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July 23, 2023


Passage: Philippians 3:7-21
Service Type:


When it comes to retirement, there are a lot of different factors that go into how the average person thinks about it, but a survey from Forbes magazine that said the words that generally come to mind when they think about retirement are: relaxation, happiness, traveling, family, fun, success, freedom, and fulfillment

As I was doing some other research, I came across a couple of book options for learning more about retirement, and one of those was called “Winning at Retirement: A guide to health, wealth, and purpose in the best years of your life.” That author, at least, is looking to retirement as the best years of their life. 

But the book that really caught my attention is the one at the top there, called, “How to retire happy, wild, and free: Wisdom you won’t get from your financial advisor.” Not sure what you’re getting in for if you read that one. All I could imagine is a financial advisor going, “look, you just don’t have enough saved up to buy the motorhome, the lake house, and the yacht… you gotta drop one of them” and someone going, “yeah, well, Todd, the book said you wouldn’t understand.” So, after relaxation, happiness and family, you want to add wild freedom to your list of what retirement will look like.

If you head over to Hallmark.com and look up “retirement gifts” you find a whole bunch of coffee mugs, tshirts, and other Knick-knacks that goof about retirement, saying things like “Gearing up for another 7-day weekend” or “every day is Saturday.” I found one clock that had all the numbers and the hands broken off, and there on the face it just said, “My time, all the time.” So, I think it’s safe to say that the perception of retirement quickly becomes that of a perpetual party of freedom. You get paid to not work, and it all looks pretty good! 

In reality, the idea of retirement wasn’t really even a thing until the late 1800’s. US Veterans started getting pensions in 1818 and widows about 20 years later. But Germany was the first country to offer a full retirement package in 1889, forcing retirement at age 70 . Around that same time, certain public employees in the US started receiving pension programs.

But before that, there were no pensions, no social security, and since life expectancy was in the neighborhood of 30-40 years, people didn’t stop working because of old age. It was often disease, food shortages, war, even medical procedures that cut people’s lives short while they were still of a working age.

But for Germany, the United States and other industrial countries toying with the concept of retirement, it was not something that was celebrated by the general public. It was often more insulting. In 1905, a Canadian physician named William Osler said that a man’s best work was done before he was 40 years old. From age 25-40 were the golden years for workers. Then, between ages 40-60, workers were tolerable because they knew how to work, but were merely uncreative. But after age 60, the average worker was useless and should be put out to pasture.

So, in the early 1900s, the idea of paying people to stop working became widespread, and in the US, President Roosevelt secured the SS Act of 1935, with workers receiving pension at age 65. But what started out a little offensive to people at that age who thought they still had some good years in them yet, these days has become a major milestone in the human experience, and we congratulate each other with goofy mugs and tshirts and clocks, and view it as generally a good thing...like reaching a finish line, of sorts. 

However. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 5 retirees experiences depression, especially if they are living alone because of a spouse's passing or divorce or health problems, or other issues. In fact, recent studies show that retirement increases the chance of clinical depression by around 40 percent. This is the same crowd that uses words like relaxation, happiness, traveling, family, fun, success, freedom, and fulfillment to describe retirement. 

So why is it that what is supposed to be the best years of your life, where you are living happy, wild, and free, ends up increasing your chances that you’ll be clinically depressed? Is it simply that they didn’t read the right books? Is it simply that they need to get out of the house more? Or could it be that just like a lot of good gifts in life, as a culture we are asking retirement to be something for us that only Jesus can be? 


As we always do with these topics, we need to start back at the beginning. Now, we’ve worked through the Creation story a couple times already so I won't repeat everything about where we find purpose and worth as humans. But there are three pieces of the Creation story that I think are worth noting: 

  1. We were created to bear God’s image (Genesis 1:27). This doesn’t end when you stop working. To be his representatives in that we are  stewards of this creation, and that we all have strengths and gifts that represent the strengths and characteristics of our heavenly Father. That’s so important no matter what age you are…so important to knowing your purpose and who God has created you to be. 
  2. But this second piece is one we haven’t talked about before, and that is that humans were created for eternity. We are not eternal beings. We have a clear beginning, where man doesn’t become a living being until God breathes the breath of life into him in Genesis 2:7. But in that clear beginning, we are created for a partnership with God that wasn’t meant to end. We can figure this out because in Genesis 2:17, after God instructs Adam that he may eat from any tree in the garden except one, God introduces a brand new concept when he warns, “On the day you eat from that tree, you will certainly die.”

Death and decay and wearing out wasn’t meant to be a normal part of human existence – it’s the judgment for not sticking to God’s directions and plan. (hospital visits, recon surgery, participation in Adam’s consequences). 

  1. There are two ways you can choose to live your life, but there is only one way to truly be alive. Those options were laid out in the form of two trees – Genesis 2:9 – The tree of life, which they were free to eat from, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which they were not free to eat from. Eating the fruit from one tree would lead to life and the other would lead to death. One tree would lead to a hope-filled future, walking with God, furthering his creation, furthering the expansion of this garden kingdom – the other led away from God toward self, away from life, and the consequence is death.


But then in Genesis 3, we watch kind of helplessly as Adam and Eve give in to temptation, they ignore the tree of life, and eat the fruit that brings death. In chapter 3, death would come in three aspects:

  1. Physical: Work will be difficult and painful. Our bodies will break down and give out, until eventually, the life that God breathed into his nostrils would be taken away and they return to the dust. These bodies we live in are no longer eternal. They have an expiration date. 2 Corinthians 5 calls our bodies “an earthly tent,” and that in this tent we are burdened and we groan because life is hard.
  2. Relational: And on top of that, the relationships between humans would experience death. We’ve all experienced the loss of friendships, the sting of rejection or being left out, abandonment, etc. 
  3. Spiritual: Because disobedience to God’s command would be rebellion against the very God who breathed life into him and created all things, eating from the tree would establish Adam as God’s enemy, not his friend.

And the final consequence of sin was separation from the presence of God. Genesis 3:22. After sin, God said, “Since the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.” And then in the next verse, the part we probably talk about the least, is that God drives Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and then actually stations a guard – an angel with a flaming, whirling sword – to keep them from getting anywhere near the tree of life. God didn’t want humans going on living forever in this fallen state. But in all sorts of ways, we have been trying to get back into the Garden, back to paradise ever since.

Everyone of us has this built-in, gnawing feeling that what we experience on a daily basis can’t be all there is. We all know what it is to feel the weight of loss and illness and sorrow and emptiness. And so humans have invented and conceived all kinds of ways to find life – and I think sometimes we’re guilty of putting retirement into that category, where we think that’s when we’re going to really start living.

See we’re all built for eternity. We’re built for a garden where we know the incredible peace and comfort and safety that comes from walking with God as our Father. We’re all built for a place where there is no sorrow or sickness or death. A place where there is no brokenness or pain. A place where our needs are met in abundance, and we are naked and unashamed. Psalm 16:11 says “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Man, that’s what we’re made for! Abundant joy; eternal pleasures. 

But we run into massive trouble when we expect retirement to be that place. We run into massive trouble when we expect retirement to be the place of freedom and happiness and joy and hopefulness and security – those are things that are only found in Christ. When we describe retirement using those words, the place we’re really describing is heaven. 

If we’re looking to retirement to be heaven, we’re going to be sorely disappointed, because sometimes retirement doesn't look the way we thought it would. Sometimes, those dreams of traveling the country with the person you love sitting in the passenger seat become trips to the hospital instead of trips to National parks, or like my own father-in-law, you end up taking the trip by yourself because “til death do us part” came a little sooner than you hoped it would. Sometimes all that freedom you dreamed of having is nowhere to be found, because you end up needing to help raise a grandchild, or taking care of your own parents who are still alive, or your body doesn’t allow you to do all the things you hoped to be able to do, or you just aren’t financially able to retire. Maybe you saved a bunch of money for retirement, and then the economy crashes and your money isn’t worth what you thought it was. 

Our enemy the devil wants us to get so accustomed to the good things of this world that we forget we aren’t home yet. He wants us so distracted by good things in life that we forget that we are still on mission as God’s image bearers in the world. He wants us to stay as self-centered as possible so we don’t think about how close the end of our lives really is, and how much it matters that we finish well. 


But then enter Jesus. The first thing Jesus does in his public ministry is that he does battle with the enemy. He takes on Satan himself, being tempted like we are with all the trappings of comfort and luxury and self-advancement, and yet walking away with a victory in hand. He left Satan empty handed there in the dust of the wilderness and it wouldn’t be the last time. 

Jesus lived his whole life doing exactly that – walking away from the temptation to take the good things of God and make them something they couldn’t be. He chose the tree of life every time! We were created to bear God’s image, and we all failed to do it like God intended us to. But Jesus carried God’s image perfectly, showing us exactly who God the Father is, and how we can live as God’s new creation. 

In Jesus, another tree of life would come into play – the cross. As Jesus died for sinners, the abundant fruit of that tree that we are free to eat from is forgiveness for sin, holiness, his righteousness, the peace of Christ, the joy of Christ –no more separation between us and God – and when he rose up out of that grave on the third day, once again, the devil was left empty handed in the desert. And in Christ’s victory over death, over hell, over sin, he has opened the way back to the tree of life! The way back to Life is not retirement, it’s not financial peace, it’s not a well-ordered family, it’s not a successful career or formal ministry or making sure your good works outweigh your bad ones – the way back to the Garden is Jesus! Trusting him as Lord, resting in his grace, and walking by his Spirit. 

God then ascended him back to the realm of heaven, where he sits at God’s right hand with all rule and authority and power belonging to him. Everything is under his feet, and he holds the keys to life and death. 

Knowing Jesus > Life

Phil 3:7-8 – Everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him

  1. In Acts 20, Paul says it a little differently – [24] … I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God's grace. 
  2. I consider my life of no value to myself. You’re not going to find that on a t-shirt in the Hallmark store. Jesus said, whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake of Jesus, would find it. That doesn’t come with a caveat that it stops being true when you retire. John Piper puts it like this, “Finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious. It means living and dying in a way that shows Christ to be the all-satisfying Treasure that he is. So it would include, for example, not living in ways that make this world look like your treasure. Which means that most of the suggestions that this world offers us for our retirement years are bad ideas. They call us to live in a way that would make this world look like our treasure. And when that happens, Jesus is belittled.

Back to verse 8: Everything that was a gain to me… having a great family, making a great career, saving well for retirement, traveling the country, being free to live however I please, 7 day weekends – everything that I once thought would be a win for me, something in the “gain” column of my life… compared to the all-surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, all that stuff is actually a loss to me. Jesus is the all-surpassing treasure! 

Why? Because (v9) I’ve been given the righteousness of Christ! So, (v10), I want to know him! I want to know the power of his resurrection, I want to know his closeness when I’m suffering, I want to die to sin like he died to sin, and I can’t wait to be raised to eternal life like he was! 

Finish Well

V12, I want to take hold of Jesus, because he has taken hold of me, and the only way I can do that is forget the past and reach for what is ahead, running hard to the finish line. Anyone who coaches or spends time watching sports knows that the fourth quarter is crunch time. Once the buzzer sounds at the end of these 8 or 12 or 15 minutes, there’s no more game to be played. So there’s an urgency to finish well. Every possession counts. Every point matters. It’s not a throwaway quarter – it’s arguably the most important one, because no matter how you started at the beginning or what mistakes you made in the middle of your life, the last quarter is an opportunity to finish well. 

You may carry some regrets into your fourth quarter. You might wish you’d done this or that differently. You might feel like time is slipping away and you’re way behind on something. Jesus sees you, he knows you, and he intercedes for you. He is right now working your case with the Father, and they are full of mercy and grace and power. 

Runs Well With Others

v17 Join in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and pay careful attention to those who live according to the example you have in us, in other words, no matter what quarter of your life you are in, be very careful to surround yourself with people who are pursuing the same prize that you are… the prize (14) of finishing well, answering the call that God has made on our lives in Christ. 

I remember a guy coming up to me after church about 10 years ago, introducing himself and telling me what he does. He and his wife had retired, bought a motorhome, and in the winters they moved south, and would spend the winters traveling from family camps to youth camps to church camps, spending 2-3 weeks at each spot, helping out with construction projects, fixing leaks, just little stuff that never gets done. And they’d pack up and go to the next camp to do the same thing. I had not seen anyone doing that kind of thing with their retirement, and I remember telling him, I need more people like you in my life!

And then, to my surprise, some of the first people to commit to helping River City get started were retirees (or very close at the time). Others in that fourth-quarter generation here at River City currently host prayer meetings in their homes where they pray for our nation and help people find freedom in Christ. Others were a huge help with the Neighborhood 360 project last year, or have made their homes or barns available for meetings, led community groups, served on missions trips, helped out with various church projects and events and faithfully served here week after week. 

I’ve got to say, I am just so blessed by the example we have at River City of people who are using this fourth quarter of their lives setting an example for all who will come behind them, leading with the mindset that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. I’m so honored to be part of a church where this is commonplace. 

You as the older generation have the incredible opportunity to encourage young people, and call them to action. You can either join in with some of your peers and complain that millennials are lazy, or you can look a teenager or a 20-something in the eye and say God will use you to do mighty things in Jesus’ name if you’ll just seek him with all your heart and don’t look back. Don’t take the world’s advice, or settle for some distracted, half-cooked faith. Go all in on the greatest treasure of all, and if you need help digging for that treasure, here’s my phone number. They might not ever call you, but the fact that you spoke into their lives could have an incredible impact. I’m up here today because me and a few other young men in our early 20’s got invited to a men’s Bible study led by older guys. Those guys spoke life into me like no one else ever could. 

Now – I also want to recognize here that for health reasons, some retirees are not able to do those kinds of things. They aren’t able to get out of the house very often, they need help getting around, and they aren’t in the kinds of settings where they can be encouraging to others. It can be a very lonely life, and that’s where we must flip the script and be encouraging to them. I love it that God has put it on the heart of some of you here at River City to serve the elderly in our community. To make connections, to encourage them, to sit with them, to help them out. So if God has put a desire to help the elderly on your heart, please come and talk to me afterward and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Compassion for the Lost

Lastly, verse 18 – For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things…

Paul writes this with tears, because of the sorrow he has over those who continue to choose the tree that leads to death. So many are moving into the fourth quarter of their lives, and they are enemies of Christ. Their god is their stomach, meaning they will sacrifice everything just to do whatever feels good – they feed their fleshly desires whatever it wants; they act shamefully and brag about their freedom, they are focused on earthly things instead of heavenly things, and their end is destruction. 

There is such good news for them and for all of us, as Paul goes on…but our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then check this out, church. To all you who wake up with aches and pains as you live in your aging body, to all who feel the effects of decay and wearing out in your joints, the effects of surgeries to make parts of your body function again… to all of you who get to the end of your life, and face pain every single day… verse 21 is for you: He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself. 

Because Jesus lived, died, rose again, and ascended to the throne of heaven, he has the power to transform your aching aging body into a gloriously new body that will be able to fully comprehend and enjoy and delight in the joy of his presence forever and ever, and one day very soon, the Savior we have waited for will arrive here on earth, and take us to our eternal home where there is true rest, true happiness, our true family, true freedom, and ultimate fulfillment in the all-satisfying presence of Jesus our Savior. Amen. 



  1. Are there places where you have looked to rest or leisure or downtime or retirement to be something only Jesus can be? Your paradise. Your security. Your peace. Your rest. Your freedom. Repent of that, and recognize only Jesus can be those things for you.
  2. Who can you encourage today? Who needs to hear the good news of God’s grace? What relationships need mended? Whether you are aging or you are young or somewhere in between, before you leave today, take the time to encourage someone.  Ask about their week, and then pray with them. 


Benediction: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9  (Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. May he give you strength as we eagerly wait for that day)