Middle age – Is it the beginning of the end or only the end of the beginning? It sneaks up on us. Others notice we have reached this exalted status long before we do. With it come many changes. Our children are grown and out of the house (mostly). Those that remain don’t require much input. For most, the career path is fixed and often the job routine. Spiritually, we have walked with the Lord for some decades now. Our spiritual habits and interests follow a predictable pattern. Our role and responsibilities in the local assembly are largely determined.
Living a Christ-centered life is much the same at any age. It involves growing in grace and knowledge of Christ through Bible study and prayer, worshiping the Lord in a local assembly of believers, and living for God’s purposes in spreading the gospel and caring for God’s people. However, middle age brings a new set of challenges to living a Christ-centered life. Overcoming these challenges requires us to (1) maintain our relationship with the Lord; (2) keep an eternal perspective; and (3) walk humbly in dependence on God.
Maintaining Our Relationship With God
Paradoxically, we often have more personal time (since the children are raised) and greater career and assembly responsibilities. Absent a strong relationship with the Lord, we may be vulnerable to either boredom on the one hand, or growing “weary in doing good” on the other.
One of the dangers of middle age is boredom. Spiritual things can become routine and uninspired. If our enjoyment of spiritual things wanes, we may find ourselves “walking on the palace roof,” looking for something new and exciting, like King David. Once David had been at the front of the army. Early in his career he had taken on Goliath alone. Now, things ran efficiently under Joab’s command. Middle-aged David could relax at home while Joab took the army off to war. But boredom leads to temptation, and David needed something to occupy his time. Into David’s vision came a beautiful young woman (2Sam 11). Little could David have imagined he was on a course which would lead to immorality and murder, and ultimately to the devastation of his own family.
For others, the pressures of middle age can wear us down. Busyness, even in spiritual things, without a vibrant relationship with the Lord, will leave us drained. Assembly life is not easy. Responsibility for preaching, teaching, and shepherding can be relentless, especially in a small assembly. Career pressures, disagreement with oversight decisions, disharmony among the believers – all can weigh in upon us. Paul challenged the Thessalonians to “not grow weary in doing good” (2Thes 3:13).
Living a Christ-centered life in middle age requires a commitment to maintaining our relationship with the Lord. Only a living relationship with the Lord can cure us of boredom and keep us from weariness in spiritual service. Time must be invested in Bible study, prayer, and meditation. Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1Tim 4:16, ESV).
Renewing Our Focus On The Eternal
A second potential middle age challenge is complacency. Perhaps we have remained faithful to God’s assembly, but our participation has become routine. Our prayer language is repetitive and full of clichés. Our sermons are recycled versions of studies we did years ago. We may become content with who we are. We have learned to live with our character flaws (and we expect everyone else to also). We no longer seek the help of the Spirit to change us; we are content to wait until heaven for that. Complacency has set in.
Christ-centered living requires us to keep an eternal perspective. “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2, ESV). It can be tempting to settle down and just enjoy life now. Demas was such a man. Once he had preached with the apostle Paul, but he decided it was easier to only live for this world. Paul lamented “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (2Tim 4:10, ESV).
One of the great opportunities of middle age is that we have more free time to devote to spiritual endeavors and service for the Lord. Participation in assembly gospel outreach activities, ESL, Seed Sowers, small, group Bible studies, children’s work, helping other Christians – these are but a few possibilities. Middle age gives us the unique opportunity to mentor younger Christians and pass on valuable insights we have learned in raising our families, in the workplace and in the assembly.
Paul is the great example of a middle-aged Christian who never lost focus. He wrote “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14, ESV). The cure for complacency is a fresh vision of the eternal perspective – of reward, honor, and glory that is yet future.
Recognizing Our Dependence On God
For those who have been successful in careers and assembly life, pride is an ever-present danger. There is the danger of attributing the success we have enjoyed to our own abilities. It is possible to become proud and self-reliant.
King Uzziah was, by all accounts, a successful king. He built cities, towers and great war machines. He accumulated large flocks and vineyards. His military success was renowned, but in middle age, he became proud and entered the temple to offer sacrifices to God in violation of God’s law. In pride, Uzziah assumed a role he was not entitled to, and ended his days as a leper (2Chron 26).
King Hezekiah also fell victim to pride in middle age. He accomplished a lot for God – restoring the temple worship, the priesthood, and Levitical service. He built cities, storehouses, and new waterways. He stood against the Assyrian army. But in his middle age God “left him alone to test his heart,” and he failed the test of devotion. “When he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction” (2Chron 26:16, ESV).
The cure for pride is recognition of our dependence on God. If we have been successful, it is because God made us so. God has given us whatever talents, opportunities and resources we have. Pride and self-reliance will cause us to become ineffective in our service for God. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1Peter 5:5, ESV).
Middle age brings many new and challenging opportunities. By maintaining our relationship with the Lord, keeping an eternal perspective, and walking humbly in dependence on God, we can live Christ-centered lives in middle age.