Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No Time for Kicking Back

It just showed up in my mailbox at church, a magazine called “Significant Living: Celebrating Life and Faith after 50.” The name alone intrigued me. You see, I have been thinking for a while about two different but related phenomena: First, people are living longer than ever, and spending more years healthy and active than ever; second, many people are retiring earlier than ever, having seen their nest eggs respond well to the last quarter century’s robust stock market and to the myriad opportunities for wealth creation in America. What in the world are these people going to do with all that time and good health?

“Celebrating Life After 50” has a nice ring to it. Whereas in the first half of the 20th century, age 50 was a milestone signaling it was time to slow down, it more and more signals a time to transition. The magazine’s cover story captured my attention: “Coach Mike Singletary: A Game Plan for Life.” I’m a big admirer of Singletary for several reasons:

1. He is a passionate Christian. During his 12-year playing career with the Chicago Bears, Singletary’s fearsome play on the gridiron as captain of the decade’s most storied defensive unit, coupled with the fact that he was ordained by his denomination, earned him the nickname “the Minister of Defense” (later given to Reggie White). As a player and now as a coach, Singletary is outspoken about his priorities: God first, family second (married with seven kids!), and football third.

2. He is committed to excellence. Singletary grew up in Houston and starred at Baylor, then was the team leader for the Chicago Bears while earning Pro Bowl honors ten consecutive years and a Hall of Fame berth six years after retiring at age 34. In 1999 he was ranked number 56 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. The man gives it everything he’s got.

3. He gives back. Singletary tutors young players about how to prepare for life after football. “Somebody needs to grab these kids and say, ‘Take your money, prepare yourself; it’s a tremendous opportunity.” The average NFL career lasts 3.2 years; many players need the wisdom of an older player who has made the transition. Singletary reaches out to them.

4. He lives purposefully. “The greatest thing I can do with my kids, my spouse, my friends, the players that I coach, and the coaches that I coach with, is to be an example. I want to live this life. You’ve only got it one time, but I want to live this life as best as I possibly can in a way that honors God.”

And that brings me back to life after fifty. When you live purposefully, you realize that each decade, each season of your life, offers opportunities to serve and honor God, to impact other peoples’ lives, to make a difference. In today’s message, I am going to use the apostle Paul’s example from Romans 15, in which he shares his plans to bring the gospel to new territory (Spain), to talk about how to live purposefully. The Bible doesn’t use the word “retirement.” Each phase of our life offers us unique and exciting opportunities to exercise our faith, to grow spiritually, to be missionaries and ambassadors of the gospel, to join God in his Kingdom mission to the world.

The title of the article about Singletary is “No Time for Kicking Back.” The Scriptures tell Christians to “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). Amen, Amen.


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