A few years ago, I was in a church lobby after a service. A boy about eight years old asked me: "What is the one thing that everybody in the world is doing right now?" I made several guesses but they were all wrong. Finally, I said "I give up, what is it?" He smiled and said, "We are all getting older!"
I got my Medicare card a couple of years ago and I am on Social Security. As I get older and read my Bible each day, I am coming to a greater understanding of two things: God's sovereignty and my choices.
Certainly, God is one who sovereignly gives life and ends life. But the paradox is that He also has given us some choice in the matter too. The Bible also teaches that you can add to your life. Proverbs 3:2:
"for they (obeying God's commandments)
will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity." Proverbs 10:27:
"The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short." Proverbs 9:11:
"For through me (wisdom)
your days will be many, and years will be added to your life." It looks like we can do some things to lengthen our lives.
Since we are all aging, I share
ten lessons I am learning from God's word and from others who follow God's Word about aging gracefully:
1. Have a divine purpose. You can't become a success all by yourself. Get God's help to help you achieve and persevere. Only when you have a life devoted to God will you be truly successful. If you want to be happy, connect your life to God and not to people or things. Don't let yourself be controlled by what others think. Pleasing others and fulfilling their expectations won't fulfill. Be who you were created to be. Find your purpose in looking upward and living for a higher purpose that will last beyond this life. Matthew 6:33 says:
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
2. Develop a vibrant walk with Christ. In
Psalm 91:16, God promises God-followers this: "With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." I have read about every book ever written by Billy Graham or about Billy Graham. He lived to age 99. I think Billy Graham's walk with the Lord had something to do with his longevity. He wrote:
"Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion - it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ."
When you have a deep walk with God and you are striving to become more Christ-like, life becomes more meaningful and joyous. The more you yield your life to Christ, the more stress leaves. When you let God lead your life, wisdom, faith, and blessing will flow into your life. When you allow God's Spirit to control your life, your will be strong enough to handle life and death. When you found your life on Christ, gratitude in excess will emanate from your life. Colossians 2:6-7 says:
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
3. Plan for old age.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-12 says there is: "a time and a season for everything." When people are out of season, their lives are out of "sync" too. Here is a general plan for a good old age:
- Youth is for preparation and education. Youth is for acquiring skills, gaining wisdom, and developing good habits. So if you are young, use your youth to find a work ethic, discipline, people skills, humility, ministry, and get training for life.
- Early adulthood is for establishing a career and a family. Take your diplomas and training put them to work in the marketplace. Find God's mate and build a family on God's principles. Find a career that you love, will pay you, and willhonor God.
- Adulthood is for building on the foundation. Maximize your career advancement and your accrued experience for greater impact. Make daily investments into your faith, your career, your family, and your ministry for Christ. Over time this will compound and build for your old age. These things will satisfy your soul.
- Late adulthood is for packing away your assets and using your experience and gifts for God and others. Many people retire too early, play too much, and become sedentary. A friend of mine says: "Retire early, die early." I think it is not about the date of your retirement. It is what you do with your retirement. So, use your later years for good and for God! Serve the Lord in your old age!!!
If you use your youth wisely, your old age won't be painful. Ecclesiastes 12:1 says: "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach ..." Some of us older ones have had to play "catch up." But if you are young, use your youth wisely now. If you live the age and stage in which you are, your life will be far more blessed. Don't let addictions, folly, godlessness, and other things take you off the "straight and narrow road the road that leads to life..." (Matthew 7:14).
4. Strive for wisdom and faithfulness. In
Proverbs 3:16, wisdom is personified as a woman calling to us. This verse says of wisdom that: "Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor." So look ahead to find and live God's will for your life.
How do you want to spend your final years of life? You are making that decision now by the choices you are making. Many people had a terrible childhood but they can have a good life. Let the past be the past. Make your life about gathering more wisdom and becoming more faithful.
Job, the man of suffering, asked (12
:12): "Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long-life bring understanding?" The answer is "yes" but only if you make your life about finding God's wisdom and being faithful. Start the quest now. Get some spiritual mentors. Read some good books. Develop a prayer life. Read 5 psalms every day and one chapter of Proverbs every day. Leave your past hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Strive for more wisdom and to become more faithful.
I have two aged friends who were retired pastors. One spent the first year of his retirement reading a file of nasty letters and complaints that he collected over the years. It so embittered him that he withdrew from family and friends. Anger, anxieties, and addictions destroyed his life and his joy. He wasted his life and died an early death. The other pastor continued to study God's Word Bible, prayed even more diligently, mentored some young men, preached and served the Lord, drew even closer to God, published a few books, and enjoyed his grandchildren. He lived to be over 90 years old! One man was foolish and the other was wise. One man was disloyal to the Lord and the other was faithful. Which man do you want to be like?
5. Take good care of your temple. 1 Corinthians 6:19 asks the question:
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." This means that your body is the sanctuary of God, the place where God dwells. So, if we are clogging up our arteries, not strengthening our muscles, destroying our hearts, shooting up our glucose, or causing harm to our brains, we are destroying the temple of God. When I was growing up, many people applied this verse to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. It was legalism, but they were medically right. Now medical experts tell us this might also apply to jelly donuts, greasy hamburgers, cheesecake, and so many things! I'm not a legalist but it is good wisdom to get that stuff out of your life!
A few years ago, I read a book called Aging Well. It is a compendium of information from physicians at the MacArthur Institute, the leading medical authority on gerontology. Their comprehensive and extensive research showed that longevity is 25% genetic and 75% lifestyle. Heredity is a ¼ but your diet and exercise have a ¾ effect on how long you might live. When we choose to eat healthy and exercise our bodies, we are making choices that touch our finances, time, energy, efficiency, and so much more.
Don't be hobbled by bad health choices of your youth. Don't spend much of your later years in hospitals and care facilities because you were foolish with your body. If you live healthy, God in His sovereignty might bless you with longer life, so take care of your temple!
6. Put God in charge of your finances. It is sad to watch old people who were foolish with their money. They lived for the moment, for excesses, and on credit. Then, when they come to old age, they have nothing. For 50 years now, I have lived on 70% of my income. I tithed 10% and more to God's work, I saved 10%, and I invested 10%. You don't need a fabulous income to have a great retirement if you use this equation. If you want to know how to do this, take a class from Financial Peace University. Proverbs 3:9-10 says:
"Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first-fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."
7. Live with joy. Many older people develop depression and an anger that destroys their life, their relationships, their health, and their walk with God. But it does not, and should not, have to be that way. Choose to live in the sunshine of God's sovereignty and joy!
One of the senior saints in my first church told me:
"a self-centered life produces a bitter life." Louise became one of my sermon helpers who read ahead, saved clippings, stories, wrote insights that gave this young preacher wisdom beyond his years. Louise and Wayne had their "Minnie Winnie" that they enjoyed on the weekdays but they were always at church on Sunday. They were greeters. Wayne was a deacon. Louise was a church office volunteer. They hosted a small group in their home. Their devotional life of prayer and Bible produced gratitude, faith, and joy that demonstrated how Christians should live and age. They didn't whine; they shined! They were an example to this young pastor and to dozens of young couples in our church. They spread their joy to our church and I will never be the same. I want to be like Wayne and Louise! Don't you?
8. Stay fresh. Of course, there is bad change and there are bad ideas. But there are also things that are simply taste, style, and opinions. In these, older people need to accept the good in change. As we age, we get set in our ways and more opinionated about the way we think the world should be. In addition to hardening of the arteries, people can get hardening of the categories. I am learning that it is not 1956 anymore and there is no time machine to get back there. But I can live and thrive in 2020!
Psalm 92:12-15 says:
"The righteous ... will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, 'The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.' "
My friend, Pastor Roy Kraft, died peacefully in his sleep at 83. He was the pastor of Twin Lakes Church in Santa Cruz for 43 years. He loved hymns. He wore a tie to church every day. He was a traditional church guy. But his last Sunday on earth, Roy was at a millennial church where the music was very loud and the preacher sat on a stool with his shirttails hanging out and had gel on his hair. At his funeral, his son, Jim told how his dad was thrilled with that this church preached the Gospel and that lives were being changed. That is how you and I need to think and live!
9. Invest in relationships. I have watched aging people withdraw into their homes, park in front of their televisions, and become hermits in their own homes. They howl at the world and repel others with their harshness. Folks, as you age, invest in kids. Mentor and disciple the generations behind you. Pass on wisdom, faith, and the Gospel to your kids, your grandchildren, and to those around you. Don't turn inward. Show interest in others. Become kinder, gentler, softer, and more giving. Make new friends and be a friend. Bring them into your home and into your life. It will give you blessing and joy!
10. Live for eternity. One of my Plattitudes says:
"Some people leave footprints in the sands of time. Others leave beer cans." Leave footprints and a lasting legacy. Some people party for today and live for themselves. But when you serve others, that's when you will find satisfaction. When you seek possessions, power, and pleasure, you will need a job to pay for that stuff. But when you seek to help others, you will find joy in your work. Jobs are boring and tedious. Callings are joyous and meaningful. Find your calling and you will never work a day in your life.
Seek a higher reward. There are people who have money and there are people who are rich. Riches are found in faith, friendships, and all the things that you can't put a dollar sign on. Don't live for the 70, 80 or even 90 years you have on this earth. One day your life will be over. You can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. So live for the things of God that can never fade. Live so that you will be a good and faithful servant that receives an eternal reward (Matthew 25:14-31). Lose your earthly life for Christ's sake to find an eternal one that Jesus has for us (Matthew 16:24-26). Be like old Abraham who
"was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10).
Well, folks, that is my letter for another week. I want you to know that your elders and I are praying for you every day and several times a day. As of this date, we have no idea when we will be able to offer public services. But God is continuing to use our online services, social media, and other ministries. Keep praying for our EHCC ministry!
So, see you for worship and the Word at East Hills Church!
We are online on Sunday morning after 9 AM. Bring a Bible and a smile! Invite your friends, family, neighbors, and work contacts to watch.