In his own words, J.I. Packer describes the church.
J.I. Packer is a well known theologian whose books have been appreciated by Christians for decades.
At the age of 89 the effects of macular generation have ended his reading and writing capacities, and, as a result, the conclusion of his writing ministry.
There are reports on the Crossway Blog and Gospel Coalition.
The interview at the Gospel Coalition is a remarkable insight in Packer’s faith.
Has this been a hard trial emotionally?
Emotionally, it doesn’t make an impact on me because after all I’m nearly 90, and I would have had to stop those things soon anyway because my strength would not have continued. God has been very good to us [he includes his wife, Kit], and none of us has been struck as so many people of our age by any form of dementia. We’re both blessedly free of that in a way that other folks of our age known to us are not. When you’re preserved from something other people actually have to work their way through you recognize that this is a mercy and are thankful.
Ecclesiastes is a book of the Bible you have especially treasured and have gleaned much wisdom from over the years. You’ve said Ecclesiastes cured you of youthful cynicism. On this side of life what has the old sage taught you? Does the final chapter of Ecclesiastes—chapter 12—hold more resonance at this stage than, say, 40 years ago?
The author of Ecclesiastes has taught me that it is folly to suppose that you can plan life and master it, and you will get hurt if you try. You must acknowledge the sovereignty of God and leave the wisdom to him.
It tells me now what it told me 40 years ago, namely, that we wear out, physically we come apart. You get old, and getting old means the loss of faculties and powers you had when you were younger. And that is the way God prepares us to leave this world for a better world to which he’s taking us. The message of Ecclesiastes 12 is “Get right with God as early in life as you can; ‘remember the creator in your days of youth’ (Eccl. 12:1). Don’t leave it until some time in the future when you’re not likely to be able to handle it well at all.”
What role does calling play in these latter days of life for you?
All that I can say is that as one’s powers of mind and body diminish so one’s understanding to what one can do—should do—in fulfillment of one’s calling has to be adjusted in terms of, “I can’t do that anymore.” And Christian realism kicks in at that point. God doesn’t call us to do what is no longer within our power to do.
Read the whole post here.
John Piper writes in appreciation about J.I. Packer’s determination to finish at full pace.
Whatever that pace may be.
This is not an invitation to recklessly overdoing it, or to impose your insecurities on others whose work then becomes enabling you to do what you really can’t.
It’s about committment to freedom.
This week J.I. Packer turned 88. He has written a book on aging. It’s titled, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging. At age 68 I found it riveting. It made me want to live “flat out” to the end. That was his goal. You could call it “Don’t Waste Your Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties.” It’s worth reading at any age.
He is not naïve. He is 88! There is no romantic idealization for the final years of this life. It will be hard. “Aging,” he says, “is not for wimps.” Some may paint a rosy picture of life after seventy. Even John Wesley, Packer observes, said that at eighty-five “the only sign of deterioration that he could see in himself was that he could not run as fast as he used to.” With characteristic understatement Packer says: “With all due deference to that wonderful, seemingly tireless little man, we may reasonably suspect that he was overlooking some things.”
Nevertheless Packer realizes that:
“the assumption that was general in my youth, that only a small minority would be fit and active after about seventy, has become a thing of the past. Churches, society, and seniors themselves are still adjusting to the likelihood that most Christians who hit seventy still have before them at least a decade in which some form of active service for Christ remains practicable.”
So, what shall we do with these final years? Packer notes that “the image of running was central to Paul’s understanding of his own life [1 Corinthians 9:24–27; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16], and I urge now that it ought to be the central focus in the minds and hearts of all aging Christians, who know and feel that their bodies are slowing down.”
And how should we run? “My contention is . . . that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out.” “The challenge that faces us is . . . to cultivate the maximum zeal for the closing phase of our earthly lives.”