By Dr. James Rasbeary
2Ti 3:10-11,14 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, (11) Persecutions, afflictions… (14) But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
Paul, the aged apostle in the last days of his life before martyrdom took him to glory, was giving wise advice to his son in the faith, Timothy. Yet it should be kept in mind that Timothy was no longer the young assistant who had left home to follow Paul on his missionary journeys. According to the dates in the Scofield reference Bible, Timothy had been in the ministry for about 15 years when he received the second Epistle from Paul. He would therefore have most likely have been in his mid-thirties. In those 15 years, Timothy had distinguished himself in service, causing Paul to praise him on several different occasions to several different churches.
Yet, Timothy is here reminded to “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and been assured of.” These “things” included Paul’s “doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,” etc. Paul was leaving Timothy, but he was leaving behind a pattern for Timothy to follow in the decades to come. It was the end of Paul’s ministry, but Timothy was just in the middle of his own race. Would he be able to say with Paul, “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith?”
The “mid-life crisis” is a real problem. It affects men and women. To ignore this fact of life in these sin-cursed bodies is foolishness. What some people do in their forties andfifties is shocking – even people who before had a solid testimony of faithfulness to the Lord. Then something happens. Gray hair, lost energy or vitality, personal vanity, and the desire to recapture lost youth leads people to do some things that may be relatively harmless (like buying a Harley Davidson or a cherry red sports car) – but it also leads some to do things that are absolutely STUPID, wrecking their morals, marriages and ministries.
This is nothing new. According to the dates we have for David’s life, he was 52 years oldwhen he sinned with Bathsheeba. Solomon was in his forties when his wives turned his heart away from the Lord to idols. Saul was in his forties when he sinned and was rejected as king. These examples have been repeated countless times by people who BEGAN well, in their youth, but CHANGED in their middle age.
This correlates among ministers of the gospel as well. We are not immune from the effects of mid-life changes. I have noticed quite a few men who are around my own age who are suddenly shifting towards the left, or failing out altogether. Convictions, standards, principles, positions, and practices are changing. New versions of the Bible are accepted. New music and worship styles are flirted with or embraced. A former “manner of life” is abandoned. Things once preached with boldness are now preached timidly or perhaps not at all. Even the preacher’s marriage and family may bear the carefully hidden strain of “mid-life.” It is at this point that some men – and women – fail morally, enticed by a fool’s promise of renewed youth with a strange woman or a strange man. Some even turn to drugs or alcohol. One pastor was removed for his addiction to cocaine. How old was he? Early forties.
Standards are easy when we are young and fiery – and our children are small and compliant. They become more difficult in mid-life when our children are teenagers – and this is when many men suddenly change their old convictions. The busy-ness of life’s business wears us down; the scars that years of ministry conflict leave make us weary and perhaps battle-rattled; perhaps older men we looked up to failed themselves, and caused us to question what they had taught us.
Well, just because people change, our bodies change, relationships change, and situations change doesn’t mean that GOD changed or the BIBLE changed.
How can we avoid a mid-ministry crisis? A few quick thoughts:
Stay in the Word of God on a daily basis – and not just for sermon preparation.
Let the Bible, not the brethren, define “success.” Many hit mid-life and feel that they have not achieved “success.” Often, this is because they have not been called successful by others. We need to do our best and trust God with the results.
When your convictions are shaken, get back into the Bible to find out why your conviction was there in the first place.
Listen to proven men of God who will tell you what you NEED to hear and not just what you WANT to hear.
Do not drift away from your spouse. When your nest is empty, you do not want to look across the kitchen table at a 40-something-year-old stranger who looks vaguely like the person you married. Stay in love, stay together – and preachers would do themselves and their wives good to quit being away from home so much (1 Cor. 7:1-5).
Do not isolate yourself from Godly friends. It is difficult to have close friends in the ministry – we are usually too far apart. Nevertheless, such friendships over the years are vital. They help anchor us to where we need to be when life knocks us around.
Flee YOUTHFUL lusts (they aren’t confined to the young). 2 Timothy 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
Stand strong, get through the quitting places, stay on track.
If you are struggling, find someone solid who will help you through, without judging you.
Don’t turn a blind eye to symptoms of a mid-life crisis in your own life – or in your spouse.
It seems like every week we hear of men failing in their morals, marriages, and ministries – many of them older men who definitely “know better.” A missionary leaves his beautiful wife and children for a harlot in Asia; a pastor carries on an inappropriate relationship with a woman young enough to be his daughter; a man leaves his wife after 25 years of marriage; a wife abandons her family for an old flame found on Facebook.
Though less scandalous, others have abandoned their Bibles, their Baptist name, their old-fashioned services, and their Bible convictions. We need to wake up to the reality that our adversary walks around seeking whom he may devour – and the middle times of life and ministry are very dangerous.
Thank you for reading. God bless.