Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging
By J.I. Packer (Crossway)
At 89, J.I. Packer has ended his ministry. This remarkable theologian has blessed the church with well-honed writing about doctrine, the cross and Scripture. In 2013, at age 86, he gave us perhaps his last book, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging.
I have grown spiritually because of Packer’s insights into God’s word and the God of the word. So, it was with interest I picked up a digital copy of his book. It is a timely word for those of us who may be in the last quarter of our living—and our living for Christ.
Packer’s book has only four chapters. The first chapter is simply about the reality of aging for Christians, titled “We Grow Old.” In this chapter, Packer articulates with four word pictures the landscape of aging—decline, ripeness, last lap and wrong way.
This chapter is followed by “Soul and Body” and with that speaks to the nature of humankind from Scripture. I love his concise description of “embodied souls and ensouled bodies.” In some ways, this brief chapter brings us back to the core teaching of Scripture regarding the nature and purpose of our creation. His comments in that regard are “What are Human Beings, and Why Did God Invent Us.” I have read and studied a lot about God’s creation of mankind but never from the notion of why God invented us in the first place. From that part of the chapter, he goes on to speak of souls and bodies and what these mean to God and to us.
His last two chapters build on the first two and give a wakeup call for church leaders toward their aging congregants. “Keeping Going” is a wonderful chapter about the believer Packer wants to address with this small book. From there, he builds on the issues that are important—or should be important—to his audience.
His last chapter is titled “We Look Forward.” He explores the biblical notion of hope and what that looks like for aging believers.
At this time in my life, if I were a pastor, I would encourage each of my senior adults to read this short but profoundly insightful book and adjust their journey accordingly.
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Michael R. Chancellor