2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
During this first week of June 2022 we are celebrating the Queens 70 years on the throne. I am full of admiration for her Majesty as she continues well in to her old age to perform many of her sovereign duties in serving this Country. This Jubilee is as much a celebration of old age as it is of a long reign.
It appears to me that there is an ambivalence towards ageing in that all of us want to live a long time, but none of us want to grow old. This is fueled by our mass media which depicts old age as a calamity, something to be avoided, a drain on the NHS. In fact, we try to mask the signs of old age or hide it with dyes and creams and elective surgeries to show people that we are not growing old.
The Apostle Paul wrote 2 Corinthians about 20years into his ministry, so he was getting on a bit, probably about 60ish. But he never considered retiring. He experienced what ageing is as well as its effects, and he dealt with it very appropriately. He tells us how we can deal with it ourselves. Growing old and ageing can be a very satisfying, very fulfilling experience if we follow Paul’s advice.
We need to develop a positive image of ageing, we need to take our lives off what is seen. I am not saying that we should deny reality. Paul himself does not deny the effects of ageing. He says that outwardly we are wasting away.
There are a lot of benefits to growing old. One benefit is the fact that we are alive. If we are over 70 we should praise God because you have already beaten the averages. We are the survivors, the fortunate ones.
We can relax and enjoy the things that really matter to us. We can be comfortable with who we are, and see ourselves as God sees us. It can be an incredible time of creativity. Some of the best artists and poets painted or wrote during their retirement years. Colonel Sanders of KFC built his business after he retired. Abraham and Moses were old when called by God initiate and develop a nation.
Paul tells us that the proper image is not to focus on the hazards of ageing, but to focus on the unseen. What is the unseen? For Christians, it means not focusing on the temporary, the material, or the past. It means, as Paul states in 2 Corinthians, to focus on the eternal, the spiritual, the purposeful, on what lies ahead: eternal life, heaven, God’s kingdom and resurrection. It is realizing that with every day that passes, and I give thanks and praise to God for every new day he gives me, we are not counting down our lives, we are counting up to our experience of heavenly glory.
If we do that, Paul says that we are renewed day by day. We experience an eternal glory that will not fade.
Paul says that what seem to be insurmountable problems will become light and momentary as we focus on heaven. As we become older, we come closer to the light. If we are going to experience a more satisfying life, one thing we can do is to spend time getting closer to God and Jesus, our welcomer into that unseen world, that spiritual world. One of the great gifts we have is time. We can spend more time drawing close to the light.
As our lives are drawn closer to that light, our hearts and souls are drawn as well. As we draw closer to God, his promise is that he will draw closer to us. And as he draws closer to us we become spiritual magnets drawing others to him. And this is, perhaps, the greatest positive of old age. We have a story to tell, a testimony to give, that can be an encouragement to others. In many African villages young men gather around the old man, mzee, eagerly listening to the stories he has to tell of his life, the village ancestors of wisdom gained and encouragement to give.
Although our bodies are wasting away, our spiritual experience will be a growing satisfaction of being renewed day by day, so much so that, in walking with our Lord, when we hit those shadow times the light of his glory will penetrate that darkness and we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear because he will be with us always.
The unseen represents much more for Paul. Paul did not retire to give up. We find that Paul lived his life to the full, despite hardships, imprisonment and ridicule, serving his Lord, giving all that he could, until Christ took him home. And what did he have to say at the end of his life? What was his attitude? He says: “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Although outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
We oldies still have much to offer. At the time of writing this I am in my 83rd year. Don’t let society, don’t let your kids, and don’t let yourself put you on the side-lines or on a shelf. You are very useful. Make your life count. At the very least it is a time to look back over your life giving thanks and testifying how God has been at work in you. The longer you live the greater this testimony. Finish well.
As we grow older let us take on board Paul’s advice. Don’t focus on the problems and the hazards. When you see a rosebush, do you see a flower with nasty thorns that prick you, or do you see a thorn bush beautified by flowers? Think of the difference in focus. What is your focus of ageing. Our focus should be on the opportunities that we have and things that we can do, the unseen, drawing closer to the Lord, living our lives so that we can walk with him closer. Giving our testimony. Helping and encouraging others. If we do this, ageing can become like an antique car, much more valuable than when it was first made. Think of that image. That could be your image of old age. Let us celebrate, with the Queen, the long lives that we have been given!