Yesterday, from Psalm 92, we saw how God compared His seniors to fruitful date-palms and strong Lebanese cedars.
- They grow
- They are fruitful
- They are fresh
- They are fruitful
But that doesn’t absolve seniors of responsibility. They can’t just sit back and say, “Oh I like that description.” No, the description challenges and stirs seniors to live up to how they are described. That means:
In his superb little book, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging, J I Packer warned, “Aging is not for wimps.” It’s going to be hard, tough, trying, and demanding. Therefore we need to steward our resources - our mental, financial, physical, and spiritual resources.
- Mentally, we need to continue to challenge our minds and keep them lively.
- Financially, we need to make adequate pension provision and also plan our estate so that the Lord’s cause benefits from at least some of it.
- Physically, we need to take care of our bodies, eat as healthily as we can, and continue to exercise.
- Spiritually, we need to be gathering verses, doctrines, and grace that will carry us through the senior years.
It’s no coincidence that the Psalm where God speaks to favorably and beautifully about the aged, starts with four verses of praise and thanksgiving to God for His goodness. If we reach senior years, that’s great reason to praise God for His sparing and sustaining mercies.
Freed from the stress and time-demands of paid work, seniors have time to read all these books they wanted to read but never had time to. This must include learning more about the Bible and especially about how to pray. Seniors should also fight stubbornness and pride, and remain teachable and open to correction and instruction.
Senior years are wise years. Given all the accumulated wisdom and experience of many years, this is not a time to be retreating from church leadership but offering it. And even informally, there are many opportunities for seniors to influence and mentor younger people and families.
The world’s wisdom is to slow down, enjoy oneself, spend days and months on the golf course. That’s a sure fire way to guarantee a sense of worthlessness, insignificance, and even an early death. While there must be time to relax, being freed from paid work frees us to do more church and family work. “Where can I serve?” should be the most dominant question and will produce the most satisfaction too.
In his book, J I Packer wrote about the tremendous opportunities of the senior years due to much increased longevity and quality of life:
Maintaining zeal Godward as our bodies wear out is the special discipline to which we aging Christians are called. Realism requires us to remember that memory, particularly short-term memory, will weaken; logical tightness of speech will loosen; powers of concentration will diminish; physical exhaustion will overtake us sooner or later, and energy levels will keep going lower. Zeal, however, should be unflagging every day, all day, and all the way. But if this is to happen, zeal must be fed by hope.
Instead of getting up each day and wondering what, if anything, we should do, J I Packer, urged daily planning and goal-setting:
Whatever long-term plans we may have, we need to get into the habit of planning each day’s business in advance, either first thing each morning or (better, I think) the day before.
Packer urges seniors to keep race imagery in the forefront of their minds:
Put positively, the apostle’s race image clearly combines these four notions: first, clearheaded goal orientation (you run to win); second, purposeful planning (you think out how you should run the race, pacing yourself and preparing for the final burst); third, resolute concentration (you put everything second to training for and then running and hopefully winning the race); and fourth, supreme effort (you run flat out, putting everything you have got into what you are doing). Thus Paul conceives the faithful Christian life; the believer runs, as did he.
We can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Senior years mean last years, dying years. We must use our senior years to prepare for that. We prepare with faith in Christ, remembering that even if we have not believed and it’s now near the end, the thief on the cross was saved with only minutes to spare. We also prepare to die by anticipating heaven. It should be a topic much read about, thought about, and prayed about.
Counsel to non-Seniors
But let me finish with some brief counsel to non-seniors.
Treat seniors as individuals: Although, to young eyes, they may at a quick glance look similar to one another, each has an individual personality with unique gifts and graces. Avoid age-ism as strongly as racism.
Respect seniors opinions: Seek them out for wise and experienced counsel and listen carefully when they speak.
Remember you’ll probably be a senior one day: On average, women are living to age 84 with five of these years being dependent, Men live to eighty with three years of dependency. Get ready for it, by asking seniors for advice and counsel.
You may not ever reach senior age: Don’t count on it but rather prepare to die so that at any age you are ready to go and meet your Maker.