This February in the NAC, South East Africa region, we celebrate our senior members, who have remained steadfast through the most difficult of times and who continue to encourage others in the church and their communities with their unwavering support. This adaptation from Christian resources, doctrinal and practical writings, is a must read for all senior members.
If you are one of those “precious saints” called the “elderly”, you can thank God, for you have arrived at the apex of life. You have arrived at the top of the mountain where you can breathe the rare atmosphere of a long life of experience, knowledge, honour, and have an excellent view that none of those below you have ever seen. Many moons have come and gone in your life. You have crossed many bridges, passed many crossroads, but have come out on top. The wrinkles in your face are marks of distinction that show character traits, laugh lines, and worries. You may have lost your whistle, and you may even be a bit stooped, but thank God you can still breathe and have a sturdy heartbeat. Your beautiful gray hair marks you with honour. The Bible speaks well of you when it says, “the beauty of old men is the gray head” (Prov. 20:29). Now you can dream dreams of yesteryears and feed on the good old memories of the “good ole days.”
You came through the hard knocks of experience and can teach others a few things about life. Life has given you a wealth of knowledge not learned in books. You were not born 50 years too soon. The younger generation have not known the joys of the horse and buggy days, nor driven up to a gas station in the a Model T Ford and filled the tank with a dollar’s worth of gas. They have never had the thrill of riding in a rumble seat along the river road in the light of a full moon. None have had the joy of a one room schoolhouse where the children were attentive. Those were the days when the young ones went home and had some chores to do before supper. Most likely none have had the joy of hitching a ride on the runners of a two horse bobsled. You went to bed by the light of a candle and slept under a featherbed until you were awakened by the crowing of a rooster.
You have seen more changes in a lifetime than any generation has seen since the camel and tent days of Abraham. You saw the evolution of the automobile and witnessed the flight of an open cockpit plane to the modern space ships flying to the moon. You lived in the days before the TV and tuned in on a crystal set as you scratched around with a little wire on a rock trying to find a station. These are the days of the modern wireless fax machines where you type a letter to a missionary in Russia and it will be there as soon as you take the letter off of the machine. Computers are so well known that the children learn the use of them in the lower grades in school.
It is not a sin to get old or to be old. Aging cannot be stopped and it will go on until death overtakes us or the Lord comes for His church. Older folks have a tremendous responsibility to the younger generation coming up behind them. There is a warning that goes along with being in the elite elderly class. The tremendous amount of knowledge and experience that you have obtained through the years needs to be shared with the younger generation. Sin can overtake you and hinder you from sharing the Lord in these challenging years. It may just express itself so as to confine you to utter uselessness. You may have developed a defeatist attitude that makes you think “I am so useless. What can I do?” So you are apt to do nothing. You can be sinful in what you do not do when the opportunity presents itself. All the knowledge and experience that God has given you can be used as illustrations to reveal His truth. There are many college students that do not have or will never have what you obtained in your lifetime.
Pride often raises its ugly head during these older years and we are apt to blame all the sins of the present on the younger generation. Many of the sins of the youth have been passed down to them by the older folks. They did not create the drugs, invent the TV, raise the tobacco, make the beer and wine, invent the movies, create the modern dance with its unholy sexual gyrations, create the modern music with its syncopated beat and degrading words. We cannot blame them for bringing the theory of evolution and materialism or the modern trend of sex into our schools. It may be that we have failed the young folks in their youth. Older folks may have been guilty of the sins of impatience, indecency, irritability, criticism, moroseness, gossiping, selfishness, cantankerousness, or a bad disposition that has repelled them.
We may have been so busy enjoying ourselves making money and creating our own pleasure that we failed to notice those around us that were silently watching us and perhaps afraid to say anything or ask any questions. It is possible to have lost a vital testimony of joy in the Lord in front of them. It may be that we were too busy making a living and developing a hoarding spirit and a miserly attitude that we have lost our time to witness to them of the things in life that really count. They may not have seen what the Apostle Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). We surely have missed some golden opportunities but it is never to late to change a few things. It is never too late too serve the Lord instead of ourselves. God is merciful and will forgive our failures if we confess them to Him. He can make you as beautiful as a rose in full bloom if you will turn these latter years over to Him. These can be the golden years of your life. You can still be a blessing to be around when your life shines for Christ. People will seek you out for help, guidance, and advice. The wise counsel of older folks is precious.
Capitalise on your memory. You have lived to see more changes in one life-time, than any past generation has ever seen. You lived during the times of the development of the automobile, airplane, radio, telephone, TV, electricity and all its gadgets; modern medicines and a thousand other things. You can remember when gasoline was seven gallons for a dollar, stamps were two cents, a basket of peaches was fifty cents and all the rest that comes to your mind. You have so much to talk about from the “good old days” that you could well entertain the younger ones for hours. Do it. The younger generation has never experienced what you have gone through.
You have the advantage of perspective and can make good use of it. You have a vantage point in these golden years that the younger ones do not have. It is like standing on a mountain of years and looking over the valley of time, so that you can see relationships, connections, failures, successes, dangers, lessons that those who live in the valley of youth do not see. You can help them. Your years are now valuable for the sake of counsel and advice. What a way to serve the Lord! You are so much needed and can become a stabilising influence to this “now generation.” How do you know but what God called you “to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Moses’ best years were the last 40 of his life. Life for him began at 80 when God used him to deliver the Jews out of captivity in Egypt. He died at 120 and still a good man physically, and if it had not been for that one act of disobedience he could have taken God’s people into the promised land. “There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10).
Joshua who succeeded him likewise was amongst the elderly and led God’s people to go in and conquer the land. God said to him, “be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9).
Caleb too was one of those elderly men that God used to spy out the land. He said to Joshua at 85, “give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spoke in that day … if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said” (Josh. 14:12).
Likewise Anna, the prophetess, a widow of great age, about 84 years of age, “which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37) during the time of the birth of Christ. Surely there is room for you among these who served God.
Do not expect that you will be a Moses, or a Joshua, or even a Caleb, but there is still the possibility that God can use you if you make yourself available to Him. Someone has said that “availability” is our best gift to God. Your life in Christ can be a blessing to many that come across your path. Make sure that you radiate Jesus above all else. These latter years of your life can be the golden years. Let them shine for the Lord. God needs the elderly as well as the young people to serve Him. Thank the Lord that you are alive and able to serve in whatever way He may have for you. You cannot change your age and may even grow older if the Lord shows more grace. These may be your retirement years but do not retire from serving the Lord in some capacity. Make them a new beginning now that you have more time.
You can serve the Lord right where you are. There are many things that older folks can do. The older woman can teach the younger woman the art of being a good mother for example. The men can become deacons in the church, teach a class, or be an usher. Let your church leader know that you are available and he will find something for you to do. Begin by giving yourself completely to God. That is what it means by making yourself available.
There is always need for prayer warriors. You can be an Anna and spend much time in prayer. Every aspect of the work of the church needs prayer from the janitor to the pastor. This is especially true of missionaries on the field. Get in contact and see what they may need prayer for. Shut yourself in with God and pray. Pray for revival in your church and in our land. We surely need it.
You can take some time for correspondence. Many missionaries rarely get a letter from home. It would be like a refreshing rain in drought to them. Many are lonely and walk out to the mail box every day and have no mail. It is also true of the young folks who are away at college. Let them hear from you. Make your letters homey, and tell them about what you are doing, church activities, the weather, or just about anything. Encourage them. The pastor will give you many ways you can serve. He would be pleased to have you offer yourself to him to serve in some capacity. You could begin by making a cherry pie and taking it around to the parsonage.
Being a “senior saint,” better terminology for believers, simply means you have entered a new and wonderful phase of life with different opportunities. Retirement years can be among the most fruitful of your life for Christ, if you will make them so for Him. If you are now free from your life’s occupation and its responsibilities, you are more free to better serve the Lord. There are ways you can serve Him. Begin these years with the joy of the Lord and thank Him that He has kept you all these years and given you an opportunity to serve Him now in a different way. There is still much that you can do at your age. It need not be a time crisis for you. If you are alive, breathing, and in fairly good health, you can surely praise the Lord. Believers never die anyhow. They just pass on into eternal glory with another opportunity to serve the Lord.
* Article by Al Troester; edited by Stephen Ross. Published on Christian resources, doctrinal and practical writings