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.
Does anybody know who said that? Caleb. That’s right, 85 year old Caleb! Makes you wonder if the old man found the fountain of youth!
Even though ours is a youth obsessed culture with most of the attention on the young, the reality is that we are in the midst of an incredible senior surge that will only strengthen as us boomers are added into the mix!
Do you realize that during much of human history only 1 out of 10 lived older than 65. Today its more than 8 out of 10 zoom past that milestone (that’s why they are called zoomers – lol – they keep zooming and zipping along breaking through 80, 90 and increasingly 100).
In 1900, 4% of us were over 65. Today its 14%, by 2020 the number will surge past 17% and by 2040 when the last of the boomers retire it will be a whopping 25%.
600 million people in the world were over 65 years in 2000 and just recently we passed a huge milestone where we now have more seniors then youth.
This is the fastest growing segment of the population, increasing twice as fast as the general population.
Yet you would never guess it if you were to go to most of our churches!
Most churches cater to the young and restless. Everything about the modern church seems to be for those much younger than seniors from the style of music, the length of time left standing, the types of sermons presented (if you can call them sermon anymore) and all the way to resource allocation incl. how the kinds of pastors and workers we hire.
Please don’t get me wrong. We love our youth; we wouldn’t want a church without them; we love their energy, their zest for life and their commitment to the Lord!
But what about the seniors?
I want to say to us that the elderly matter! Every human being regardless of age has in them the divine spark, were created for a reason and have meaning & purpose in life!
So what lies at the basis of why seniors matter in our church?
At the heart of this is the Christian view of aging - or better put, a biblical view of living life; a view of life that focuses on our identity and lies at the heart of how to get the most out of life regardless of age and condition.
A biblical philosophy of living that centers around three key questions:
Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
WHO AM I?
This is the question all of us ask: Who am I? Of course, this is more than name, sin number and vocation!
Two things need to be kept in mind:
1. WHO AM I: My shared identify
This is what you share in terms of your identity with all of us.
No matter who you are, no matter how old or young, you have this going for you:
• you are God’s special creation set up apart from anything else in the natural world (“God created man in his own image, male and female He created them” Gen. 1:27) . Doesn’t matter if you lying in a nursing home bed or are running a marathon. You are a special creation.
• we are created to be part of God’s family (“you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” Eph 2:19). You are part of God’s family as much as any other believer
• we have a unique and special purpose in this world (“ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph 2:10). We are not taking up time only but have purpose and meaning – which brings me to the second thing to be kept in mind:
2. WHO AM I: My unique identity
If in fact I have been chosen for a unique purpose in life, then I also have a unique identity that no one else has. Just like my fingerprint and DNA are unique to me so is who I am in this world!
What that is only I can figure out! In fact, the purpose of life is to glorify God by figuring that out!
It says in the Scriptures that “God gave some to be…..” (Eph 4:11) and then lists a number of roles; elsewhere gifts or special abilities are listed that you and I need to discover about ourselves
All of it filtered through the unique set of our experiences, inclinations, character traits, temperaments, inherited bends and opportunities in life.
Which means that even if we all shared the same gifts (which we don’t) all of us would have a different divine destiny because we are all so different!
These unique contributions are to be for the glory of God (that he might show you off) and for the benefit of humanity (that others might greatly benefit by who you are –so much so that if you were gone they would miss you like crazy)!
BTW, none of this has to do with vocation or career! This is not about your career or being in the workforce!
You don’t have to be in the workforce to be productive - all you have to be is active in your strengths with the energy level that you have!
You can be retired and make a difference!
That brings me to the second big question of life: Why Am I Here?
WHY AM I HERE?
How many seniors have asked this question: Why am I still here? What hasn’t God taken me yet? I am just in the way and a burden to others an so I’d rather not be here.
The worldview would say those are valid questions and in some countries has led to age-based euthanasia – the killing of the elderly who are seen as having no purpose.
I want to tell you that as long as you have breath you have purpose in life! Even when near death, one of the greatest purposes in life is to die well; to show the young how to pass away with faith, dignity and hope!
But this is not about dying well. This is about living well, well into your senior years!
I love what Win & Charles Arn said:
“Because God has given me love, I am motivated to respond. Because God has endowed me with certain unique gifts and talents, I feel compelled to use them in His service. Because I belong to God, I am called to be obedient to Him and do what He commands. I am called to serve and to be a good steward of my time, talents and resources during my entire life” Catch the Age Wave
Here me when I say that: “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Ro. 12:1).
So dear senior, you have a calling on your life as much as our children, youth and those in the prime of life do!
Nothing has changed with God’s purposes for you just because you are older. If anything, the years should have provided you with additional insight and wisdom on how to remain effective even as you get older.
So isn’t age a factor here? Doesn’t retirement mean that someone else does it and God has no longer a purpose for me? I can’t believe that God has placed you on earth to serve him for just 65 years and then spend the rest of your life in a rocking chair? I just can’t see that that is God’s purpose!
Now I know you are not going to have the energy of the youth! I don’t have the energy of the youth either but I can tell you that I feel as though I am only now coming into the years of greatest effectiveness.
As I have honed my skills, deepened my wisdom, added on abilities and made all kinds of experiences, I find that I am entering into my decades of destiny where its coming together for the purposes that God has for my life!
Some of you may have heard of the name Dr. Donald McGavran. He was a great church growth expert and he saw his most productive days well into his retirement. This is what he said:
“We don’t retire as Christians. God never excludes us from His call to reach the world just because our hair is gray – or even if we have serious disabilities that limit the extend of our physical activity”
“Our life doesn’t end when we retire. Our life goes on. We no longer have to work to earn enough money to live on: but we can do all kinds of good things that God wants done….there are so many people we can love! There so much change in the world that we can bring about if only we will recognize that this is our task. This is the reason that we have all the experience that we have had. This is the reason we were born!”
So why am I here? To bring glory to God in every way I can and to serve wherever I can as long as I have breath in me!
So, not only Who Am I and Why Am I Here but also:
3. WHERE AM I GOING?
Pic of mountain climber
And this question of Where Am I Going is key to a biblical philosophy of life since it suggests that far from old age being our curtain call, it is actually the stepping-stone into the next life!
I realize that it doesn’t always work that way – that sometimes the young die – but the natural rhythm of life is that it’s the old who die and that death ushers in the next reality and in many ways brings to close the rehearsal for what we are really meant to be!
In many ways life is like climbing a mountain – the higher we go, the tougher it gets but the better the view!
The older we get, the harder it gets but the more clearly we see that beyond this peak lies an entire eternity of peaks to climb in a mountain range that nothing in this life comes close to!
Sometimes when you are the bottom of the mountain just getting started, you don’t have the advantage of seeing what is just beyond the hill that you are climbing!
As you continue to climb well, going higher and higher up the mountain of time, not only do you gain a perspective of life beyond that few of us have, but you also inspire the rest of us to keep climbing ourselves.
And so we want to say to you: Please finish well; you are what we look up to! We need you to be our heroes; to show us how to age well and how to prepare for the next life in a way that inspires us to do the same.
This is not about dying, nor preparing for death. This is about continuing to live life well even as you get older!
I love Paul’s words in Phil. 1:22-25
“ For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith”
We know you have heaven on your mind and we know that for you its gain but if you go on living well it means fruitful labor. We know that you are torn between the two but by being here on earth it will be for the progress and joy of the faith for the rest of us!
The rest of us – the young and not so young – we know that the Scriptures make it clear that we are to honor you! We are instructed to “not rebuke an older man harshly” (I Tim 5) and to be “submissive to those who are older” (I Pet 5) but we also know that seniors are to “be temperate, worthy of respect, self controlled, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance”
So while we respect you, honor and love you and want you to have a special place in our church we also need for you to provide us with a great example of a life dedicated to the Lord!
And that brings me a couple of living breathing examples of this!
Zophar was one of Job’s friends. Job, older himself, was looking for guidance among his friends and who better than someone his age or older. In fact, Job, looking to his wiser, older friend said: ”Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” (Job 12:14).
Yet, as the story unfolds Zophar is among those who though older do not proof themselves to be wiser. He ends up being the more impetuous and dogmatic of the friends.
It is in fact a far younger man who steps up t the plate much later on – a man by the name of Elihu said:
“I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.” (Job 32:6-9)
What that points to is that while the elderly are to be respected for the many years of life lived there is no automatic guarantee for wisdom.
In fact, Elihu is right in that it’s the Spirit of God in us from whom our wisdom comes. An older person who has allowed the Spirit to become dimmed, while still respected, will be very limited in terms of dispensing wisdom!
The point is that combining years of experience with an active, growing relationship with God in our senior years will bring about life-giving wisdom that young and old seek out!
You see it clearly in the life of older people like Joshua. I know that we don’t think of Joshua as an older man. After all, he was the young man that followed old Moses but all young men someday become old men.
So in the years when his head was grey, it says “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the Lord said to him, ‘You are old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over” (Josh 13:1)
Now you would think that this would be the end of Joshua’s work and that he would fade off into retirement. But far from it! If you read on into the chapter you would find that God gives him clear instructions on how to continue the work of dividing up the land!
His best years were indeed his older years!
And Joshua was not the only one. Another one was Caleb who in his old age still had a hankering to lay claim to his spiritual inheritance.
Look at what he said in Josh 14:10-12:
“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 wilderness. 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.”
That’s the kind of people you do great exploits with! Those are the kinds of seniors I want to hang out with! Give me the Joshua’s and Caleb’s of our times and we will build churches together and see the kingdom advance!
I want to signal to our seniors in the loudest possible way that you absolutely matter to our church! We not only make room for you nor do we only tolerate you but we welcome you, we celebrate who you are and what you bring to us!
Please inspire us with your service for the Lord!
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.