“So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord.”Genesis 12:4-8 (NLT)
Americans spend billions of dollars each year to look younger. We spend money on everything from anti-aging creams to Botox injections, to face lifts to plastic surgery. We’re even encouraged to act younger. The underlying message is,“Growing old is bad, so do everything you can to stay young.” That message, though, assumes that the opposite of “old” has to be “young.” In fact, there’s another way to look at it. The opposite of “old” can also be “new.” When we look at it this way, we can get beyond just trying to hang on to that elusive thing called “youth.” Abraham is the patron saint of those who feel toyed with by time, who suffer from nature’s limitations and society’s rejection. At 75, Abraham embraced new life, new purpose, new vision, and new hope. Old age to him was not a disaster but a new challenge, not full of death but full of life, not filled with fate but with faith. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance…by faith he sojourned in the land of promise…for he looked forward to the city whose builder and maker is God.” Being elderly doesn’t mean we’re in our declining years. We can be improving with age. It all depends on how we look at it.
Would we buy a brand-new car, fill the gas tank once, and when we run out of gas, give the car up and throw it away? Of course not! Yet, isn’t that something like what many of us do with our lives? Our education stops at 18 or 22 or whatever and that’s supposed to do us for the next 50 or 60 years. The result is forced obsolescence. To use another metaphor, a woman compared her elder years to the second half of a football game. The game, she said, long since decided, was drawing to a close. Short of breath and speckled with mud, trembling in every limb, she struggled up and down the field, waiting for the final whistle to blow. How sad to have no energy or fuel for what should be the greatest years of our life on earth. How sad to see elderly people who have lost their spirit and do little more than eat, play Bingo, visit casinos, consume excessive amounts of drugs or consign themselves to a shut-in existence. Look it doesn’t matter how old we are, we can never outgrow our usefulness. This is particularly true when it comes to serving God.
We can never be too old to serve the Lord. In my 40 years of ministry, I’ve encountered elderly people who’ve told me, “I’ve served my years in the church. Now it’s time for the younger ones.” I feel sad for people who say this, because, in effect, what they’re saying is that they’ve outlived their usefulness to God. But nothing could be further from the truth. God called Abraham at 75 years of age, and he called Moses at 40 years+ and used Moses to lead the people out of Egypt, through the wilderness, until Moses was well over 100. Don’t say you’re too old to serve God! We’re never too old. Think of it this way, within each of us is a little child wanting to serve. Don’t lose touch with the child within you. Rabbi Abraham Twersky tells a story about his great-grandfather who was sitting with other rabbinical scholars studying the Talmud when it was decided to take a break for refreshments. One of the group offered to pay for the refreshments, but there was no one who volunteered to go for them. According to Twersky, his great-grandfather said, “Just hand me the money, I have a young boy who will be glad to go.” After a long time, he finally returned with the refreshments, and it became obvious to all that the rabbi himself had gone and performed the errand. Noticing their discomfort, the rabbi explained: “I didn’t mislead you at all. You see, many people outgrow their youth and become old men. I’ve never let the spirit of my youth depart. And as I grew older, I always took along with me that young boy that I had been. It was that young boy in me that did the errand.”
We’re never too old to serve God. If we think we are, we simply need to release that young child within us, to do what needs to be done. For in Christ, we are improving with age.
God, we thank you that we can never outlive our usefulness or retire from our service to you. You can use us in any and every situation to be a witness to Your love to us in Jesus Christ. No matter our age, help us to discover ways to utilize our skills and gifts to serve Your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
- The opposite of old is not young, but new. What are some new ways God is calling you to serve Him at this stage of your life?
- Long distance runners sometimes experience something called “a second wind” when after running several miles, they suddenly feel refreshed and renewed to continue the race. What spiritual experiences refresh and renew your Spirit to get a “second wind” to serve God after all these years?
- Paul writes in 2 Cor. 4:16, “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” While we are growing older physically, our spirits are ageless and are renewed daily by the grace of Christ. This spirit renewed daily is the “young child within us” providing us with the strength and encouragement to continue serving Christ. Have you discovered the “young child within you?”