisdom, knowledge and experience so that he could live his last days as honestly and fully as he could, leaving his ministry legacy to Timothy to faithfully execute in the coming months and years.
Last month, on Mandi's and my 15th wedding anniversary, we met for lunch at Riverbirch Lodge on Robinhood Rd. We spoke about our 15 years of marriage and the fact that, based on all of our combined marital experiences, our next 15 years would be even better than the first 15 years. In some ways, our lunchtime was a "halftime" for us--it gave us the necessary space to rest, review and renew our commitment to finishing our years in ways that let go of the old (taking the best of what was) and moving on with the new (making the most of the days ahead for Christ and his Kingdom). This experience alone reminds me of Eph. 5:15-17, when Paul says, "Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
And so here we are, brothers and sisters! Individually and collectively we have the opportunity make the most of our "2nd halves" for the Lord! The second half of 2021 is upon us. What we will take with us? What will we leave behind? What gifts will we use and maximize to bless the ministry of UBC? How will we commit ourselves to doing and giving more of what Christ has placed in us that we can share with others? How can we trust God in ways where previously we've been hesitant to obey? Where are those places in our hearts that need the cleansing light of God's love? What are the strongholds in our lives that we've yet to give to God because we desire control instead of God's freedom? Who are we delaying forgiveness to, simply because we feel justified in holding onto a grudge?
What blessings, from the Father of good gifts, might we truly expect in the 2nd half?
How do YOU want to steward the rest of 2021, or better yet, how do you want to live well for the rest of your life?
Go ahead and stop.
Be still for a moment (Ps. 46:10).
Adjust your mindset.
Pay attention to your innermost thoughts.
Get your halftime rest and pray.
Ask the Lord what his will is for you and for those you're called to serve.
So seek "... the Lord while he may be found" (Isa. 55:6). Celebrate all that you gained, lost and learned about in the 1st half of this year, in the 1st half of your life, and take inventory of all the ways you've blessed others or failed to meet needs. Celebrate what God has done and forgive yourself for omitting opportunities to bless. Then believe in God's best for your future, and don't forget Jer. 29:11: "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."
God is going to bless the 2nd half at United Baptist--let's believe Jesus for it! Amen!
Here's to productive and meaningful ministry in the 2nd half of 2021,
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