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J I Packer on Aging Well

finishing-our-course-with-joy-packerSomewhere along the way I picked up a Kindle copy of J. I. Packer’s recent book, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging. Though it may surprise some of my students, I am not yet in the senior era of life which Packer addresses, but anything written by Packer is of interest to me. So, while on vacation, I opened and read this book. And I am glad I did.

Packer makes it quite explicit that he is addressing older believers and says “aging is not for wimps”! His main point is contained in this sentence:

“my contention is going to be that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out. The final sprint, so I urge, should be a sprint indeed.”

He has already made clear that he knows from growing personal experience the pains of older age- decreasing energy and the negative effects on body and mind. In light of this, I was particularly moved by this passion to finish the race “flat out,” leaving nothing on the field as we used to say.

Dr. Packer critiques the cultural idea of giving up all responsibility and coasting to the end. He critiques older people who think this way and others in the church who encourage or assume such thinking. Here are some relevant excerpts.

So eldercare in the churches, while rightly taking account of increasing bodily infirmities among the aging, should at the same time seek to cherish and continue to harness the ministering capacities that these Christians displayed at earlier stages of their lives.

to think of Christian retirees as exempt from the twin tasks of learning and leading, just because they do not inhabit the world of wage and salary earning any longer, and for aging Christians to think of themselves in this way, as if they have no more to do now than have fun, is worldliness in a strikingly intense and, be it said, strikingly foolish form.

 

Along the way, as might be expected, there are many valuable insights into life and theology in general (e.g., the goodness of pleasure, the reality of spiritual warfare, the centrality of hope).

It will be no surprise that this will be a great book for older believers. Churches might buy a bunch of them to give out. What people might not think about is that this is also an excellent book for those who minister to older saints. Here is an older saint telling us what it is like and about the challenges he faces. And here is a godly older man pointing to the gospel truths which are needed to comfort and challenge. Many young pastors feel stymied when needing to speak to older saints, knowing these saints are going through things which they have never encountered. This testimony of an older man will give you a guide to appeal to.

2 Comments

  1. Ray says:

    Yes, Quest for Godliness is a great one!

  2. Sam says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been working through his study on the puritans, “A Quest for Godliness.” It’s my new favorite book of his. Lots of pastoral insight there, and it looks like in this one too.

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