Posts Tagged 'old age'

The Days of Our Lives, Part 3

 golden

Admit it, you have a love/hate relationship with late middle age, or the “senior years.”  That hate part begins around age 50 when you get your first letter from the AARP.  Why are they sending me this?, you may ask indignantly. The love part kicks in when your car insurance goes down because of your age.  The kids are grown and gone, the house is paid off, and if retirement is your thing, then you may look forward to that.  Still, you cope with aches and pains you didn’t have before, yet all of a sudden it seems as though the print in books or labels and newspapers got small and people mumble a lot more than they used to.  And where once you took only an aspirin once in a while, now you’re having to count out your pills before you drink your morning cup of coffee.

There can be great joy in getting older, but also anxiety and, for some of us frustration and sometimes even a little bit of melancholy, as we stare into the mirror at the that old person looking back and we wonder where the years went.  And for some, when they realize the years ahead are far fewer than the years behind, the gloom of depression hangs on and won’t let go.

Bruce Springstein, surely the luckiest entertainer in America, wrote a song about some friends who live in the past because they don’t like the way their lives turned out.  To them, the “Glory Days” are long gone.

But Springstein isn’t the only one who feels that the best years are past.  A lot of folks in their middle age think this way.  Christians may also be tempted to feel this way, but we should think twice, and here’s why.

God remains ever faithful 

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.  I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsake nor their children begging bread.  They are always generous and lend freely;their children will be blessed.  (Psalms 37:23c-26 | NIV84) 

David wrote this psalm, and of course that last verse is simply the Lord saying that He will keep the promise He made to Abraham and successive generations.  But that small paragraph really packs a wallop, though.  The NIV84 is correct in making things conditional:  “If the Lord delights in a man’s ways,” then He will do something good for that man – he will “make his steps firm.”  In other words, if God likes what He sees a man doing, God will “establish” – “make firm” – that man’s steps.  This is a righteous man, not an evil man.  God will give a righteous man what he needs to help him along.  The righteous are not left up to their own devices.

Something else David learned in his old age was that though a righteous person be poor, they may still be blessed by God.  And if they “stumble” and if they fall off the spiritual wagon, God will be there to put him back on.  The psalmist has realized only what may be discovered when looking in the rear view mirror of life:  God was always wanted faithful, He remains faithful now, and he knows that God will always be faithful.  Charles Spurgeon wrote:

A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous; they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck.  Our heart leaps for joy as we bow before the One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose. 

An odd thing that happens as we age, for most of us anyway, is that our hair turns gray.  Some folks like to wash that gray out every few weeks, but the book of Proverbs tries to make us feel good about the gray:

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.  (Proverbs 16:31 | NIV84) 

Now, this is a proverb and it’s very general.  We all know gray-headed people who are not at all righteous.  What this particular proverb teaches is that generally speaking, throughout history a person who has lived long enough to have gray hair is proof of God’s blessings.  Lifespans during Old Testament times was quite a bit shorter than today; a lot of people didn’t live long enough to have gray hair. God’s blessings will always be evident, but no more so than a long life.

Here’s an interesting contrast:

The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.  (Proverbs 20:29 | NIV84) 

God blesses His people in different ways at every stage of life.  Just because you’re older and don’t have the energy you had a few years ago, doesn’t mean the Lord is finished with you.

Victories ahead! 

Just because you’re older and gray headed, doesn’t mean that you should retire from serving the Lord, either.  Somebody who lived a long life was a fellow by the name of Caleb, and here’s how he felt about his old age:

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions…  (Joshua 14:7 | NIV84) 

“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.   Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” . Joshua 14:10-12 | NIV84) 

Can you imagine?  Eighty-five years old and still fighting – not forgetting God’s promises and still looking forward to victory!  And Caleb was indeed victorious once again.  The idea of “retirement” is a fairly recent phenomenon in America.  Once upon a time, a generation or two ago, people didn’t retire; they kept working as long as they could.  The notion that you could stop working while still in good health and travel or garden or whatever was unknown to our grandparents.  Not that retirement is a bad thing, but the attitude that says, “I’ve worked long enough now I’m going to take it easy,” isn’t a Biblical one and it certainly doesn’t apply to serving the Lord.  You’re never too old to work for God; there is always something you can do for the kingdom.

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”. (Psalms 92:14c-15 | NIV84) 

The overall theme of Psalm 92 is God’s faithfulness and enduring love.  That’s a common theme throughout all of Scripture; the God who was faithful when you were young is the same God now that you are old(er) and He’s still just as faithful and loves you just as much.  Neither of these two divine attributes dwindles with the years.  Using the metaphor of trees, the psalmist makes it clear that age doesn’t diminish the believer’s ability to prosper and “bear fruit,” that is, live a life of righteousness that it is obvious to all that you are a believer.  A big, leafy tree cannot be hidden and an older Christian shouldn’t hide out of sight, either.

A good reason to live a fruit-bearing life into old age is so that the younger generation may be inspired.  Never underestimate the power of your good example.  A.B. Simpson made the comment:

Begin to rejoice in the Lord, and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness.  Worry, fear, distrust, care – all are poisonous!  Joy is a balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power. 

He’s absolutely right!  You may not be in perfect health; you may creak a little when you walk and bend over, but you should ever rejoice in the Lord!  It’ll make you feel better and it will cause spiritual fruit to grow in your life.

Serve the Lord faithfully 

In your so-called golden years, you could sell your house, buy a boat and just sit on it all day, never interacting with anybody, or you could make yourself useful to the Lord, like good old Simeon did:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:25-26 | NIV84) 

Jesus was just a baby when His earthly parents brought Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord, a custom of the day.  An elderly, devout believer was there, too.  Simeon, though old, wasn’t traveling the world and he wasn’t laying about his boat, or sitting on his porch in his rocking chair, but he was right where he should have been:  the house of the Lord.  God had told Simeon long ago that he would live long enough to see the Messiah, so we can understand why, holding God to His word, he hung around the Temple in expectation.  Who knows how long old Simeon held onto this Word from the Lord?  Yet here he was, waiting and looking and his patient faith was rewarded when he saw the baby Jesus.

But it wasn’t just an old man who was faithful.  There was an old lady too, a prophetess named Anna.  Like Simeon, she was faithful and never gave up on the Lord.

She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  (Luke 2:37 – 38 | NIV84) 

Just like Simeon, Anna was still waiting for the redemption (the salvation) of Jerusalem.  But it wasn’t so much the event as it was the Word of God she clung to.  For her, and indeed for all faithful believers, there is joy in expectantly waiting for God’s Word to be fulfilled.

There are so many challenges in growing into middle age and passing middle age.  So many things change as we age; our circumstances, our bodies, some relationships, but serving the Lord and remaining faithful to Him should be a constant.  Billy Graham wrote some words of wisdom concerning this that deserve to noted:

Old age may have its limitations and challenges, but in spite of them, our latter  years can be some of the  most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives. 

He’s right, and sometimes it all boils down to your perspective.  You can spend a lot of time commiserating about the state of the world today and pining for the glory days of your youth, or you leave the past behind and embrace what God wants you to be doing now.  It’s certain that there is something He wants of you.

Help For Your Family: Facing the End

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We call old age “the golden years,” but sometimes they are anything but golden!  Many seniors, looking forward to traveling and a life of leisure in retirement, end up finding sickness, pain, and a lack of resources.

For the Christian old age is a good opportunity to glance back, over your shoulder, and see how God has moved in your life.  Hindsight is 20/20 they say.  Many times we miss God’s interventions in our lives at the monent they happen, but as we age, we gain perspective and looking back, we see how involved God really was.

General Douglas MacArthur once told the people of the Philippines, “I shall return.”  Well, he did return in his latter years, and this time he told them, “The deepening shadows of life cast doubt upon my ability to pledge to you again, ‘I shall return.’”  That’s perspective.  All of us will eventually come to an end.  Rich and poor, famous and infamous, healthy or not, death is waiting for every human being.

No matter how you came into this world, you may leave it with honor.  How a Christian faces his death is at least as important as how he lived his life.

1.  Growing old with God

a.  Remember your Creator, Ecclesiastes 12:1—5

Don’t let the excitement of being young cause you to forget about your Creator. Honor him in your youth before the evil years come—when you’ll no longer enjoy living.  (Ecclesiastes 12:1  TLB)

It has been said:  Youth is a mistake, manhood a struggle, and old age a regret.  There may be some truth in Lord Beaconsfield’s words, but life doesn’t have to be that way.  Old age, for example, doesn’t have to be filled with regret.  Solomon, after telling his readers that nothing under the sun can satisfy the human heart, advises:  Get back to God.  It’s far better for us if we make our decision to follow God while we are young.

The picture of old age painted by Solomon isn’t pretty, but it is accurate.  The older you get, the more funerals you attend.  Friends and family leave you.  You lose your health.  You may lose your mind.  You’ll probably lose your hair; the hair you have will likely turn white.  Life itself slips away from you, but God never will!  Don’t forget about God in you’re old age; He might be all you’ve got.

b.  The end of life, Ecclesiastes 12:6, 7

Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young—before the silver cord of life snaps and the gold bowl is broken; before the pitcher is broken at the fountain and the wheel is broken at the cistern; then the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 

Solomon is really talking about the breakdown of the human body in these verses, in a poetic way.  The “silver cord” is the spinal cord; the “gold bowl” is the head.  Our minds slow down as we get older.  The “pitcher” refers to our lungs and the “wheel” is the heart.  At some point, it stops pumping blood around the body.  Yes, our bodies deteriorate; life cannot go on when out organs slow down and stop working.

At some point, we will return to the dust from which we came; we essentially return to our beginning.  The soul, which does not sleep, goes to be with God at death.  Our bodies, as taught by Solomon, are absolutely temporary.  Your body is nothing more than an outer covering for your spirit and soul.  President Adams knew this to be true, and he said shortly before his death:

I’m doing just fine, but this ‘house’ I live in is growing very feeble, and I think I’ll be moving out of it before long.

c.  Be fruitful to the end, Psalm 92:12—15

But the godly shall flourish like palm trees and grow tall as the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted into the Lord’s own garden and are under his personal care.  Even in old age they will still produce fruit and be vital and green.   This honors the Lord and exhibits his faithful care. He is my shelter. There is nothing but goodness in him!

This marvelous psalm is full of gratitude to God, recognizing His firm, dependable, and steadfast love and unending faithfulness.  This group of verses, in particular, points out that those who trust in God prosper.  The righteous are like mighty trees growing and flourishing in the Lord’s presence—a perfectly tended garden.  Even in old age, the righteous are still growing in the Lord and bearing fruit.  Ralph Browning said:

Trees have their seasons at certain times of the year when they bring forth fruit; but a Christian is for all seasons.

A Christian never retires.

2.  Losing loved ones

a.  Abraham and Sara, Genesis 23:1—4

Sara stuck by Abraham from his days back in Ur, when he was still known as Abram.  One could say this couple lived a life of high adventure!  The very fact that we have a record of her death and burial shows us how significant a figure she was.  Not every experience she had was a good one, however.  Her journey with Abraham was not an easy one, yet she never abandoned him.  No wonder he “mourned” her when she died!   Vance Havner wrote,

You haven’t lost anything when you know where it is.  Death can hide but not divide.

It’s painful to lose a loved one.  Even Christians, who intellectually know all about the glory of life after death, still have to deal with memories and the feelings of loss and grief.

b.  Comfort in mourning, Matthew 5:4

Those who mourn are fortunate! for they shall be comforted.

People mourn for all kinds of reasons:  pain, suffering, loss of any kind, etc.  This verse, though, is specifically addressing those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy and are seeking help from God; these people will find comfort.  But, there is a wonderful sense that the comfort extended to such repentant persons is not limited just to the strict context in which the statement is made.  One of the reasons why Jesus came in the first place was to offer comfort to those who needed it, first to His people, of course, but then to all who have come to Him in repentance:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind.  He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God’s favor to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies.  To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.  (Isaiah 61:1—3  TLB)

Comfort is ours right now through a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ.  That comfort, though, is eternal:

He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.  (Revelation 21:4  TLB)

c.  Hope in Christ, 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14

And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died.

The members of the Thessalonian church, many only recent converts from paganism, were concerned about what happens to those who died in the faith before Christ returns.  Will they miss out on the glories of His kingdom?

To help his friends understand what happens at death, Paul began by giving the proper attitude a Christian should manifest toward death in verse 13.  When a believer dies, those left behind should not be “full of sorrow,” meaning a prolonged period of grieving.  The idea Paul is giving is that we should in no way be filled with a sense of hopelessness when a loved one dies in the faith.  In fact, Christians should be filled with hope even in the death of a loved one.  How is this possible?  Jesus is our example!  His resurrection is the basis of our hope.   Paul, in addressing their concern, made it clear that as far as the Thessalonians were concerned, if a believer died in Christ, then they were already with Christ in glory!  Their fear—that their deceased loved ones would miss out on His glorious reign—was unfounded because those deceased loved ones were experiencing the fullness of Christ’s glory now.  And our deceased loved ones are experiencing the same thing, if they died in Christ.

There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly.  (John 14:2, 3  TLB)

3.  Leaving a legacy

a.  Service in old age, Psalm 71:5, 17, 18

Earlier we noted that a Christian should never retire from service to the Lord.  They’ll be plenty of time for rest and relaxation in Heaven.  Besides, for all those seniors thinking they can miss church, stop fighting the good fight, and stop finding avenues of service for God, there is this to contend with:

Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you.  For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it.  (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20  TLB)

Seniors have a moral obligation to continue working for the Lord until the very end because up and coming generations need to know the Truth from mature believers and they need to see it modeled from those who have lived it.

Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, your power to everyone who is to come.  (Psalm 7118  NKJV)

b.  Victory in death, 2 Timothy 4:6—8

I say this because I won’t be around to help you very much longer. My time has almost run out. Very soon now I will be on my way to heaven. I have fought long and hard for my Lord, and through it all I have kept true to him. And now the time has come for me to stop fighting and rest.  In heaven a crown is waiting for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And not just to me but to all those whose lives show that they are eagerly looking forward to his coming back again.  (TLB)

Talk about perspective!  Paul certainly had it.  He was well aware of his circumstances and he knew that the days ahead were far less than those behind.  With infinite pathos Paul wrote about his coming death and separation from those he loved.   Verse 6 has in it the imagery of a ship weighing anchor and leaving port.

Paul found comfort in the thought of his death.  He offered that comfort to Timothy.  That same comfort is for all believers who, just like Paul, have that same assurance that at death.  All of Christ’s followers will enjoy eternity in His glorious presence.

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