By Michael Risley
I was a church college pastor 30 years ago. One particular Sunday, as I was about to leave to watch the Super Bowl with a bunch of college kids, I got a phone message from our church phone system and it said, “Hi, my name is John. I am so depressed and lonely that I am thinking about committing suicide. My address is such and such.” Now there was no phone number left and no caller ID. Immediately, I tried to contact another church leader to go with me, but no one was available. So I thought, I just better go check this out.
When I got to his apartment, the door was ajar, so I peeked in. The room was dark and I could see someone across the room sitting in a chair. I said, “Hi! I’m Pastor Michael Risley from Rolling Hills Covenant Church and I got your message, John. How are you doing?” He said, “Not very well.” I asked, “Do you mind if I come in and talk with you?” He answered, “No, I don’t mind.” I opened the door and started walking towards John. As my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I realized he was holding a gun in his lap.
At this point I realized I could run out the door and away from him or just keep walking towards John. However, it was clear to me that I was close enough to him where I believed I could reach him before he could lift the gun and point it at me or at himself. So I kept moving forward, cautiously, watching him carefully. Once I got to him, I felt I had control. I pulled up a chair and sat right in front of him. I asked if he would give me his gun, and he handed it to me; by the way, later on I looked, and it was indeed loaded!
As John poured out the facts of his life to me, I realized he had no family or friends, he had no purpose for living, and most importantly, he did not know the Lord Jesus. While we talked through the afternoon, even watching some of the Super Bowl, I shared the Gospel with him and he prayed to entrust his life to Jesus as his Savior and Lord. I ended up taking him out to dinner and then to a psychiatric hospital. I am not sure of all that happened to John, but I did get him involved with our senior adult ministry. I hope to see him someday in heaven.
The good news for John was that when he put his trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, he gained so much, including: a personal relationship with Jesus; eternal life; his sins were forgiven; a church family to love him; and a purposeful life.
In this article, I will focus upon the purposeful living God calls all of His children to live. When you and I have a strong purpose for living, especially one that is connected to God and His work, we have a special gift. This gift can get us up in the morning with a bounce to our step and can give us a purpose that can make an eternal difference in the lives of others. In contrast, research from Argentum Daily shows us that seniors who don’t have a purpose, especially after retirement, often suffer from depression, heart attacks, and a general malaise in life.
One of the best Scriptural passages on purposeful living is found in Matthew 22:36-40. It begins with a Pharisee asking Jesus a question: Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Jesus replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.
The fundamental requirements of both Judaism and Christianity are summed up in the dual command: to love God and to love people. This kind of love in both the Old Testament (Hebrew aheb) and the New Testament (Greek agapao) is an act of the will, involving dedication and a commitment of choice. In regards to loving God, we are to love Him with every part of our being which also includes trusting and obeying Him (John 14:1, 21). Also, authentic love for one’s neighbor is the same kind of authentic love for God; it is a choice that is purposeful, intentional, and active, not merely emotional. Obviously, when it comes to purposeful living, loving God and people should be our strongest, most important, and most powerful purpose!
Now let me ask you this question: in light of Matthew 22:36-40, what would be the greatest way to love your fellow humans? There are obviously many ways you can love others: encouraging, comforting, teaching, feeding, and clothing–to name a few. However, the greatest way to love another human being is to help them to do the first and greatest command–to love God. Understandably, physical and emotional help is always desired, but our time on earth is about two seconds in light of eternity–time in heaven or hell will be forever and ever! Therefore, our purpose during our relatively short time on earth is to first live a life that loves God with every part of our being. Then secondarily, love others by helping them to love God with every part of their beings, through our actions, and through our loving words, including sharing the Gospel. It is tragic how so many Christians love others in beautiful ways, but neglect telling their family, friends, and acquaintances about salvation in Jesus Christ–ultimately the only thing that truly matters!
Suggestions for how to make your greatest purpose for living to love God and others:
1. Love God by choosing to talk to Him in prayer every day; daily read and obey God’s Word; spend time with others who know Christ personally; be involved in a church where Christ is preached; be filled with the Holy Spirit and rely on Him moment by moment; when you sin, honestly confess or admit it to God–He will forgive you and your fellowship with God will be restored.
2. Love others by choosing to look for ways to be of help to them. Then when the Holy Spirit prompts you, tell them about your love for Jesus and then explain the Gospel. You might use the Gospel video we have on our website–SeniorLivingMinistries.org–or go to ShareYourFaith.com and put this on your cell phone for use. If you are seeking to love someone who is already a Christian, you might help them to grow stronger in their faith by discipling or training them using a curriculum like Operation Timothy–advance.cbmc.com/products/operation-timothy.
Heavenly Father, may our purpose for living be found in loving You and then our fellow humans. May they see Jesus Christ in our lives and feel His love through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. May You use our lives to influence many to come to experience Your love through salvation in Jesus Christ and to grow strong in Him. In Jesus’ name, amen.
If you’d like to encourage more seniors day by day, please consider giving a gift to Senior Living Ministries below. Thank you – we are so grateful for you!