人生終場四分之一

By Jim Mathis

無論是看哪種體育節目:美式足球、棒球、籃球、曲棍球,足球或是賽車都好,有一件事是很明顯的,每個人都要打完最後四分之一局。最好的狀況是一開始就領先,但是無論狀況如何都要打完全場。通常,在棒球比賽中,最後的一局非常地重要,因為有時最後一刻所擊出的一球會決定勝負。

我現在六十幾歲了,已經進入人生的最後四分之一(超過八十歲的人大概都算是打延長賽了)。但是仍然努力過著有建設性的人生。

但是,很多跟我一樣年紀的人已經眼睛盯著時鐘,腦袋裡想像著自己越過終點線,不管他是已經放棄或是已經走到淋浴間。事實上,許多這個年紀的人已經開始退休計劃,例如開始找一個舒服的搖椅或是練滾球運動。但是有趣的是,我仍然覺得很有精力、不感到疲倦、更加地有創造力,比以前知道更多知識,因此我認為人生後半的四分之一不是過著所謂退休的生活。

在聖經當中,使徒保羅用賽跑來比喻人的一生,強調在比賽當中,我們要跑完全程。在哥林多前書9章24節他說到:「豈不知在場上賽跑的都跑,但得獎賞的只有一人?你們也當這樣跑,好叫你們得獎賞。」

希伯來書的作者也有同樣的看法:「我們既有這許多的見證人,如同雲彩圍椾我們,就當放下各樣的重擔,脫去容易纏累我們的罪,存心忍耐,奔那擺在我們前頭的路程,」(希伯來書 12章1節)。

很多人以為,在人生的某一個時間點退休就是贏得人生的比賽。這個觀念起源於十八世紀的工業革命,因為年紀六十五歲以上的人,無法在礦坑工作、操作重型機器或是持續做一些需要勞動的工作時,跟年輕人一樣有體力。又或者這是工會的策略,希望能給年輕人更多的工作機會。但是今天的醫學和科技與日俱進,六十五歲就應該退休這樣的想法和觀念已經落伍了,除非是因為身體有重大的疾病。

對我來說,我要努力地往前跑直到人生的最後一秒,到時,天使加百列會吹奏勝利的號角。因為我敬畏把我們帶來這個世界的神,祂是我們人生的教練,他期待我們堅持到人生的最後一秒鐘。

吉姆.馬提斯在堪薩斯州陸路公園市經營一家照相館。他的專長是商業和影劇界人像。他也經營一所攝影學校。他曾是一家咖啡店的經理,也曾是CBMC在堪薩斯州堪薩斯市和密蘇里州堪薩斯市的執行主任。

省思/討論題目
對於退休你有甚麼看法? 你已經在做退休計畫也開始在期待退休了嗎? 分享一下你現在的退休計畫。 也許你還很年輕,離退休還有一段很長的時間。想一想要如何過自己的人生,也是一件很有意義的事情。分享你的看法。 你同意把人生比喻成運動比賽嗎?分享一下你的看法。 希伯來書的作者提到「放下各樣的重擔,脫去容易纏累我們的罪,存心忍耐,奔那擺在我們前頭的路程」,對你來說,重擔和纏累我們的罪指的是甚麼? 你覺得這值得去做嗎?備註:如果你想要看或是討論聖經中其他關於這個主題的經文,請參考:路加福音 21章14-19節;約翰福音19章30節;羅馬書 5章3-5節;提摩太後書4章6-8節;雅各書1章2-4節


WORKING, PLAYING THROUGH THE “FOURTH QUARTER”
By Jim Mathis

In watching sports, whether American football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, or even auto racing, one thing becomes obvious: You have to play all four quarters, periods, innings or halves, whatever they are called. It is good to be leading your opponent in the first portion of the contest, but you still have to play the entire game. More often than not, the last minutes of a game – or in baseball, the final inning – are important. Sometimes the final seconds, or the last at-bat, determine the outcome.

I am now in my 60″s. Any way you look at it, I have entered the fourth quarter of my life, certainly the fourth quarter of my 60-plus years. Anything beyond 80 years is probably “overtime.” Even though I have lived a productive life, running out the clock or calling timeout at this stage just does not seem very sportsmanlike, even if I feel I had mounted a sizable lead going entering this last quarter.

Many people my age, however, have already started eyeing the time clock, figuring they can coast to the finish line. That is, if they have not already given up or headed for the showers. The interesting thing for me is I feel as good as I ever have. I am not tired, feel more creative, and definitely know a lot more than I once did. Realistically it may be time to revise my game plan, make better choices, or start to play as if the outcome of the game is on the line. But to run out the clock, maybe find a cozy rocking chair somewhere or hone my skills at shuffleboard? I do not think so.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul used the analogy of life being like running a race, emphasizing the idea that in competing, we must run all the way to the end. In I Corinthians 9:24 he said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews made a very similar point: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Many of us seem to have embraced the idea that at some point in life we can shift into neutral, coast, and still “win the race.” This is a relatively new concept, dating from the start of the Industrial Age. It probably developed from the idea that 65-year-olds were not capable of going down in the mines, operating heavy machinery, or continuing to do strenuous activity better suited to younger bodies. Or perhaps it was just a “benefit” introduced by the unions to give younger folks an opportunity to assume the jobs of older people. Today, with the advancements of technology, ideas like these are outdated unless there is some significant disability or physical limitations interfere with the ability to work.

As for me, I intend to play and run hard until the last second on the clock, the final whistle, Gabriel”s trumpet, or whatever it is that stops the game for me. After all, we owe it to the coach, our team, and ourselves – ultimately, to God who put us here on earth. That is why we were put here, to persevere and play the game until the end.

Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Reflection/Discussion Questions
What is your thinking about retirement? Are you looking forward to it and making plans for when that time comes? If so, what have you concluded – at least to this point? Even if you are a younger person, many years away from any possibility of retiring from full-time employment, it can be meaningful to consider how we intend to use our time, energy and skills while we are “in the game.” What are your thoughts about this? Do you agree with the comparison of competing to the very end of a sporting event with the challenge of persevering through the rigors of everyday life and work? Why or why not? The verse from the book of Hebrews speaks about “everything that hinders and entangles”? What might be some of those things for you? How can you overcome such obstacles? Or is it even worth trying to do so?NOTE: If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages: Luke 21:14-19; John 19:30; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; James 1:2-4

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