When We Exit From the Night
How we start the day is crucial to how we live and serve the Lord that day. In the nation of Israel, the priests were up early, burning the incense and offering the sacrifices, and our Lord Jesus was up early spending time alone with His Father (Mark 1:35). It was in the morning that David met the Lord and laid his requests before Him (Psalm 5:3). The word translated “lay” was used to describe the placing of the sacrifices on teh altar. David was practicing Romans 12:1-2 without ever having read the verses! We have read and memorized these familiar verses, but do we practice them?
There’s something specially about beginning the day with the Lord, before the telephone starts ringing and the interruptions appear. Yes, I know that there are devoted Christians for whom morning isn’t the best time, but for most of us, meeting God in the morning means enjoying Him all the day. Our first thoughts help direct that day’s thinking, so focus them on Jesus and the Word. Lay the day’s schedule before your Father and ask for the strength and wisdom you need for each assignment. He knows the temptations and battles we will fight that day and He wants to equip us for them through the Word and prayer.
Mary Poppins’ philosophy was, “Well begun is half done,” and that outlook is as good for God’s servants as it is for nannies. A day well begun will be a blessed one.
When We Exit From the Day
Next to the morning, my favorite time of day is dusk, when life starts to slow down a bit and the sun goes to rest, inviting us to follow. We have had a busy day and we must be careful what we take home with us. If we think only of ourselves, we will robe the family of the love and encouragement that only we can give. If we take our frustrations to the table with us, nothing will taste good. It will be the prelude to a bad evening.
If we have begun the day with the Lord’s blessing, it will be easier to exit the day with His benediction and be a blessing to others. Israel’s high priest offered a lamb each morning and each evening, and this is a good example for us to follow. Let’s start the day and close the day at the altar.
It’s unwise to carry our problems to the pillow with us and bear the burden all night. Let’s turn them over to the Lord, meditate on His Word and allow the Father to quiet our minds and hearts, “for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:7). “Where morning dawns and evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:8). Cast your cares on the Lord; that’s what He commanded (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:6-7). Fix your mind on a nourishing text and your subconscious will chew on it all night, and you will awaken with truths from the Father with which to begin the day.
When We Exit From Full-Time Ministry
Each “retirement” experience is different because each of God’s servants is unique and no laborer really ever stops serving the Lord. Some retirees are able to remain in the church they served last, stay out of the way and be a quiet blessing to the new pastor and some of the old people. Some move to new churches and focus on ministering to the elderly, the sick and sorrowing. For others, God opens occasional doors for preaching and teaching.
If you want a fruitful harvest during the sunset years, you have to start planting the seeds while the sun still shines. To wait too long may be to miss His best. What does the Father want you to do? What special contributions can you make to His work? What people can best make use of your experience and training? The issue isn’t money or position or recognition; it’s living so as to please the Father. The noted British preacher and devotional writer F. B. Meyer once said to a friend, “I do hope my Father will let the river of my life go flowing till the finish. I don’t want it to end in a swamp.”
It hurts me when I hear about retired preachers who spend their time complaining that nothing is like “the good old days.” I once asked an elderly saint, “What were people talking about in your ‘good old days,'” and he replied, “The good old days.” The best days are the days when we are walking with the Lord and doing His will for His glory. Scottish preacher George Morrison said, “God rarely allows His servants to see all the god they are doing,” so by faith we keep on praying, witnessing, encouraging, teaching and being godly examples.
One special ministry of the retired servant is that of building bridges between the generations and dispensing “new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:51-52). When Whyte retired as senior minister of Free St. George’s the official church resolution thanked him for “taking upon him the burden of the changing times…and [uniting] the hearts of the fathers to the children and of the children to the fathers” (Life of Alexander Whyte by G. F. Barbour, p. 486). That ministry belongs in a special way to the older shepherds and shepherdesses who ought to know how to patiently respond to the needs and not impetuously overreact to words and styles.
When It’s Time to Exit From this Life
Quoting Samuel Rutherford, Alexander Whyte used to say to the young people in his classes, “Forefancy your deathbed and see how it will taste then” (Barbour, op. cit., p. 653). The little word “it” refers to the decisions we make today and the consequences that follow. At the end, will we think of them and feel pain or look into the face of God and say, “Thank you”? It isn’t a bad test of the better and the best in life.
Dr. William Culbertson, the godly long-time president of Moody Bible Institute often closed his public prayers with, “And Lord, help us to end well.” Each of us needs to pray that prayer regularly–“Lord, help me to end well.” To “end well” means to be able to say to the Father as did Jesus, “Father, I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 3:17).
Every wise worker makes provisions for the future–the income needed, a place to live, people to help take care of us, and a work to do. But the most important preparation of all is a clean conscience that can look back with gratitude and look ahead without fear. To be able to apply John 17:4 to ourselves would be one of the greatest joys of heaven. It means we have exited well.
(Copyright Warren W. Wiersbe, 2006)
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).