This morning at church I sat next to 89 year old Michael and asked how he is. ‘Doing very well,’ he replied. He’s involved with our local Street Pastors and is Chaplain for our Tesco’s. He’s delighted to be asked to speak at different churches. And recently I received a letter and magazine from famous evangelist David Hathaway. At 90, he has just been appointed chaplain to the Ukrainian army. ‘I’m not winding down, I’m winding up,’ he writes. 104 year old Dr Howard Tucker is noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest practising doctor, and he credits things he avoids as the reason for his longevity - Read more here
Film star Joan Collins, coming up for 90, looks so good someone said she is ‘ageing backwards’. That will make her happy because looks are important in Ms Collins’ world, but what do we, as Christians aim for in our old age? And how do we achieve it?
It’s a sensible question because even great Christian thinkers can find themselves stumped by old age. Billy Graham, John Stott, and Jeff Lucas have said they were taught about dying, but not about living in old age. Psychologists say there are two reasons we avoid thinking about it: one is that we have no experience of our own old age so can’t ‘see’ ourselves as old, and the other is that we push the notion away from us because we have such negative views of it.
How does God view old age?
As Christian believers, on any topic we align our thinking with God’s. So how does He see old age? Scriptures show that older people are part of His plan not some evolutionary failing. Our latter years are meant to be a time of ‘ripeness’ and harvest, of accumulated wisdom from a life spent with Him. Older people are to be society’s ‘elders’, protecting and encouraging the younger, bringing a cultural balance. Proverbs 20:29 says, ‘The glory of young men is their [physical] strength, And the honour of aged men is their grey head [representing wisdom and experience].’ (The AMP)
Continuing spiritual growth and intimacy with God.
Old age is a time of continuing spiritual growth and growing closer to Him and, as psalm 78 says, ‘We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.’
I like the version of Ephesians 2:10 in the Complete Jewish Bible. It says, ‘For we are of God’s making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.’ Whichever Bible you use, the meaning is clear: God has ‘works’ for you to do that don’t stop because you reach retirement age. You don’t have to go looking for them, because God has planned them already and He will bring them to you.
God has a plan for the whole of your life.
You may have to revise your understanding of ‘works’ (in some versions) and good actions. As ‘the little foxes spoil the vineyard,’ (Psalm 80:13), so the little things we do for others have far-reaching effects. Very often little things make a big difference. It’s so easy to under-estimate the effect of a word of encouragement, or a helping hand in a difficult time. If you are able, consider helping out and volunteering. Could you be a mentor in your church? There is deep gladness in doing what God has called you to do, even in a difficult situation.
Check on your soul.
Psalm 139: 23-24 says, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.’
A ‘hurtful’ way is one that allows negative thoughts, such as anxiety, regrets, anger, feelings of guilt and failure. The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to make us like Jesus, and He convicts compassionately, and without judgement. Many people in old age are carrying regrets and guilt from their past, but Jesus Christ has dealt with our past: ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin,’ 1 John 1: 7 (ESV). Allow the Holy Spirit to do His work, and give acidic thoughts to God. Romans 8:29 says, ‘For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.’
If you find yourself thinking that you don’t want to be a burden, consider that we are told to carry one another’s burdens – allow yourself the privilege of having a burden for another to carry.
Invest in your family and friends, now!
Invest time and effort in family and friends, especially church fellowship, building good relationships and contacts. Loneliness is a sad factor of many older people’s lives with devastating effects. Strengthen your links now: don’t leave it too late.
Step fully into God’s path for you.
Being anxious and stressed are not only risk factors for our emotional and spiritual health, but also for developing dementia. They are indeed, a ‘hurtful way.’ An important verse to dwell on is Proverbs 3:5: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.’