The Golden Years?
Comedian George Burns died on March 9, 1996, at one hundred years of age. Having achieved the century we can trust that Burns had learned some valuable - or at least funny - lessons about life. As we approach the subject of aging, I want to share some of George Burns’ observations of aging.
“At my age, flowers scare me.”
“He’s so old that when he orders a three-minute egg, they ask for the money up front.”
“When I was a boy, the Dead Sea was only sick.”
“You know you're getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you're down there.”
“People are always asking me when I'm going to retire. Why should I? I've got it two ways - I'm still making movies, and I'm a senior citizen, so I can see myself at half price.”
“I was always taught to respect my elders and I've now reached the age when I don't have anybody to respect.”
And the quote that fits most precisely with our message today: “You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.”
The very best attitude we can have about growing old is being determined to grow more mature in Christ. God calls us to waste no time but redeem each day by growing old in God’s way.
Grow old God’s way.
1. The Golden Years can be Difficult.
We can experience physical difficulties in the Golden Years: read Ecclesiastes 12:1-8. The Preacher called on young people to HONOR God while they are young, and life is easier. Youths must honor God while life’s opportunities are spread out before them, not when choices are limited by age. (4) It is reasonable to say it is best to honor God during your strongest, best, and easiest years.
Older folks tend to say things like, “Life is not pleasant” as we knuckle under to the challenges of age. Ideally, we are to remember God each day of life, for it will end and sooner than we think. Don’t waste a precious moment of life. (6+7)
The Preacher went on to list listed several physical difficulties typical with the aged:
Vs. 2+3 = diminished eyesight.
V. 3 = stooping & wobbly walking.
V. 3 = missing teeth.
V. 4 = inability to work.
V. 4 = diminished hearing.
V. 5 = increased fears.
V. 5 = diminished energy and libido.
Growing old can bring on emotional difficulties as well. Read Psalm 71:9. Here and in verse eighteen the psalmist pleaded with God to not be set aside or abandoned by Him. We’re told this anxiety was brought on by OLD AGE, by the FAILING STRENGTH that marks the passing years.
You can sense the fear in his pleadings. All people, including people of faith, face emotional distress. These struggles can be in exacerbated in our golden years.
2. God intends the Golden Years to be a blessing.
The blessing of respect: God commands respect for the aged. Read Leviticus 19:32. This verse offers a moral principle (RESPECT FOR THE AGED), preceded by a specific example of how to do it (STAND UP IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ELDERLY). The seriousness of this command is implied in that it is paired with showing respect for God (FEAR YOUR GOD) and in giving God’s “stamp of approval” (I AM THE LORD.)
During the 50s American culture turned from honoring age to honoring youth. This has coincided with - and arguably contributed to - a general moral decline. Thus, our national history illustrates the horrors that await a people who do NOT to honor the aged.
The blessing of fruit-bearing (success in spiritual maturity). Psalm 92:14-15 command the aged to continue to bear spiritual fruit. There is no “retirement” from growing in our faith. Being saved is a life-long process of becoming more like Jesus. That means age is not an excuse for sin. (I have heard people use age as an excuse, I know it happens.)
FRUIT is the biblical image of spiritual growth, of maturity, and the good works that flow from genuine commitment to Christ = IN OLD AGE THEY WILL STILL PRODUCE FRUIT. In fact, the aged are to have gained wisdom and experience that enable them to REMAIN VITAL AND GREEN: a deepening spiritual life. A proof of true spirituality among the aged is praising the LORD, declaring His goodness.
According to a couple verses in Proverbs, age itself is a reward for righteousness.
Read Proverbs 16:31 where it says GRAY HAIR is a CROWN OF GLORY, not a sign of decline. It should be praised, not avoided. While this is obviously not true of every gray head, the psalmist emphasized the GLORY of the golden years, attributing age to LIVING A GODLY LIFE. This is a consistent promise of Scripture.
Read Proverbs 20:29. What’s glorious about youth is their STRENGTH; how things, especially physical things, come so easily and naturally to them. What’s splendorous about the aged is their EXPERIENCE; the wisdom of life lessons that is symbolized by their GRAY HAIR. The writer expressed an ideal; a person is to learn as they age, maturing in character as they mature in years.
3. Honor God in your Golden Years.
The aged honor God by living in the present, not the past: Ecclesiastes 7:10. You have heard it said the Seven Last Words of the church are “We’ve never done it that way before.” A dogged devotion to the past, a stubborn insistence of copying only what has come before is contrary to God’s will and unhealthy for the church.
It is a common experience in life: as ailments and bad experiences pile up, it is easy to be disappointed with the present and pessimistic about the future. This can irrationally bond us to the past. Longing for the past is especially unwise when we make an idol of the past.
If we are honest, the only advantage the GOOD OLD DAYS have over today is that they are familiar to us. We take comfort in familiarity when we should be taking comfort in God.
The elderly honor God by raising up the young in the faith: read Psalm 71:18. The first half of this verse revisits the fear of abandonment we saw in verse nine. The second half of the verse offers God a reason for not abandoning the psalmist: telling the next generation about God, His POWER and MIGHTY MIRACLES.
Here we have one of the key responsibilities of the elderly: to pass on the faith to those who come afterward they have been growing all their lives. Here we have the role grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren. Obviously, parents are to be a big influence, but grandparents are especially positioned to do more than just enjoy their grands and then send them home!
Aged folk honor God by living in the Spirit: read Joel 2:28. This passage is so important, Peter quoted it in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the moment when this promise was fulfilled. For our purposes, we note that ALL PEOPLE are included in the promise of pouring out the Holy Spirit and OLD MEN are specifically mentioned.
It is ironic that OLD MEN will DREAM DREAMS, as age can bring a temptation to negativity and/or to make an idol of the past. Dreaming, however, is something we normally associate with the future; we think of dreams as predictive and/or motivating future actions. The OLD MEN are going to receive from the Holy Spirit the very thing they need the most: hope.
Old folks are to honor God by serving Him and others in righteousness: read Titus 2:1-3. Paul called Pastor Titus to PROMOTE WHOLESOME LIVING that reflected godly teaching. As a part of that general principle, Paul had specific instructions about OLDER MEN and WOMEN.
WHOLESOME LIVING in OLDER MEN required SELF-CONTROL that would make them WORTHY of the RESPECT commanded in Leviticus 19:32. They were to live according to the wisdom experience and Scripture had taught them. Based on SOUND FAITH, they were to be characterized by LOVE AND PATIENCE.
WHOLESOME LIVING in OLDER WOMEN required avoiding SLANDER and drunkenness. Instead, they were to TEACH OTHERS WHAT IS GOOD, giving an example of honoring God.
We observe older folks are more responsible, not less, to live a righteous life. Rather than use age as an excuse for sin, they were to live in such a way that their lifestyle proved the teaching they offered to the next generations.
Grow old God’s way.
We have taken time to survey what God’s word says about aging. The Bible provides us with God’s perspective. Ironically, the One who never ages tell us how we are to use the latter years of our lives. The answer is simple: we are to accept a changing role but keep working at the same task.
The changing role of aged persons is to transition from doing to training. The Bible’s only use of the word “retire” to refer to this change of role is found in Numbers 8:23-26, where the Levites, the temple servants, were commanded to start service at age twenty-five and retire from service at age fifty. From then on, they might serve as guards but were not allowed to officiate at services.
The principle here is not a cessation of activity or a redirection to self-centered activity our modern idea of retirement. Instead, it is a transition to a role of assisting those who younger and are still doing the work.
God planned it this way, as the effects of age may diminish our ability to do but enhance our ability to assist. In old age, we are to have received the benefit of experience manifest in wisdom. Godly wisdom is always used to benefit others, not self.
That is the change of role that happens according to God’s plan. I also mentioned our life’s task which does not change as we age. Believers both young and old are to glorify God by maturing, especially in our faith. God does not want us to merely grow old, He also wants us to grow up!
God gives us the Bible and the Holy Spirit, so we are guided in our growing up. For our part, we are to continually exercise His gifts so we can mature at all stages of life.
As we age, we must challenge ourselves and work at maturing. This involves practice & exercise.
Physically, we must practice good self-care and exercise our body to the extent of our physical capability.
Emotionally, we must practice words and deeds that lead to healthy relationships and exercise our self-control in all situations.
Mentally, we must practice thinking before speaking, planning further ahead, and exercise our brains in puzzles, reading, and writing.
Spiritually, we must practice daily time alone with God and exercise our privileges of prayer and study of Scripture.
Nobody likes the words “practice” and “exercise,” but the simple fact is that surviving is hard work and maturing harder still. When we survive without maturing, we are not in Christ as we are not doing His work or obeying His will. This is a life-long process and there is no age at which we are allowed to quit.
Aging God’s way requires us to accept our changing role with grace and a determination to practice and exercise daily, challenging the limits of our abilities. God blesses those who obey Him all life long.
Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/aging-comedy_b_1128087.
George Burns. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from AZQuotes.com Web site: https://www.azquotes.com/author/2202-George_Burns