By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R
Three persons gave me three quotes that summarize how I believe God wants us to live all life:
(1) From my birth, Mother taught, “Don’t wish your life away!”
(2) In my 40s and in his 80s, Elton Trueblood counseled, “Johnnie, when you retire, don’t retire from everything at once but from one thing at a time as you have to or want to.”
(3) Paul Tournier wrote: “A single ‘Yes!’ goes through the whole of life. It is successively ‘Yes!’ to childhood, to youth, to adult life, to old age, and finally ‘Yes!’ to death. It is easier to turn over a page of life when we have filled it right up” (Learn to Grow Old, p. 179).
What about being Holy? God said, “I am the Lord your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, HCSB). Jesus put it this way: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, HCSB). Unlike God, we are all sinners; so how could we ever become holy? The Greek word for “holy” is translated saint — which means consecrated, set apart. Only by grace through faith are we saved and forever after have the presence of the Holy Spirit within us (Ephesians 2:8-10; Acts 1:8). Any holiness we have is God’s holiness; and He expects us to grow in it to completion (Ephesians 4:1-16).
Mother taught me what you’ve just read. She and Dad were saints in the sense of being Christians and having the Holy Spirit. Mother taught me from the cradle to her grave that God is love and calls us to love Him and others. In it all, she also taught that God has a time and a season for everything and that we’re not to wish our lives away. Rather, we’re to look to God and let Him guide us in each step and decision for all of life — the “holistic” or whole life.
What about the holistic life? “Holism” and “holistic” came to English in 1926 when Jan Christiaan Smuts coined them from the Greek “holos,” which means “whole.” A “holistic” life recognizes that all of life is interrelated and interactive. Individually, we are called to enter the holy life of salvation and live it holistically as long as God gives us breath. You see, God has a calling for everyone (Ephesians 4:1-3). Each calling is the unfolding drama that we might call “God’s amazing maze.” Each step in the maze is a developmental step we have to take to move forward. We live life best if we do it in God’s sequence and without wishing our lives away.
After the baby steps of the holistic life, youth are challenged to discover the vocational calling of their lives and to prepare for it. Today the challenge is to keep on discovering callings as downsizings occur and technology changes things daily. But the danger at the front end of one’s work career is that his primary goal tends to become retirement. Instead of the stewardship of career and work life, people tend to want to know up front how soon they can quit working. Along with this individual tendency, society and investors create economic anxiety about when a person can retire and whether he will run out of money before he dies. The concern is appropriate; the anxiety is not. And it can become a selfish focus on self instead of continuing to follow God’s calling and the stewardship of life He gives us.
Pablo Casals said to retire was to die. When Casals did die, TIME magazine’s obit said that Pablo Casals finally retired. I like that! We retire from a career or a work but never from God’s calling. Anyone can take our vocation away. No one can take God’s calling away. And the person who quits working to indulge himself in life’s last chapter until he dies misses God’s calling. God’s calling is for each of us to live a holy, holistic life, and to say yes to God on every page we live — even the page entitled “Death” — because it’s fuller life.
What about saying yes to God? I said yes to God in Christ at age 7 and became a Christian and obedient in baptism and church membership. At age 15, I felt the call to preach — one I didn’t want to hear — but I said yes! A funny thing happened, though, in my preparation to preach, God’s amazing maze began to unfold. And I felt myself saying yes to preparation for foreign missions. Got a medical rejection. I said yes to pastoring for what I thought was a lifetime. But God called me next to write biblical curriculum and books. And that went well with pastoring. So I kept on saying yes. Next, God invited me to become an editor of Bible study materials in my denomination. A strange journey! But I said yes and found joy in it. Over 22 years in that same denominational agency, I said yes to six different jobs. Yes! Yes! Yes!
Then two kind men told me thanks for my 22 years but that my services were no longer needed. And my heart cried, “No! God called me to this work!” But, now, 22 years later, I find that God also called me to leave what others told me I had to leave. In it, I’ve also found God keeping on calling me at every turn, and I keep on saying, “Yes, Lord, Yes!” So far, my downsizing chapter of life over 22 years has been like God calling Moses from shepherding to the Exodus and the Promised Land. And I’m not even 80 yet. I can hardly wait to say yes to God’s next call — after I finish saying yes to the one I’m answering now.
So, what about you? My conviction from God’s Word, from the testimony of others, and from my personal experience is this: God calls you to a holy, holistic life, for all life. Say yes to God! Now and as long as you breathe God has work for you to do.
— Copyright 2015 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.