When did we in the Christian Community decide that age was a relevant factor in whether we could serve the Lord? Now before you brush this idea aside, have you noticed that more and more older folks seem to be yielding their mantle of service to kids (I mean young people)? I know that we slow down as we age. I get that there comes a time when we decide to let others do what we used to do. But quitting altogether? Just because our hair has changed color?
Come on, we’re better than that.
I’m not as young as I used to be, and quite honestly, that’s a good thing for me. With age has come a certain amount of wisdom. One of my mentors used to say of me, “He’s got more zeal than knowledge.” I laughed when he said it, but now I understand what he was talking about. When the hair turns color, and the bones begin to creak, the back starts to stoop, and the, wait, where was I going with this? Oh, yes, there is nothing wrong with getting older. In fact, if you don’t die first, you’ll experience it too.
While I know it wasn’t original with her, before my 89-year-old mother died, she would often tell me “getting old ain’t for cowards.” I’m starting to get it. While I’m a long shot from 89 (and likely a long shot to reach 89), there are some things that I’ve heard for some time, that I’m just now starting to really understand. And here’s probably the biggest one: advanced age doesn’t have to translate to inactivity.
Have you looked in the Bible at the number of people God used in their advanced years? I mean, God used Abraham (100 years old) and Sarah (90 years old) to give birth to a nation. And then there’s Moses, whose service to the Lord didn’t really take off until he was 80 years old. God used that “old” man to lead His people during the last 40 of his 120 years. Now before we go any further – we must admit the fact that age doesn’t make us wiser. In fact, I’m not so sure that Solomon didn’t get dumber with age. Look at the facts: “But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites--from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David” (1 Kings 11:1-4).
But, if we’re willing to follow the Lord, there will always be a place for us to serve and do so effectively. Consider the words of the Psalmist: “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (Psalm 92:12-15). Did you see it? “They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.” Age need not be a factor in whether we are still productive in the Lord’s service. For the follower of Christ, our past should never look better to us than our future. After all, our future includes Heaven!
I don’t know what I’ll be doing when I get “really” old, but of these two things I’m quite sure. Number one: I’ll be doing something for the Lord. It may not be pastoring, preaching, or teaching. Maybe I’ll open the church and lock the doors when folks leave. I may keep the nursery or mow the church yard. I appreciate the people who do those things now, and maybe I’ll be among their number. Whatever the Lord gives me, I want to do it right and be faithful. Number two: I’m reasonably sure that I will be somewhat of an embarrassment to my children. I’ll surely say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, well, you get the idea. And I’ll be honest, I’m sorta looking forward to that.
But from now until then, I want to be like Caleb. Every time I read this, I love the tenacity of that guy more and more. Here’s what this “old guy” said to Joshua: “And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said’” (Joshua 14:10-12). And how did Joshua respond? “And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance” (Joshua 14:13).
Getting on in years?
Think you’re used up?
And get up!
We’ve got work to do!
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.