“Old. Just the sound of it incites an almost immediate negative response,” wrote Dee Bowman in The Joy of Growing Old in Christ.
“Old cars break down. Old houses demand work. Old clothes get holes in them. Old equipment doesn’t work right. Old trash stinks. Old tires get slick and dangerous.” And on and on the list goes.
But as Dee suggested there’s a good side to some things that are old. Like a comfortable old pair of shoes, an old shirt, and a grungy old pair of jeans to relax around the house. Of course, there’s nothing better than connecting and enjoying good conversion with an old friend.
Today’s my birthday. I’m turning 72. And I wonder when I will feel old. Maybe I’m like the person who quipped, “To me, old age is always a person 15 years older than I am.” I think a lot of us can relate to Jonathan Swift’s observation, “Every man desires to live long, but no man wants to be old.”
I’m part of that intrepid group of Baby Boomers who are known for their desire to stay young. Look young. And act young. In fact, some have advanced the idea that 70 is the new 50. We struggle with the phrase “senior citizen.” (Although, I’m not adverse to accepting the discount at restaurants). However, all of this is denying the inevitable.
The sobering words of the Psalmist come to mind today.
The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
While I’ve been blessed with good health, still feel energetic and am enthusiastic about life, one day, like all others, age with catch up with me. Life on earth will end. And I will fly away. But in the meantime, let me be used for God’s purpose.
I was thinking about a sermon I prepared several years entitled: “Honoring Senior Saints–They Still Bear Fruit in Old Age.” It was designed to encourage the older people in the congregation. I guess I’m now one of them!
Currently, I’m reading The Winter of Life: Redeeming the Time, by Sewell Hall. By the way, he’s old. He’s 89. In it he uses several Bible characters both to remind and warn us about the dangers and delights of growing older.
Moses was 80 and Aaron 83 when they led Israel out of Egypt. Caleb was 85 when he said, “Give me this mountain” as he staked his claim in the promised land of Canaan. Daniel was probably over 80 when he served as Governor of Babylon and thrown into the den of lions. Both Simeon and Anna who were excited to see baby Jesus, serve as an example of faithful, older folks. And of course, “Paul, the aged,” teaches us how to deal with the thorns in the flesh, physical suffering and to “press on toward the prize.” Older people can still bear fruit for the Lord.
While I don’t want to be that old preacher who thinks he’s just as good as he ever was, and refuses to step aside, I still want to be used and bear fruit as long as possible. Whatever wisdom, knowledge or skills I may possess, I trust that I may still use them to the glory of God and for the edification of His people. I know I must release the past with whatever mistakes I’ve made or successes I’ve enjoyed. I must accept the present. And like Paul, “press on.”
Currently, we’re engaged in an itinerant ministry, traveling and combining it with preaching opportunities. In the past 22 months, we’ve been to 23 states, 10 countries and visited and/or preached for 35 different congregations.
2020 is already off to a busy beginning, having preached at 6 different congregations and towns throughout Florida. Soon, however, we are off to Tennessee, Georgia, West Virginia, and Ohio for meetings and preaching appointments. Then we will spend the summer again in Canada working with churches in Ontario.
We’re excited about an opportunity to preach in Brandon, England, for four weeks in August. Following that we hope to travel to Scotland and Ireland. Of course, all of these plans are tempered with the caveat, “if the Lord wills” (Jas. 4:13-15).
I’m grateful on this birthday to celebrate it with my wonderful wife, Norma Jean, who’s been my faithful partner on this journey for the past 51+ years. As we both focus on the future, we want to keep our eyes on the eternal goal. And to go hand in hand to a land where we will never grow old.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman