If we live, we'll get there. Our hair will either turn gray, or it will turn loose. Our step will falter, our eyes will dim, our strength will fail. It is the way of all the earth (Ecclesiastes 12:3-7). This stage of life reminds us that this old world is not a good place to set up permanent residence. It was never intended to be man's retirement home. It's just a training ground for the soul, a parade field for the spectacle of those who inhabit heavenly places (Hebrews 12:1); it's a prep school for the final exam, a planning session for the business of eternity (Hebrews 9:27). This life is a trial run for the one that really counts (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
The devil is busy preaching to the senior generation. He's lying, of course (he always does, John 8:44). Nonetheless, sometimes his messages take root in minds that should be aware of his tricks (2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:14). What lies does Satan peddle among senior saints?
"You're all washed up and useless." Age does take its toll. When Mickey Mantle was sixty-one, he was approached by an autograph-seeking middle-aged man and his little boy. The man had tears in his eyes when he said, "Son, it took me thirty years to get here to shake this man's hand. This is the greatest baseball player who ever lived." The boy looked at Mantle, then turned to his dad and said, "Daddy, that's an old man." No one can stop the aging process, but we can keep ourselves useful. Jacob made mistakes as a youth but used his later years admirably. Many of us can relate to him. If we could rewind the video of our lives, we'd do some editing. If we replayed life's "game," we'd have a mulligan or two. But one thing we can say for Jacob, until his dying day, he stayed "in the saddle." He saw old age as a time to help others (Genesis 47:10). In fact, he died worshipping God and blessing his family (Hebrews 11:21) -- what a wonderful epitaph! It is sad when seniors feel that there is nothing left for them to do. God said, "The righteous . . . shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing" (Psalm 92:12-14). Some of the world's great deeds were done by those past retirement age:
Noah lived six hundred years before God called him (Genesis 6); Abraham and Sarah were almost a century old when Isaac was born (Genesis 21); and Moses was eighty when God sent him to lead Israel. Though Moses made excuses, he never tried to excuse himself because he was too old (Exodus 4:10). (Neither should we.)
Commodore Vanderbilt, between the age of seventy and eighty-three, added a hundred million dollars to his fortune.
Tennyson was eighty-three when he wrote, "Crossing the Bar."
Verdi wrote, "Ave Maria" at eighty-five.
Cato began studying Greek at eighty. When asked why he began such a difficult language at that advanced age, he stated it was because he had waited too long to start any younger.
We live in a time when we can be productive for many years. Only a third of the one million people in the U.S. over ninety live in nursing homes. Don't give up on life too soon. Caleb was eighty-five when he requested permission to drive giants off a mountain (Joshua 14:6-12). Why, at his age? Because he saw a need. He still had faith in God (14:10) and himself (14:11-12). You may not be able to do all you used to, but you can now do much you did not know to do then. "She hath done what she could" (Mark 14:8) is always the right formula for pleasing God. Younger Christians need your positive example (Matthew 5:14-16). We know you worship when you do not feel well, for instance, and it encourages us to come.
"You're too old to learn anything and too old to change." At the end of his life, Paul still desired books to read (2 Timothy 4:13; cf. 4:6-8; Philemon 9). We never get too old to learn. The old have advantages over the young (Job 32:7; 8:8-10; 12:12; 1 Kings 12:6-8), but even they still have much to learn. Accumulating years is not the same as amassing wisdom. Someone said, "Gray matter solves more problems than gray hair." Keep studying God's Word (Acts 17:11); the things you learn this month might make a difference in eternity (John 8:24). Some became Christians or returned to God in the last year of life. Is there any Bible command you have yet to obey? Do you need to return to God? If so, follow through before opportunities are gone (Galatians 6:10).
Don't use the old excuse, "I'm too old to change now." Anyone can change. Jesus and John put no chronological qualifiers on their "whosoever" invitations (Matthew 11:28; Revelation 22:17). We can change at any age (cf. Philippians 4:13). Take Noel Johnson, for instance. He was in sad shape at age seventy-two. He smoked and drank, was forty pounds overweight, had high blood pressure, gout, arthritis, bursitis and a heart ailment. His life insurance canceled him, and his doctor warned him to do nothing strenuous. His son challenged him to start walking, so he defied his doctor and took some short walks. These developed into runs, and the San Diego resident ended up running in the New York City Marathon eight times! His personal best was 5 hours, 42 minutes. At ninety-two, he felt like a kid and said his only regret is that his doctor didn't live long enough to cheer him on. If you need to make a change -- especially a spiritual one -- do it now (2 Corinthians 6:2)!
"Live in the past, the best days are gone." Often our idealistic perception of the past isn't too realistic. Griff Niblack said, "If you're yearning for the good old days, just turn off the air conditioning." The time comes to retire from a job if we wish, but we never retire from God's service (Revelation 2:10)! Retirement just gives more time to serve God and man. Most of us, regardless of age, have wasted too many years; therefore, we need to make good use of what's left (Ephesians 5:16). Even if health fails and we are bedridden, we can pray. (Prayer is the most a Christian can do at any age.) Keep looking ahead, these are good days, too.
"You've earned the right to be a grump." A sour disposition is unattractive and inexcusable at any age. If we allow disappointments, heartaches and obstacles to make us cynical and critical, then we have missed Christ's message. He came to give joy (Philippians 4:4; Romans 12:12; Acts 5:41; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). Even if the body weakens, the spirit should grow stronger (2 Corinthians 4:16). Solomon said, "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31; Genesis 47:7-10). The devil has no happy old people, but Jesus has plenty!
"Your faith is strong enough, you can coast from here on out." The Christian racecourse taxes every saint (Hebrews 12:6; 2 Timothy 3:12), but perhaps no part is harder than the "stretch run." When health fails, and emotional battle scars tend to embitter, we need strong faith more than ever. We must give diligence to make our "calling and election sure" (Hebrews 2:1) and plow to the end of the row without looking back (Luke 9:62). As we face each setting sun, let's be able to say confidently, "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Romans 13:11). No tragedy is greater than an old person's denying the faith (2 Peter 2:20-22; Ezekiel 18:26). Don't get lost in sight of home!
In life, it's not how you start but how you finish that counts. On opening day of the 1954 baseball season, the Milwaukee Braves visited the Cincinnati Reds. Two rookies began major league careers that day. The Reds won 9-8 as Jim Greengrass hit four doubles in his first game -- a sensational debut! The rookie starting in left field for the Braves went 0 and 5. Not a very auspicious start for a young fellow named Henry Aaron! You may have had a shaky start, too, but you can still end up in God's "hall of fame."