Honoring Christ in Old Age

By Zack Guess

When I was asked to write this, I was a little amused. Even though I am eighty-two years old, I don’t think of myself as old. Judy and I were blessed with twelve children, with one dying in infancy. Our latest child was born when I was fifty-two. I was seventy when she graduated from High School. We have been blessed with thirty-nine grandchildren and one on the way. The reason I am relating all this is to show that I just cannot afford to get old! Thankfully, I have a young wife who does almost all the driving now and takes good care of me. I have been blessed with good health but am somewhat challenged by vision problems.

I will give a word picture of what old age is all about. The last time I remember playing softball I was in right field. Someone hit a high pop fly in my direction. My mind got under the ball, but my legs just could not get over there! On a more serious note, old age with various infirmities is just a fact of life. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” We must acknowledge the infirmities of the outward man and be so very thankful for the daily renewal of the inward man. Another portion of Scripture which graphically portrays the challenges of aging is found in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them…” There follows a vivid description of the infirmities of old age.

Old age is unpleasant in some ways, but these negatives should not dominate the life of a Christian. If we are still alive that means the Lord is not finished with us on this earth. As we read in Psalm 31, our times are in His hand. We should desire to bear fruit for our dear Lord as long as we have life. Even if we are bed-ridden and can do very little physically, we can pray. These may be some of the best prayer times of our lives. When we realize how weak we are, we can pray fervently. As one good old song has it, “Prayer’s a weapon for the feeble, weakest souls can wield it best.” A great encouragement for usefulness in old age is found in Psa. 92:12-14, “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing…” The palm tree mentioned here was the date palm tree. It had very deep roots and produced great clusters of dates. The tree had a long life and the older it got, the sweeter was its fruit. Christians, with their long life of walking with the Lord should bring forth their best spiritual fruit in the twilight of their lives. But notice that the ones spoken of here were “planted in the house of the Lord.” We should not expect to bear fruit in old age if we neglect the church, which is the house of the living God.

Practical Ways of Honoring God

One of the best ways of honoring our Lord in old age is to witness to the younger generation how faithful the Lord has been to us all the days of our lives. There is very much to discourage young people in these dark days in which we live. It seems as if the enemies of God are triumphing. These younger ones need to hear genuine accounts of God’s faithfulness to His people. One of my favorite verses along this line is Ps. 71:18, “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” This should be the ambition of every older Christian. We must look for opportunities to share our experiences with the younger ones. If there happens to be younger ones who are reading this, it would be wise for you to seek out older brothers and sisters and ask them to share their experiences with you. In the Old Testament the Lord’s people are collectively referred to as Zion. With this in mind look at Ps. 48:12, 13, “Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.”

Another way in which the older ones can honor God is not only to pass experiences down to the younger generation, but also to pass along truth. I once heard a wise preacher say that it takes only one generation to lose a vital truth. We who are older should be established in truth. Some say that it really doesn’t make any difference what church we belong to. But it makes a great deal of difference. Some churches embrace serious error. We should be established in and convicted about what the Bible teaches. Paul exhorted Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

Another way of honoring our Lord in old age is to be vitally concerned about what will happen to the church when we have passed from this life. Some people, sadly, do not seem to be concerned about the state of the church when they are no longer here. We should follow the example of David. He wanted very much to build a house for God. The Lord did not permit him to do this. If David had been selfish and self-centered, he may have pouted and become inactive. However, he did not do this. He did all he could to provide for Solomon to build the house of the Lord after he had died. We read of this in 1 Chronincles 29:3, “Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house…” If we can provide monetary assets for the church, by including it in our will, that would be wonderful. Even more important would be our spiritual assets, such as being examples of faithfulness. In my own spiritual life, I have been greatly strengthened and encouraged by considering the faithfulness of many brothers and sisters who have gone on to their heavenly homes.

Finishing Strong and Honorably

It should be the desire of each older Christian to finish strong. I have known many brothers and sisters who have faithfully attended the worship services when it was obvious that they had severe challenges and were even in pain. They made a priority of faithful attendance. One of my favorite memories is that of Sister Annie Hinson. She was very poor and had a hard life. She contracted a painful disease of which she finally died. She would say, “Well I can hurt at church as well as I can hurt at home. I am going to pop a pain pill and go to worship.”

It is also possible to finish strong even when we lose some of our mental faculties. Sister Helen Beauchamp and others come to mind. When I would be privileged to visit her, she didn’t always seem to recognize me. However, when we would begin to sing the songs of Zion and recite Scripture, she would come alive and sing and quote along with us. This was because she had spent a life of faithful consistency in being in the word of God. This reminds me of John Newton. When he became old and infirm, he stated that he could not remember much. There were two things, however, that he did remember- he was a great sinner, but he had a great savior! I pray that I will also remember these two things.

Finally, we should also like to leave an honorable heritage. Sadly, there have been some who seemed to live for the Lord for a long time but fell into grievous sin before they left this world. That is a great discouragement for those who are left behind. It is sad to read of several of the kings of Israel and Judah who did well for a long time, but then made terrible mistakes at the end of their lives. An example of this is Asa. We read of him in 1 Kings 15:11, “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father.” That is a wonderful testimony. However, very sadly, Asa fell out of fellowship with the Lord and began to trust in his own wisdom, rather than relying on the Lord. The Lord sent a “seer” or prophet to rebuke him, and we read in 2 Chron. 16:10, “Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time.”

We must remember that we are sinners and must battle against Satan, the world, and our own sinful natures until the day we die. We must not become overconfident. We must follow the counsel of the Apostle Paul given in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

Dear older brothers and sisters, let us finish strong! May we be like Caleb who cried, “give me this mountain!” As we near the end of our race, let us sprint out to the finish line, where our blessed Savior awaits us! In the meantime, let us pray, “Have Thine own way Lord, have Thine own way, hold o’er my being absolute sway. Fill with Thy Spirit, ‘till all shall see, Christ only, always living in me.”

Zack Guess is one of the pastors at Grace Chapel Primitive Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.