Know Your Bible

VOL. 5                           July 2, 2006                           NO. 24

TROUBLED OVER GROWING OLD

    The Bible addresses the needs of people in every state of life. In Titus 2:1-6, Paul gave instructions for "aged men," "aged women," "young women," and "young men." Each age has its own special challenges and growing older has its share. One wag said, "It is not so bad to get old, its just inconvenient sometimes." But, if the normal course of life continues, we shall grow old.

    As people turn from the middle years of life to face the sunset, they become aware that their time is shorter and respond in different ways. Some make vain attempts to recapture youth and give credence to the old saying that "there is no fool like an old fool." Some become gloomy and pessimistic interspersed with bitterness. Some become selfish and overly demanding of attention and make life hard for their families. Some become sharply critical of nearly everybody and everything. But some stay young at heart, interested in life to the very end, and as active as they are able to be. These truly adorn the golden years with grace.

Old Age To Be Honored: -- "Thou shalt honor the old man" Lev. 19:32. David "died in a good old age, full of days, riches and honor" 1 Chron. 29:28. "The glory of young men is their strength, the beauty of old men is the grey head" Prov. 20: 29. Paul taught Timothy to treat older men as fathers and older women as mothers (1 Tim. 5:1,2). This places great responsibility on the older to live up to this honor. Neither was this intended to breed pride in the mere fact of age. In comparison to God our days are "as an hand-breadth, mine age is as nothing before Thee" (Psa. 39:5). The aged are not excused for sinful behavior. The aged and the young would suffer alike in the captivity (2 Chron. 36:16,17). The older must not "despise" the young (1 Tim. 4:12). Eliphaz foolishly belittled Job for his youth (Job 15:7-10). But there is a deference and respect which the younger should accord the older.

Trials And Temptations Of The Sunset Years: -- Infirmity Of The Body: -- As we grow older, our bodies undergo significant changes. Eccl. 12:3-5 symbolically pictures these changes. When youth has passed and "the years draw nigh" then hands tremble, legs weaken (there is fear of falling and breaking a hip), teeth weaken and become few, sight dims, hearing is impaired, sleep is restless, the voice becomes weak, fear of heights limits us, hair turns grey or white, what used to be light is now a burden, sexuality fades, as "man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets." That is the reality of aging. But as the "outward man" is perishing, the "inward man" is to be "renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16-18). When Jacob was old and his eyesight dim, he was still grateful for his blessings and wanted to bless the sons of Joseph (Gen. 48:8-11).

The Danger Of Forsaking The Lord: -- How sad it is to see men who have served God faithfully in the strength of youth and middle life, turn away from Him in the older years. "And it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father" (1 Kgs. 11:4). Timothy was warned against "old wives fables" (1 Tim. 4:7). When the family is grown, there is more time on your hands and the responsibilities of life have lessened, there is a temptation to spend too much time in idle talk, gossip, and running down the younger generation. Don't!

Loneliness: -- The feeling of being neglected (whether real or imagined) can sour the spirit. This becomes the bane of many older people and of those who care for them. While you have time on your hands, younger ones are as busy with life as you used to be. Do you remember when you were younger? How much time did you spend with lonely older people? Are you accessible? Or does your manner intimidate others and cause them to back off?

Insensitivity: -- The fact that we are older does not exempt us from civility. What the Bible says about "gentleness" applies to the older too (Eph. 4:31,32). Some older people have developed the habit of bluntness to the point of injury. Age is no excuse for deliberately hurting others.

The Aged Can Bear Fruit For The Lord: -- Moses was eighty when called to Egypt to bring God's people out of bondage (Ex. 7:7). His brother, Aaron, who went with him, was eighty three. It is interesting that among the excuses offered by Moses, he did not say, "I am too old." Caleb was eighty-five when he asked for and received his inheritance at Hebron (Josh. 14:10-14). Anna was eighty-four when she prophesied about Jesus (Lk. 2:36-38). Paul described himself to Philemon as "Paul the aged" (Phile. 9). "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing" (Psa. 92:13,14).

    The counsel of the aged ought to be sought and respected. Rehoboam asked for and heard the counsel of the older men, but rejected it in favor of the rash advise given by his peers. His peers were wrong, the older men were right and the king so angered the people that he lost ten out of twelve tribes, a division beyond repair. Paul said the aged women should set the example of holiness and should "teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, tht the Word of God be not blasphemed" (Tim. 2:3-5). There are two things to be observed here: (1) Older women have the duty to teach the younger women, and (2) the younger women need to listen and learn. Yet, age does not guarantee that counsel is always right. Remember the old prophet who lied to the young "man of God" and cost him his life (1 Kgs. 14:11-18). The counsel of the aged must conform to divine truth or it is useless.

    Many congregations have suffered for lack of older members to lead the way. Many churches have been without adequate leadership because older members retire and move to warmer climates to fish, play golf, or putter in gardens, or to attempt to "go back home" after being away for thirty or forty years. This creates a gap in leadership in churches which need a good mix of ages, including older and experienced elders, deacons, and teachers. May I ask a question? What is the retirement age in the kingdom of God?

The Ideal: -- "Honor widows that are widows indeed." She is one who "trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day" (1 Tim. 5:3,5). Those "taken into the number" (enrolled as recipients of care from the church, 1 Tim. 5:16), must be "threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work" (1Tim. 5:9,10). The presence of such older woman in any church is a real asset to the cause. "Aged men" are to be "sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience" (Ti. 2:2). Younger ears are listening and younger eyes are watching. The kind of men Paul described here are a treasure in any congregation.

    As we near the end of the journey, while our bodies have slowed and weakened, may our spirits quicken as we glance backward to count our blessings and savor our memories, and then look ahead to the precious promises of the gospel and to an inheritance which is "incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:3,4). "For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night...The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow: for we are soon cut off, and we fly away...So teach us to number our days, tht we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psa. 90:4,10,12).

    When we have "gone the last mile of the way," when the last deed has been done, when the last word has been said, "Oh bear me away on your snowy wings to my immortal home."

---Connie W. Adams

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