Give Me That Mountain!
Give Me That Mountain
By Don Matchett
In the book of Joshua, Caleb reminded the people of Judah about his promised inheritance. He told them, “I am 85 years old, and as strong today as when
Moses sent me to spy out the land. I am capable of war and everyday living.
So, give me that mountain!” (Paraphrased from Joshua 14:10-12).
As someone from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, I completely connect with Caleb. Please, give me the hill country. However, let’s remember who occupied the hill country of Canaan. According to Numbers, the biggest and strongest men—literal giants—lived there. So, in context, Caleb said, “I’m able and capable at 85. Give me the hill country where the giants live.”
I hope I am simply strong enough to live in the hill country when I am 85, much less deal with giants.
Anthropological researchers have noted a considerable change in society. People are living longer and seem happier. Over the past two decades, researchers conducted dozens of studies to find out why. A recent study asked senior citizens, “In what time of your life did you feel most accomplished and successful?”
Many responded, “Now!”
Those aged 55-85 felt accomplished and thriving in their senior years. This is the exact opposite of what western culture leads us to believe. Our culture often measures worth and success by age and youthful appearance. We see it on billboards, in commercials, and throughout Hollywood.
The battle against aging has become a trillion-dollar industry. Yet, those with youth, money, and beauty often seem the least happy.
Our western cultural formula lacks an essential ingredient. It’s like eating a coconut pie without coconut or a hamburger with no meat. Something significant is missing. What is the crucial ingredient to feeling accomplished in your senior years? Or any age, for that matter? A sense of purpose. Seniors with a clearly defined sense of purpose are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, cognitive impairment, disabilities, heart attacks, or strokes. They are more likely to live longer than those with little motivation. I would argue, in our context, the key ingredient is Kingdom purpose.
Sadly, we’ve all witnessed what happens when someone loses motivation for life. How often have we heard about a person who retires and dies within a year? Or a husband who passes away shortly after his spouse? They lost their purpose for living.
However, I know many examples of those with a strong Kingdom purpose living long, meaningful, and
Sam and Jane Johnson are well into their 80s. They wake up each morning with a Kingdom purpose: pray for every missionary and mission field in detail.
Steve Lytle may be one of the happiest people I know. (He certainly is one of the kindest.) Retired from IM, Steve serves in a Spanish ministry at Cofer’s Chapel in Nashville. His Kingdom purpose is sharing the love of Christ with Spanish-speaking people.
Dennis Teague recently turned 75 years young. After spending a few days with Dennis, IM Director of Field Ministry Personnel Curt Holland reports Dennis is more fit than many men half his age. (They walked more than six miles a day.) I’ve witnessed Dennis fight back tears as he talked about his Kingdom purpose—sharing the gospel with France’s agnostic, atheist population.
Jerry and Barb Gibbs, in their 70s, returned to the States after 40 years of service in France to start Go Global, an educational program of IM, Inc. Their Kingdom purpose is to see Free Will Baptists engaged and active in the mission of God.
Clint Morgan served as a missionary in the Ivory Coast and France for 33 years before becoming the general director of IM. Now in his 70s, he remains one of the best leaders with whom I’ve worked.
At one time, a person “of a certain age” dared not think of changing careers. Even IM, Inc. once held the idea one shouldn’t pursue a career in missions after the age of 35. Times have changed. Nowadays, people make late, dramatic career changes. Of course, changing careers to follow one’s Kingdom purpose is not the same as a secular job; it features a higher calling.
In 2019, Ken and Jane Cash made a drastic career change at age 58. Saying goodbye to their grandbabies, they boarded a plane to Bulgaria. Ken turned 60 in January while serving as a career missionary in Bulgaria. One of the couple’s most incredible contributions to the mission field is experience. They arrived with no missionary experience. But they brought to the table more than a half century of practical life and ministry experience, something no college or seminary can teach.
While changing careers isn’t without risks, it has benefits, especially if Caleb’s principles are employed. Remember, he was 85 when he tackled his brand-new venture. He had a history of ignoring naysayers. He was one of the two spies who believed God would give Israel the Promised Land. He was deeply committed to walking with and trusting the Lord. As it turns out, career change offers a few practical benefits as well. Those who change careers late in life often do so to follow a lifelong dream or passion. Also, career changes later in life make us think differently, exercising our brains and preserving mental capacity.
At times we may be ready, but God isn’t. Caleb was patient and waited on God. It took 45 years for his dream to become a reality. Sometimes we are capable, have the experience, and are ready to take the next step. But someone else fills the position, a door closes, or worse—the decision makers think you’re too old. Have you ever wondered why Joshua and not Caleb? Caleb would have been a great leader. He walked closely with God. He seemingly had more faith than anyone else in Israel, but God chose Joshua to lead. Sometimes doors open, and sometimes they close.
And sometimes, dreams are delayed. The best advice I ever received came many years ago from my Uncle Frank. I was Timothy to his Paul. I felt God moving me to full-time ministry, but every door seemed to close. His advice was simple yet profound: “Be patient. God is faithful. The best timing is His timing. Serve faithfully and compassionately where you are until God opens the door.”
Back then, those words felt anecdotal. Today, I treasure the wisdom he shared.
You don’t have to leave a secular job and take a ministry position to find your Kingdom purpose. Many accountants, bankers, teachers, welders, and mechanics clearly see their Kingdom purpose and live full, happy lives. A good friend has been a CPA for over 30 years. He ministers to someone almost daily. Still, it doesn’t mean a ministry or missionary career is out of the question either. As it turns out, age is no longer an excuse. More and more seniors are pursuing a second (or third) career in ministry.
I think we all want the same things. We want to live long, healthy lives. We want to look back and see we have accomplished something. Longevity and better, healthier, happier lives come to those who find His Kingdom purpose. We have no promises for tomorrow, but the research says having a clear purpose increases the rate of success and lifespan.?
The Christian community should be the happiest, most fulfilled community on the planet. If you already know your Kingdom purpose and live it with passion, this article may not be for you. If you don’t, consider these questions:
Are you satisfied with your current situation?
If not, why?
What is your Kingdom purpose?
Are you living out that purpose?
If not, is it time for a change?
It’s never too late. Age is just a number, not an excuse. Is it time to follow your passion, purpose, and calling, or time to be patient, trust God’s timing, and wait until He opens a door??
The phrase “spend your life” means giving the currency of our lives to something every hour of every day. We literally spend our life’s currency. A little less is left each day until nothing remains to spend. I pray you finish well and spend your life wisely for the glory of God and His purpose.
About the Author: Arkansas native Don Matchett has served as director of church relations and advancement for IM, Inc. since 2017. Learn more about how you can get involved in missions at any age: iminc.org/go