We have the privilege of keeping Pam’s mother in our home. She is 95 years old and adds a new and sometimes spirited difference behind our walls.
Doris Knight has always been a bright person, especially when it comes to numbers. As an illustration, many of her last years she has worked a difficult Sudoku puzzle every day. I have yet to do one!
Doris went to Ouachita Baptist College (now University) in Arkansas when she was just 16. She graduated and began teaching school at 19. Her college life took place during the Second World War. From that time she taught Math in high school in various places, obtained her Masters, and ended her career in New Jersey when the family had moved to help start churches. She and her husband made perhaps 30 mission trips of various kinds. They loved to minister to others, and to share the gospel along the way. There are many reasons why I could say, “When I grow up I want to be like her, and her faithful husband who is now in heaven.”
Age is relentless in its hold on us, however. The days are harder now and she finds herself sleeping much more, walking around much less and unable to do many things she had been used to doing. She still works a mean puzzle, reads usually more than one book at a time, and prays, but the days are more difficult than before. She tries to stay positive, to glorify God, to give thanks vigorously, to appreciate people’s care for her even when it is difficult or embarrassing. There is so much to commend, and we are fortunate to have her around. But we know and she knows that life on this earth in our current bodies is not to be forever. And, frankly, she doesn’t want it to be. She knows getting old is not bad, but necessary staging for the transition to something far better.
Recently I wrote something about getting older that spoke to me deeply as I prepared it. Many of us are old enough already, even if we have not reached Doris’ years. I’m so glad to be in my working years still, traveling to teach the Bible, writing articles and books, mentoring others, alongside pastoral work as an elder in a wonderful church, but most of us will experience a shift called retirement, or will adjust to our age in other ways. Since getting older is a prospect all of us will face, let’s consider what things can be like when most people turn in their spurs for that supposed “easy life.”
SHELVED OR SERVING IN THE LATTER YEARS?
Can you do much for God and his kingdom when you get old? God thinks so. He has used many older people to accomplish valuable kingdom work, recorded colorfully in both the Bible and Christian history.
Take Moses. He was 40 when he killed an Egyptian and fled to Midian. After he watched sheep for 40 more years, at 80, God called him to lead the children of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt. Add to that another 40 years in the wilderness with the disobedient Israelites before God buried him in the Moab mountains at 120! His most important years were from 80-120!
There are three great truths to be gained from this old man’s life:
1. God can take a long time to prepare us for important ministry in the kingdom, leaving our most meaningful work for our latter years. Moses’ preparation for ministry took 80 years. God thought the preparation for his work was immensely significant and so he took care to build patience and character, and toughness, for the work he designed for him to do. Old people who love Christ should get excited about this prospect. We likely won’t know what all those years are to result in while we are living them. Yet God can make it plain when the time comes. We should live optimistically realizing that there is reason to believe God can use us powerfully in the days ahead.
2. God is able to give us the mental and physical ability to work throughout our latter years if he wishes. It’s all about what God wills for our lives, and that is true regardless of age. But Moses is one example of how God can give all we need to handle the rigors and stress of leadership throughout our old age if he wishes.
George Muller was also like that. This servant of God who fed and clothed over 10,000 orphans by faith in Bristol, England, tried to be a missionary five times as a young man. God did not allow it to happen. Then, at age 70 he struck out on long treks around the globe preaching the gospel and strengthening churches until 87 years of age! Some trips were as long as two years! This was in the late 1800s, when modern conveniences were scarce and travel modes were more difficult. God kept him going for this important ministry in his old age.
The truth is, for many older people, their ambition withers before their mental and physical abilities do. Without vision, an older person can close the door prematurely to what may be their greatest contribution to the Lord. And consider as well that even with apparent diminishing abilities, God can use us in unique ways. It’s all God’s power in weak vessels.
3. God’s plan could be for us to give all our time to ministry in our latter years. Moses first 80 years were not in “full time ministry,” but his last 40 years were!
Now, being in “full time ministry” is not everyone’s calling during their normal work years, though everything we do is to be “unto the Lord.” But it might be in the latter years.
Here’s what I mean. For many of you, retirement could provide an amazing opportunity to serve Christ as a principle leader or a valued helper. Some of you could go overseas and support a missionary, for instance, using whatever skills you have. Others of you could labor extensively in your church. Some could start a new ministry meeting a need that is unaddressed. The opportunities are vast and the need is great.
Can you do much for God and his kingdom when you get old? Assume the answer is “yes!” Then dream and pray and speak to those who have the insight to guide you. Go out strongly for God.
We just heard of from a friend who gave a copy of our Pursuing God to an older friend at work. But when the man brought the book home, his son took it and burned it. He will give him another one, as well as a Bible. Please pray for this man that he will see the love of one who gave it to him and the love of God and contrast that with the son’s vitriolic reaction to God. By this brief story, we learn again how important the truth is and what kind of reactions can occur. We are so happy to be able to give such tools away to people like this young man as the Lord supplies the means to do so. Please visit our Books page to see what you might use for evangelism, teaching ministry or for your personal growth. PDFs and paperback copies are available without cost to you. Who knows what good God will do with these “little sentinels.”
Thanks for your love and prayers for so many things.