What Happens When You Turn 65

What Happens When You Turn 65

Turning 65 in January has me all fired up to get busy. I am close enough to the finish line that the face of Jesus is coming into sharper focus. This is very exciting and makes me want to pick up the pace.

Of course, he is not the least impressed with frenzy. Nor is he pleased with Boomer indolence. What his face says to me is: “I am your rest every day, and there is good work to do every day till you’re home.”

One Great Thing

God has called me to this one great thing, and his face affirms it every day: “With full courage, now (after 65) as always, let Christ be magnified in your body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). Live now to make much of Christ. Measure everything by this: Will it help more people admire Jesus more intensely and treasure Jesus more deeply?

The Bible says, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (Psalms 90:10). But of course, “My times are in your hand” (Psalms 31:15). The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. We don’t live one day longer or shorter than God appoints.

So at 65, I am still gagging at the pictures of leathery old sunbathers on white shores and green links. For fifteen years, I have thrown hundreds of senior mailings in the recycle bag unopened. Not that I am opposed to saving $0.79 on lunch at Perkins. Just don’t try to sell me heaven before I get there. There is too much hell left to fight.

Old Versus Retired

Turning 65 has set me to pondering what people have done in their later years.

For example, I just received a copy of the first major biography of Charles Hodge in over a century: Paul C. Gutjahr, Charles Hodge: Guardian of American Orthodoxy (Oxford, 2011). On the first page, I read,

When people reach their seventies, they often think their work is done. Not so with Hodge. His last years were among this most productive as he sat ensconced in his study, wielding his favorite pen to compose literally thousands of manuscript pages, which would eventually become his monumental Systematic Theology and his incisive What is Darwinism? (vii)

So I started poking around on the Internet. Here’s some of what I found (for example, at www.museumofconceptualart.com/accomplished):

  • At 65 Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England, and for the next five years led the Western world to freedom.
  • At 69 English writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson began his last major work, The Lives of the English Poets.
  • At 69 Ronald Reagan became the oldest man ever sworn in as President of the United States. He was reelected at 73.
  • At 70 Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence.
  • At 77 John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space.
  • At 77 Grandma Moses started painting.
  • At 82 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe finished writing his famous Faust.
  • At 82 Winston Churchill wrote A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.
  • At 88 Michelangelo created the architectural plans for the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
  • At 89 Albert Schweitzer ran a hospital in Africa.
  • At 89 Arthur Rubinstein performed one of his greatest recitals in Carnegie Hall.
  • At 93 Strom Thurmond, the longest-serving senator in U.S. history, won reelection after promising not to run again at age 99.
  • At 93 P.G. Wodehouse worked on his 97th novel, got knighted, and died.

Dependant Till the End

And don’t forget, if you are running this marathon with Jesus, you have a great advantage. God has promised you: “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4). Nothing to be ashamed of here. We’ve been dangling in the yoke of Jesus ever since he called us. At out peak, we were totally dependent. So it will be to the end.

So, all you Boomers just breaking into Medicare, gird up your loins, pick up your cane, head for the gym, and get fit for the last lap. Fix your eyes on the Face at the finish line. There will plenty of time for R and R in the Resurrection. For now, there is happy work to be done.

[Originally published in WORLD magazine's May 7, 2011 issue.]

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.