A great read on middle age, It can be applied to ALL ages.

Posted: April 30, 2014 in Thoughts on God
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middleI like to think of myself as young. Recently, I heard that middle age runs from thirty-five to fifty-eight years of age. On that basis, soon not only will I not be young, I will not even be middle-aged! 

People often speak of being middle-aged as a time of ‘midlife crisis’. A midlife crisis can be caused by aging itself, or aging in combination with changes, problems, or regrets over work, career, relationships, children and physical changes associated with ageing.

Individuals experiencing a midlife crisis are often searching for an undefined dream or goal. We may have a deep sense of remorse for goals not yet accomplished. We may fear humiliation among more successful colleagues. We often desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness.

At the root of all these things is a sense of something being missing, and an attempt to find and hold on to it. There is often a tragic wisdom in mid-life crises, as individuals realise the emptiness of much of what they used to strive for (even if what they replace it with is not always particularly wise).

I have often wondered whether Zacchaeus, whom we read about in today’s New Testament passage, was going through a midlife crisis. Whether he was or not, he found the answer that so many people are searching for in his encounter with Jesus. Each of today’s passages tells us something about where to look for meaning and purpose, and how to avoid some of the potential pitfalls associated with this kind of crisis.

PROVERBS 10:1-10

1. Apply ‘the rocking chair test’

A successful businessman, who is well known to be a man of extraordinary integrity, told me that he applies the ‘rocking chair test’ to all his decisions. He pictures himself one day, in his retirement, sitting in his rocking chair and looking back on the decisions that he has made. What will he decide was a good decision and what will he decide was a bad decision? He wants to ensure that the decisions he makes now he will not regret later.

This passage shows us the things we need to avoid, such as malice (v.10), foolish gossip (vv.8,10) and laziness (v.4).

Honesty and integrity are key to a life lived without regret. ‘Ill-gotten gain gets you nowhere; an honest life is immortal’ (v.2, MSG). ‘A good and honest life is a blessed memorial; a wicked life leaves a rotten stench’ (v.7, MSG).

If we live honestly and with integrity we can be ‘confident and carefree’ (v.9a, MSG). ‘But Shifty is sure to be exposed’ (v.9b, MSG).

Lord, thank you for the wisdom of Solomon. Help me today to be wise and righteous (vv.3,7), to avoid malice (v.10) and foolish gossip (vv.8,10), to live a life of diligence (v.4), honesty and integrity (v.9) and to take into account how the decisions I make now affect my future.

LUKE 18:31-19:10

2. Set your life in the right direction

On this Good Friday, let us remember that with Jesus it is never too late to make a new start and ensure that our lives are set in the right direction. Jesus came to make it possible for our lives to be redeemed and transformed.

He takes the Twelve aside (v.31) and explains that the purpose for which he has come will involve being mocked, insulted, spat on, flogged and killed (v.32). But, ‘on the third day he will rise again’ (v.33). It is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus that provides hope for every human being.

The blind man is an example of someone whose life is totally transformed by an encounter with Jesus. A man, whose life had ended up with him sitting by the roadside begging, is transformed when he cries out for mercy. Jesus says to him: ‘ “Go ahead – see again! Your faith has saved and healed you!” The healing was instant: He looked up, seeing – and then followed Jesus, glorifying God’ (vv.42–43a, MSG).

Next, Zacchaeus encounters Jesus. Zacchaeus was probably not young. As ‘a chief tax collector’, he had reached the top of his profession (19:2). He was still able to run and climb a tree at least (v.4) – but he wasn’t getting any younger. He had become wealthy (v.2) and his work was probably his priority. As a chief tax collector Zacchaeus would have had people working under him.

He would have been promoted many times, and could look back with satisfaction upon his achievements. Yet, as a tax collector the personal cost of this work was ostracism and unpopularity. People in Zacchaeus’ situation often resent their job and feel trapped in their chosen life.

He would most likely have had a family, and we read of his ‘house’ (v.9). Perhaps he worked very hard for them. A midlife crisis can be devastating to family life. A person in midlife crisis can become angry, depressed and resentful to those closest to them – feeling that no matter how hard they work, their family require more than they can earn.

Zacchaeus was almost certainly from a religious home. His parents called him Zacchaeus: ‘the righteous one’. But now religious people regarded him as a ‘sinner’ (v.7) because he was collecting taxes from his own people to give to the Romans and taking a lot of it for himself.

Still, ‘He wanted to see who Jesus was’ (v.3). He must have realised he had a need. For all his money, success, family life and ‘religion’, there was still something missing. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus without Jesus seeing him (v.4).

Many people feel that because of their sin and imperfections, God will turn away from them. But God loves imperfect people and, instead of turning away from you, he turns towards you.

Zacchaeus did not realise that you cannot hide from God. Jesus knew him and he even knew his name. Zacchaeus did not realise that Jesus loved him and wanted to know him (v.5). Whatever you have done in your life and whatever your imperfection, Jesus loves you and wants to be in a relationship with you. But he requires a response. In a dramatic moment of encounter, Jesus said, ‘Come down immediately’ (v.5).

Zacchaeus humbled himself and obeyed Jesus. He did not put it off. He came down ‘at once and welcomed him gladly’ (v.6). Jesus was not put off by the crowd (v.7).

The result was a total transformation in Zacchaeus’ life (v.8 onwards). He decided to ‘give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’ (v.8). His attitude to possessions changed completely. The question for us should be not ‘How much can I get?’, but ‘How much can I give?’ (v.8).

His whole family was transformed. Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham’ (v.9). Salvation came to his household in the arrival of Jesus. Salvation means freedom. It means a relationship with Jesus that goes on forever. This puts even a midlife crisis in perspective.

Finally, you, like Zacchaeus, can be part of God’s transformation of society. The transformation in Zacchaeus and his household brought benefits for the poor and justice for those who had been cheated.

Lord, thank you that on the first Good Friday you died for me and three days later rose again so that I could have a totally new life and set my life in the right direction.

DEUTERONOMY 29:1-30:10

3. Make the most of the rest of your life

Recently, I sat next to an 86-year-old woman at lunch. She was in a wheelchair. I soon realised that although her body was failing her, her mind was not. She raised some very difficult theological issues. When I asked her what she thought the answer was to these questions, she replied with a verse from this passage: ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever’ (29:29).

She said she had come to realise that some things we did know the answer to, but others (such as the kind of questions she had been raising!) we would probably not know the answer to in this life. They were part of the ‘secret things’ that ‘belong to the Lord’.

There are some things, however, that do belong to us. God has revealed to us how to ‘live well and wisely’ (v.9, MSG). We need to avoid getting ‘sidetracked from God’ (v.18), thinking ‘I’ll live just the way I please, thank you’ and end up ‘ruining life for everybody’ (v.19, MSG)

The way to make the most of the rest of your life is to listen to and obey God wholeheartedly (30:2–10): ‘Obey him with your whole heart and soul … He’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces … And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God … Nothing halfhearted here; you must return to God, your God, totally, heart and soul, holding nothing back’ (vv.2–10, MSG).

Lord, help me from now on to live a life of wholehearted obedience to you. Help me not to get sidetracked. May today be a new start. Help me to obey you wholeheartedly.

I found this on the internet, and would love to give credit to the author, but not sure who it was. They’re brilliant though…:)

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