Many who have reached the latter stage of life feel entitled to spiritual retirement, thinking that along with retirement from their occupation, their work for the Lord is done as well. Others feel the sting of a culture that increasingly prefers to discard the elderly, as if they have timed out in their usefulness. But God says older Christian men and women are treasure troves of truth and wisdom who are not only to continue their pursuit of godliness, but to intentionally invest themselves in the young.
Nearly 90 and Still an Example of Faithfulness
I first met Doctor Robert Herbold in 1989. Doc Herbold was 86, I was 26. Donna and I were in the candidating process for a church in Florida, where I eventually pastored. Doc immediately impressed me with several important qualities in his life. First of all, Doc was a man of immense spiritual vision, though physically he was blind. He always had great plans for the Lord’s work, as he saw needs and figured out how to meet them. Following a successful career as a doctor of osteopathy (in conjunction with being a missionary with Sudan Interior Mission), he was used by the Lord to start the SIM retirement village in Sebring, Florida. He had also helped plant two churches in the city.
Doc impacted me by his example–he was the kind of man I wanted to be in my gray years: devoted to Christ, focused on Him. In addition, his attitude was stellar. Despite his numerous physical problems, he never complained. He was too busy talking about Christ, serving others, and figuring out how to advance Christ’s cause. I remember the day he told me, sixty years his junior, that as his pastor I would probably bury him. I did. Doc had a wonderful home-going to Jesus, and it was an honor for me to officiate his memorial. I was very blessed to have known this godly man, Doc Herbold.
I remember the day he told me, sixty years his junior, that as his pastor I would probably bury him. I did. Doc had a wonderful home-going to Jesus.
As I think about this elderly saint and the impact he had on me as a young pastor, still cutting my teeth and wet behind the ears, I’m moved to tell you why I believe that seniors are crucial to the church. You seniors are so important to the life of the church. Let me give you seven reasons.
1. We Need You to Attest to God’s Faithfulness over the Long Haul
Listen to David’s testimony in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread.” King David’s words carried weight because he was speaking in his old age and giving an account of his experience of God’s trustworthiness over many decades. God can be depended on–all of you senior saints have proved that for many decades as well.
Many seniors were alive through momentous events and periods of history. You’ve seen and experienced so much. We need you to attest to God’s faithfulness over the long haul.
2. We Need Your Wisdom and Understanding
We read these important words in Job 12:12, “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” You know what; certain of god’s truths are learned only through time! There is no substitute for years and decades of growing in wisdom.
I’m reminded of the story of King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. After ascending the throne of Israel, he was approached by his subjects and entreated to lighten the hard service imposed on the people by his father King Solomon. He needed counsel. First he consulted with the elders who had served his father. They gave him sound advice. Unfortunately, he forsook their counsel, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him. They gave him terrible advice in their youthful immaturity, which he followed. Their foolish input was disastrous, and led to the splitting of the kingdom (see 1 Kings 12).
The story illustrates the fact that that there is no replacement for decades of growing in wisdom. We need your wisdom and understanding for the church.
There is no substitute for years and decades of growing in wisdom.
3. We Need Your Example and Impact on the Younger Generations
Psalm 71 is the prayer of an old man for deliverance from the Lord. In verses 17 and 18, we read these delightful words:
O God, You have taught me from my youth; and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.
How he want so much to pass on his story of God’s glory, power, and wondrous deeds to posterity! He feels as though his life cannot end until he has influenced the coming generation for the Lord. What an exemplary passion and eagerness to have in old age!
Likewise, we read the following in Psalm 78:1–6:
Listen, O my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children.
What a fantastic example of transgenerational mentoring! I count at least four generations in this passage, each one influencing the one that follows.
Along these lines, I would also like to mention Titus 2:1–5 and the impact of older men and women on the younger. I challenge you, senior saints, to be grandpas and grandmas to young families who desperately need you. When Donna and I moved to Florida, we were a young family with little kids, and we missed our family on the west coast terribly! Especially hard was not having our parents around to be grandparents to our little guys. Let me encourage you older saints to adopt young families. Pray for them. Spend time with them. Encourage them. Be available to them. Truly, we need your example and impact on the younger generations.
4. We Need Your Prayers!
Often we talk about prayer as though it is our last resort, after everything else has been done and we can do no more. Yet prayer itself is action, and of the most potent kind, as we call on god to work as only He is able.
In 1 Timothy 5:5 we have an example of devotion to prayer in one’s gray-haired years: “Now she who is a widow indeed, and who has been left alone has fixed her hope on God, and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day…” Now that’s praying! Every church has so many needs, and we need your prayers as a result.
5. We Need Your Eternal Perspective
God’s word says that this world is passing away, yet we get so caught up in it. Are you longing for heaven? Has God weaned you off this place, so that you can’t wait to be with him in glory? If so, then we as younger saints need to learn from you. Paul gives us our proper focus in Philippians 3:20, 21:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Amen! We are going to heaven, and we are waiting for the return of Christ. And when He comes back for us, we are going to lose these broken-down bodies, trading them in for glorious, transformed ones. The Lord Jesus will see to it. Is that your hope? If so, we need your eternal perspective.
Has God weaned you off this world so that you can’t wait to be with him in glory? If so, then we as younger saints need to learn from you.
6. We Need Your Reminder That Old Age is a Normal Part of Life
Life leads to old age. Our culture is in denial of this, but eventually we all join the ranks of the elderly. In the only psalm he ever wrote, Moses sets the record straight with these words, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years; yet their pride is but labor and sorrow, for soon it is gone and we fly away.”
Life is relatively short, says Moses. Therefore we need God to teach us to number our days so that we may present to Him a heart of wisdom (v. 12). Old age is par for the course of life – there is no sense in trying to pretend otherwise. We need your reminder that old age is a normal part of life.
7. We Need Your Model of Finishing Well
So many start off well, but so few end well! I have always been captivated by thee desire to persevere to the end, not fading away in time, but sprinting to the finish line. Listen to Psalm 92:12–15, and its account of finishing well:
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree; he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
Just look at this righteous man–flourishing, yielding fruit in old age. He is sappy and green. Be sappy! Finish well through faithful fruit-bearing into old age. Be evergreen for Christ. Exalt God in your senior years. We need your example of finishing well.
Are seniors important to the church? I have done my best to convince you that you are. I pray that, by God’s grace, your best, most effective years for Christ will be your senior years, starting right now!