Recently, I was sitting next to a guy at a meeting when an older gentleman came up to say hello to the man I was talking to.
The older man joked about how old he was now, which was in his late 70s or 80s. Then he said something that really stood out to me. He proudly said, “You know there’s only one good thing about being this old. Only one! I’m closer than ever to being in heaven.”
Instead of thinking, “How sweet. Pawpaw is ready to go see Jesus,” my first thought was, “What a waste!” Because if he truly means what he said, and he was emphatic, he’s saying that he has nothing to give or offer here.
Understand this dude was getting around like a spry 60-year-old and was still sharp as a tack, as we say back home!
To make matters worse, he had been a pastor for many years. Yes, I know you can argue that at this age people are entitled to long to be with family who are already in heaven and to focus on eternity.
But I would argue that if we are given that many years to grow in the Lord, then it becomes more and more imperative that we invest all these many years of godly wisdom and experiences in the generations behind us.
I don’t know about you, but I love to hear stories from elderly saints who still continue to seek the Lord!
Towards the end of his life Paul had a little something to say about this in Philippians 1 (NIV):
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 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! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 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.
This is a life well spent! Selfishly he wanted to be in the unfiltered presence of God, but Paul knew that younger believers needed him to remain, being that solid spiritual pillar worthy of imitating. That’s kingdom focus. That’s what I want to be now and in every season that God allows me to walk into.
In my late 30s, when I first became aware that I was no longer a youth, the Lord brought Psalm 71 to my attention. He used this passage to help me stop focusing on the passing of my youth and to see aging as an opportunity to show God to even more people.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come (NIV).
There’s another pastor who is currently in his 70s and is actively discipling, investing, teaching and influencing thousands of younger pastors.
He isn’t simply romanticizing the past or idly thinking about the future. He is affecting the future by declaring God’s power to the next generation. His example is one that pushes me!
You see, as a former student pastor, my mid-life crisis just about took the wind out of my sails. I really questioned if there was spiritual effectiveness after 40! (Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, but at least I didn’t buy a red convertible to make me feel better.)
This is why the words of that first elderly pastor struck a chord with me. It sounded like he quit having a Kingdom-minded focus.
At one point I was prone to do the same. But God has called us to do more and to be more at all ages and stages of life for His Glory.
How has God displayed His power in your life? Who have you told about it? The next generation needs to know what God has done and continues to do. Let’s not waste the time that God is giving us.
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