That is a question some of us believers face when things aren’t working out the way we expected. This may especially be true in nations where life-threatening persecution arises to those who live out and share the gospel. It is only in recent years that Christians in North America, especially those who own businesses, have faced the reality of such a question when atheists or the government or social activists come beating on our doors with demands and lawsuits that seek to make us sit down and shut up. Prior to that, the only time Christians considered retiring or quitting ministry was if we got up in age or sick and decided on our own to move on to a slower, more relaxed way of life.
There may be times when it is necessary for believers to move on to a different type of ministry in a different location, but from what I’ve seen in scripture, God never intended for his people to ever stop ministering in some way. That is one reason when Paul addressed the Corinthians about their lifestyle in the midst of their culture, he said “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31. The goal for everything we do, even the most mundane stuff like going to work in a secular setting, should be for God’s glory as his ministers in whatever setting we’re in. If we’re in settings where we’re not permitted to speak openly about our beliefs, then our actions themselves should speak our beliefs.
God in several places gives us examples that whether through our actions or through our words, we are never to stop speaking his truth, which means we never stop ministering. For instance, in Isaiah 62:6-7 we find these words:
I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
This can be applied spiritually since we are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. God will always have watchmen on the walls of his heavenly kingdom who proclaim his gospel day and night. He commands us to shun silence and keep on mentioning him and never let up until he makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Jerusalem will be a praise only after the great tribulation. Our enemies may want us to shut up now, but our High Commander’s wishes trump their wishes, even if they pass laws against us, imprison us, confiscate our belongings, or kill some of us. We have these examples from the New Testament:
- When the apostles were imprisoned and told to shut up about Jesus, once they got out, they preached about the Lord Jesus (Acts 5:18-33).
- Paul & Silas were thrown in jail for casting out a devil for God’s glory, then sang praises to God while in prison and preached to the jailer (Acts 16:18-34).
- Right after Paul was rescued from the Sanhedrin and placed in jail, the Lord told him to keep on preaching (Acts 23:1-11).
- The apostle John in his old age, even after he reached the pinnacle of his ministry by receiving the book of Revelation while in forced exile on Patmos, was told that he would do even more preaching (Revelation 10:8-11).
It looks like the bottom line is that once you’re in God’s family, there’s no such thing as retirement. Eternal life is accompanied by eternal ministry.
Harry A. Gaylord