Growing Older and Wiser, and Treasuring It!

 (Psalm 71)

In our culture there's a saying we're all familiar with, "the only two things we have to do in life are pay taxes and die." Certainly growing older and dying is a fact of life, it's something we can't control or avoid, although we try to sometimes, and regrettably it's one of those things many people dread and don't like to talk about.

But think about it, from the moment we're born we're growing older. So growing older is inevitable and quit frankly something we ought to embrace and look forward to, not fear or dread.

In the days of Jesus average life expectancy was only 22 years, those born in the 18th century lived to be around 35 years old. Just 100 years ago life expectancy was 47 years, and now today life expectancy is over 77 years.

And the ability to live longer and longer will continue because there's better health care, nutrition, job safety, physical fitness, improvements in medical technology, and many other advances that will allow people to live beyond our current life expectancy. Now some suggest, rightly so I think, that we grow better or stronger as we age into our teens reaching our prime around our early to mid-thirties, so that kind of growing older isn't so bad and many look forward to it, but then we begin to experience the reality that we've past our prime. " we can't run as far or as fast as we once did, " our body weight seems to stay with us longer and gravity takes over, " walking, cutting the grass, shoveling snow, and cooking takes more effort, " perhaps we can't lift as much weight as we did when you were younger, " our vision isn't as sharp as it once was, " our patience for things runs out sooner, " opening a jar is a little more difficult, " change doesn't come easily as it once did, " and when we slowly bend down to tie our shoes we ask ourselves "now that I'm down here is there something else I need to do before I get back up?"

And of course as we age the aches and pains begin to announce themselves more regularly and we find we're asking, "What does life hold for me now?" and "Where is God in all of this aging?" Some ask, "Now that I'm getting older how do I live a full life? Can I even live a full life anymore? Will the God I trusted in my youth be there in my old age?"

Well we're not alone in this thinking and questioning; the writer of Psalm 71 was having similar thoughts as he wrote his psalm. Psalm 71 is an individual lament psalm, meaning a grieving or mourning psalm, and was written by a person (some believe it was David) who had followed God since their birth. But now this person was questioning if God would be there as he got older. The writer of this psalm is asking many of the same questions we might be asking, and wondering the same things we might be reflecting on as we get older.

Now the Psalmist is someone who clearly knows God, has known God since birth, and has worshipped God throughout his younger years. The psalmist is also someone who is beginning to feel the problems of an aging body, and is curious about his future. But he's someone who also has the wisdom of maturity to be able to look back on how God has saved him in the past and now lives with the hope that God will continue to walk with him and help him as he gets older. You know it can be so easy to praise God when we're younger when life is going pretty well and we haven't yet felt the stress of responsibility or age. When we seem to have it all together, thanking God and celebrating what God has done in our lives isn't all that difficult.

Remember the years when you were strong and seemed to have an abundance of energy; and you had your whole life ahead of you. Some of you are in this energetic stage of life now and its great isn't it. But a number of us have moved on in our years, at least a little bit, and the strength and energy we once had has diminished some what with our more advanced years.

In some ways as we age life seems to get harder, our body starts to fail us some, loved ones die, and we realize our time here on earth is growing shorter day-by-day. Mid-life crises occur as we begin to reflect on what we thought we would do with our life, but for whatever reason things just didn't work out the way we had planned or thought they would. We may have some regrets, or wish certain aspects of our lives would have turned out differently. And these are normal thoughts most of us will have or already have had.

Now with all this going on we perhaps begin to wonder where God is in the mix, and will God still be there as we get older; will our faith be tested more and more?

Well the beginning of Psalm 71 really speaks of these same things and the psalmist is grieving, but because he has a relationship with God and knows God, he goes on to give us the assurance that no matter how bad things get, no matter how old we are, no matter how our bodies and our minds may begin to fail us, God will revive us and bring us "out of the depths" to continue to work for his glory and praise his name.

God will help us deal with the difficulties, the cruel, and unjust in our lives. God will walk with us even during the most difficult times we may experience.

And the New Testament takes the psalmists writing even further. God will not just revive us daily to fight the battles of life, but when we die, by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we will be resurrected from the dead, and will live with him forever, in the place Jesus has gone ahead to prepare for us. And when we enter our eternal home our encounters with the difficulties, the cruel, the unjust, and the battles we fight with our aging bodies on this earth will be over.

So as we grow older and our bodies grow weaker, God still walks with us and our spirits are renewed daily, preparing us for the day when we're finally called home to eternal glory.

In our current Bible study "Living Fully, Dying Well" we've been discussing the issue of getting older and how we can continue to live full, productive, and godly lives until the moment we take our last breath. And in the course of our class one thing we've discovered is that growing older is not a negative aspect of life.

Growing older is actually a gift, it's a life filled with both opportunities and challenges. Growing older is an exciting time, if we focus our energies on God's purpose for our lives, and not on the negative aspects of aging our culture so much wants us to focus on.

How many times have you approached someone and asked how they were doing, only to hear about all that's wrong with their life, how the aches and pains are making them miserable, and how getting older is terrible.

Now compare that to approaching someone who has obvious difficulties from getting older yet they speak of how they've been blessed and they go on to tell you how God has been at work in their lives despite the challenges they're facing. Big difference isn't there? Which one has a real sense of God in their lives? Which one of these examples best reflects our outlook on life?

The fact is new and wonderful opportunities come to us with age and wisdom. Sure there are certain givens that often come with getting older: retirement, less energy, perhaps a more limited income, as well as health issues associated with our vision, hearing, strength, quickness of thought, and physical flexibility. But with age there are also benefits and opportunities.

Often times we have more flexibility to rearrange our schedules and priorities, and perhaps for the first time in our lives we can invest a greater portion of our physical and spiritual energy into things that really matter to us, like activities that will make a difference in our communities and in the world. We can spend more time just being who God created us to be, rather than being caught up in the busyness of life.

We have more opportunity to address unresolved issues; perhaps reconciling with someone or restoring relationships that had been torn apart years ago. We may have more time to serve God and the church in new and exciting ways, and serve those in our community.

We must understand that God is deeply involved in every stage of life, not just in our early years, and that our life with and in God is a necessary and grace-filled resource for every stage of life. Sure growing older happens, like it or not, and no matter how many things we try to do to lessen the affects of aging, or to cover up the affects of aging, growing older happens. But the good news is that in our Christian view, all of life is a gift from God, and is always and at all times lived in God's presence and with God's companionship to guide and sustain us. So growing older and wiser is something to be treasured, not feared and ignored.

The story of our faith reminds us that God is always calling us forth into the future. And this is powerful; it's really a form of grace, because people seem to be the happiest, most productive, and most teachable, when they're looking forward to something. Can some of you relate to this? When are you the happiest, isn't it when your looking forward to something? Can I get an amen?

You see looking forward to something implies a positive outlook on the future which in many ways ties directly to our well-being.

Now sometimes growing older can cause us to begin to look inward and shut out the world because we don't see a future filled with hope, we see a future that leads to a grave and the end of our life, and to some this is devastating to the point of becoming overwhelmed with grief and uncertainty, which then may lead to depression or thoughts of suicide. But for a Christian, death is not to be feared because it's not the end. Death is merely a stepping stone to a new life, a life filled with joy and peace with Jesus. A life promised to all who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

It's this promise of God's, eternal life that gives us encouragement as we seek to be faithful in trusting and obeying our God of love. So as children of God we can live with the assurance that we're never alone, we need never be caught in the grip of fear or crushed by the burden of guilt, and we never need to be overcome with anxiety about the future.

The God in whom we place our lives and trust is the One who is never finished with us; we are a work in progress. God is with us in every movement of our existence and is always providing new possibilities for abundant living.

So in our time left here in this world God gives us the opportunity to discover the deeper wisdom and the most important things about life. You see as our physical capacities begin to diminish, God invites us to enhance our spiritual capacities through prayer, reflection, meditation, lifelong learning, sharing wisdom with others, developing caring relationships, and offering encouragement to others.

The God in whom we place our faith and trust is the One who never lets go of us, he's never finished with our formation and transformation, and he will never leave us helpless and all alone. After all it's in God, through Jesus Christ, that we find our hope for every age and every circumstance of life.

In faith our aging and eventual death simply becomes another opening to God, whose horizons are without end. With God we always have something to look forward to. So as we move off to the horizon with God we can do so with confidence and perhaps even anticipation.

At birth we are much like a ship in port getting ready to set sail. And it isn't long before we leave that port to begin our life's journey. As we get older our journey takes us farther and farther away from the port where we started from, until we are but a speck on the horizon. But no matter how far from the port we are, our journey remains adventurous and fulfilling.

And as our time here in this world fades and we are close to death those in the port of our eternal destination are there to welcome us. On the dock of that port standing and waiting for us is Jesus, our family members that have died in Christ, and the rest of the communion of saints. They're ready to greet us with open arms, they are welcoming us home.

As we each grow older we do so with the assurance that God is with us and will journey with us through our life in this world and the world to come. So as we all grow older and wiser, we ought to treasure every moment we have because every moment of life is given to us as a sacred gift from God.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade