One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)
I am 74, my wife Lesley is 69. I first started to follow Jesus in 1967, Lesley in 1972. We have been married for nearly 47 years. Together we have a lot of experience of God’s faithfulness.
These days we have been thinking about how we can best serve God in the later years of our lives. Psalm 145:4 has given us part of the answer: by passing on our experience of God’s faithfulness to the next generation. Not Bible teaching, not practical training, but telling the stories of how God has been good to us in the real issues we faced, so that others can find faith and confidence in their own challenges.
Back in 1968, I had the privilege of listening to the outstanding Bible teacher John Stott explaining Matthew chapter 6. Something he spoke about has stuck with me ever since. Verse 33 says:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Put another way, Jesus is promising that if we put God first in our lives, he will take care of our practical needs. “You set your hearts on my kingdom, I will look after your needs.”
This verse planted a seed within me, which has stuck and grown ever since. When Lesley and I were married, it became a kind of signature verse for us. Together we wanted to put God first. We realised this would have practical implications, but we would trust God for the consequences.
What did it mean for us to put God first? We chose to build our lives around fellowship and his church, both Sunday meetings and midweek small groups every week. We committed regular financial giving to the church through tithing. We aimed to serve the church, offering our energy and gifts according to our capacity at the time.
These are normal aspects of putting God first for Christians in most circumstances. We also made some choices that were the ways we felt God was leading us in particular.
When our first child came along, we agreed Lesley would not go back to work, so she was free to devote herself to our family. (We know that this isn’t everyone’s choice, or even an option for many, but it was our conviction then; later, when all three children were at school, Lesley returned to her work as a teacher.)
In midlife, in 1986, I left my well-established job as a teacher to return to university, believing that God was calling me to something fresh, not yet clear. For three years while I was a full-time student, we lived as a family of five with our only income being my scholarships. Eventually I was able to start a new job that I hadn’t even imagined before, as a university lecturer.
Three times we have moved our home because we believed God was calling us, once across our city, once across the world to China, and once across China to another city. After 10 years in China, we made the big move back, believing our work there was done and new things awaited us at home.
We certainly didn’t always get everything right, but we were always aiming in the same direction.
All these things have consequences. We had less money than others of our age group. There were things we couldn’t afford. For several years we had little to spare to cope with the ups and downs of life. There were moments when it felt like there were no answers to financial problems we faced. But in all this discovered that what Jesus said is true. However imperfectly we tried to do it, we wanted to put Jesus and his kingdom first, and we have found that time and time again God came through for us, providing what we needed. Sometimes it was by the skin of our teeth. Sometimes it was at the last minute. Sometimes it was just enough. Sometimes it was great abundance. Sometimes it was compensating for our mistakes. But God always came through!
So, in a new series of posts, I want to tell some of the stories of how God has helped us. Lesley and I pray that this will encourage many others to keep putting Jesus first, through thick and thin, and to find for themselves that he is truly faithful.