Although for much of our lives we may prefer to ignore it, there are times when we are reminded, sometimes forcibly, of William Shakespeare’s definition of the seven ages of mankind: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages”. Watching David Cameron handing over to Theresa May last month has reminded me of the inevitability, and unpredictability of when and how the seasons of life change.
Each change of season brings new challenges, encouragements and discouragements and as I have adjusted to [partial] retirement I have been reminded of the importance of recognising the presence of God in each season and in the transitions between them. In his book ‘Undivided – Closing the faith-life gap’, Graham Hooper encourages me firstly to look back at the past, remembering what God has done and giving thanks. Success, in the Biblical sense, is knowing God’s blessing and sharing that with others with a generous spirit. It is enjoying a sense of freedom and fulfilment, and peace with God. To succeed is to live faithfully to God’s call and to be fruitful. It is an experience to be celebrated, and for which I am to return thanks and worship to God when it is my privilege to enjoy it.
I can also know encouragement when I look around at the present, and recognise what God is doing in my life. He intends me to live now on the firm foundation of what he has done, with hope and expectation of what he will do, and enjoying the daily experience of his guidance, strength and presence. As I take on tasks and responsibilities to which I believe God is calling me, whether at work, in the community or in church, I find enjoyment and fulfilment. I also learn to rely increasingly on his guidance and daily strength, and so the gap between us closes. I grow closer to him. As Paul wrote, “Though outwardly I are wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Thirdly, God encourages me when I look forward to the future, and remember what he has promised to do. “I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home for ever” (Ps 23). Jesus reinforced this in John 14: “Do not be worried and upset, believe in God and believe also in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you.”
Whatever each season of life and transition may bring, I want my response to be that of David in Psalm 86:11 “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
According to Graham Hooper an undivided life:
acknowledges the total supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus Christ in all the seasons of life;
begins and grows through a faith relationship with Jesus;
involves a ruthless dealing with sin;
transforms all relationships “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).
An undivided life involves total commitment; every area of my life is Christ’s, from beginning to end.
Dr John Jenkins
Since retiring from his Paediatric post at Queen’s University Belfast John remains actively involved in the education and training of doctors as President of the Association for the Study of Medical Education and with the Medical Council of Ireland. He is an elder in High Kirk Presbyterian Church, Ballymena.