For the past fifty-one years, I have read the book of Job every August as a part of my daily devotional habit.
Job is one of the unsung heroes of Scripture who wrote one of the oldest books in the Bible. Most scholars believe he lived near the time of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). His honesty is refreshing (you can argue with God!), and his repentance at the end of the story is powerful.
After calamity struck, Job reminisced about being in his “prime.”
I’ve come to believe that the prime of life may not be what you think.
When I Was In My Prime
Here’s the reference from Job where he went into great detail with his “comforter” friends about how he once lived in the “prime of his life.”
“Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house..” (Job 29:4 – NIV).
He then goes to great lengths to explain how life was good in his “prime” and how he was deeply respected in his family, business dealings, and culture.
Yes, we all long for “better days” when we’re going through difficulties or even hellish circumstances as Job was experiencing. Especially when we’re old, it’s easy to look back on our younger years with nostalgia and longing when we were so strong, free, vibrant, successful, and enjoying the fruits of life–qualities that often diminish with age.
There is something to be said about the glories of the “prime of life.”
And what are the prime years? Ever since the flood, Moses told us in Psalm 90:10 (NIV) that:
“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures.”
That’s still true today. American women live on average 79 years and men 74. I like to say that the seventies is a normal lifespan, eighties if due to strength (good DNA, lifestyle etc.), and nineties or low 100s with the aid of modern medicine and conveniences.
Within that time frame, it seems obvious that, all things considered, a person’s “prime” might fall between their twenties and fifties. Older politicians and entertainers are moving that needle up slightly in the 21st century. But I think most agree these “middle” years are the season of the greatest overall strength in life.
The Dictionary defines prime or prime of life as, “a state or time of greatest strength, vigor, or success in a person’s life.” Old Testament priesthood echoes this timeline in Numbers 8:24-25:
“The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.”
Apparently God recognized 25-50 years old as “primetime” to serve as a priest.
I know an evangelist friend who deliberately stepped out of full-time ministry at the age of fifty because he believed this Old Testament reference shared God’s general perspective.
But now that I have reached my seventies (supposedly “past my prime”), I think there’s another reasonable way to view it.
Life is made up of many distinct chapters or seasons and each of them has some amazing and wonderful “prime” characteristics that are better than others. Prime is not simply your middle years after childhood and before senility. God gives us “prime” experiences and attributes in every stage of life.
No one calls babies or young childhood the “prime of life” but it has some attributes that are stronger or better than at any other point in our lives.
We have a new grandbaby, for example, whose “fresh-out-of-the-womb” skin is softer and more vital than it will be at any other age. It’s prime skin. He’s also so beautifully innocent and curious as a young baby–truly in his prime in this area.
I remember watching athletic shows as a young teenager, and then feeling so vigorous and unstoppable that I would bolt out the door and hurdle our fence with ease with a shot of adrenalin. If I tried that today, I would either kill or castrate myself. I was in my energetic and youthful prime.
When Shirley and I first met, we were so smitten with the wonder of young love that we spent hours, night and day, getting to know each other. Before she went to work at 7:40 am, she would drive to my house and stand outside my bedroom window so we could talk and laugh together before she went to work (which included taking a ferry across the bay). Time and sacrifice were irrelevant. We were in the “prime” of young love. (We go to bed early now.)
Getting married brought another “prime” aspect of experience as we mentally, emotionally, and physically became “one.” Our early marriage intimacies were so exciting and beautiful that I once thought “this is what heaven must be like.” Jesus said the same in Matthew 22:30:
“At the resurrection we’re beyond marriage. As with the angels, all our ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God” (The Message).
When we added six children to the mix, our love relationships, home-schooling, fun activities, missions, camping, laughing, and frolicking together as a family were certainly at their prime.
My autobiography out soon called One Small Life: Revival Adventures From My Fifty Year Journal records the amazing and powerful years of teaching, preaching, and traveling all over the world during three to four decades. Especially in the 1990s, I was in my prime in sharing God’s Word.
Death of a Vision
I also went through a few Job experiences in my life where I failed or had to wait on God. But those were “primetimes” also as God says “my strength is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
I spent some decades after the travel years overseeing some YWAM and other ministries with the wisdom I’d gained from previous decades. One time when I was on vacation with my family at Disneyland, I was called out-of-state to mediate a major leadership conflict–and did so successfully by God’s grace. Decades of leadership experience brought me into the “prime” of being a leader of leaders.
In my sixties and seventies God showed me I should focus on “evangelizing the open and discipling the willing.” Mentoring or making strong disciples of young leaders is now a “prime” activity for me at Faith International University. I send out a weekly “Discipleship Email” to all my students sharing the victories, struggles, and lessons of seven decades. I post this weekly blog around the world to pass on the insights I’ve gained through the course of life.
In my senior citizen years, wisdom, serving, and encouraging others are in their prime.
Same for Job. He entered an even better “prime of life” after his suffering when God gave him a double blessing.
I’ve told many suffering people the past few years that “the day you die is the best day of your life.” If you are a child of God through faith in Christ, your passage from this fallen world brings you into the presence of Jesus, family, friends, and exquisite beauty and glory where there is no crying or pain (revelation 21:4).
You will enter your true prime and it will last forever.
Use and enjoy every prime strength your possess in all the chapters of life.
And know that the best is ahead–because of Jesus’ “prime” work on the Cross.