B. Stay young in spirit.
If one finds himself with the spirit of the “evil days” in mind, then he does not have to remain in the bondage of despair. Life is too short to spend time on wishing we were young again, and then become cranky in spirit during the rest of our few years on this earth. Whether we are 40 or 80, we must think positive. We must not be surprise that age will bring its marks in the flesh, but this does not mean that fleshly marks that come with years be accompanied with marks in the spirit. We must not have remorse over those things in the past for which God has already dealt to us a bountiful portion of grace and forgiveness. We must be as Paul when he was sitting in a cold prison cell in Rome: “… one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things that are before” (Ph 3:13). These are wise words to the aged. But he was not finished. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Ph 3:14). To Paul, the past had passed. His focus was on the future. Because he never lost his vision of good things to come, he was worthwhile for God’s business until the end of his life. An aged body may hinder our mobility to put ourselves in the presence of others, but if we maintain a youthful spirit, others will seek to put themselves in our presence.
The key to maintaining a spirit of youth is to focus our interest on something that is worthwhile to others. We must never pity ourselves in whatever portion of trials that life has dealt to us. We must always count it with all joy when we fall into different trials (Js 1:2), knowing that our faith must be tested to the day we die (Js 1:3). For this reason, we must never give into troubles and fears. In order to guard oneself from being critical of others, we must always keep our minds on saying something good about others. We may make ourselves feel good by gripping about the government or others, but doing such only encourages our spirit of negativity. And the more negative we become about life, the less others will desire to be in our presence.
Worship is the cure for negativity, for in worship one focuses his mind on the One who gave all for us. Worship is inherently encouraging. It refocuses our thinking off ourselves for a moment in order to concentrate on the God of all creation. Worship is the best medicine for those who have been stricken with the virus of negativity. We once attended a small assembly of saints in a house in Cape Town, South Africa. Before the assembly, in came an aged sister who needed someone on each side to bring her broken body to a seat in the assembly. Regardless of her apparent physical disability, she had a continual smile on her face. Her spirit was delightful. She had learned the secret of how to maintain a spirit of youth through worship. After struggling for two city blocks to make it to a seat of relief in the assembly, she forgot all her aches and pains for a moment as she poured out her heart in thanksgiving to the One who would eventually give her a new body (See 2 Co 5:1-10).
C. Eternal relationships must be nourished.
Every Bible student remembers the aged Anna. She was at least 84 years old, but continued her ministry at the temple. She served God with fastings and prayers night and day (Lk 2:36,37). She had discovered the secret to growing old with a good spirit. One is never too old to serve, for in serving, as worship, one is focusing on others. Anna may have been somewhat immobile, but she still served God. She was the embodiment of the promise of God in Psalm 92:12-14:
The righteous will flourish like the palm tree. He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord will flourish in the courts of our God. They will bring forth fruit in old age.
Emmanuel Kant was in his 70s when he wrote Anthropology, and The Metaphysics of Morals. The Italian opera composer, Guiseppe Verdi, was 74 when he produced the masterpiece, Otello. At 80 he produced Falstaff, and then at 85 the famous opera Ave Maria, Stabat Mater and Te Dum. At 79 Oliver W. Holmes wrote Over the Teacups. At 83 Alfred Tennyson wrote Crossing the Bar. Productivity has no age limits.
When in one’s aged years, it is a time to be proud, not regretful. In one’s latter years he or she must remember, “With the aged is wisdom, and in length of days understanding” (Jb 12:12). “The gray head is a crown of glory, if it is attained by the way of righteousness” (Pv 16:31). It had to have been some aged person who remembered the preceding words of the Bible when he or she wrote,
Let me grow lovely growing old,
So many fine things to do;
Silks and ivory and gold,
And laces need not be new.
There is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold.
Why not I as well as they,
Grow lovely, growing old?
The responsibility of the aged couple is to help one another grow old gracefully. A tender nudge, a patient word, and a loving smile will signal years together and spiritual growth. It is not as Agnes and Andy. Agnes complained to Andy, her aged husband, “You haven’t said you loved me for years.” Andy responded, “I told you I loved you when we got married. When I change my mind I’ll let you know.”
When an aged couple arrive in the twilight of their years together, their words are more custom made to express every thought. Barbs have been filed from words of disagreement. Roads that led to disagreements have been posted with signs that read, “Road Closed!” The beauty of aged couples is that they have learned to fine tune their communication in order to make their relationship carry them on the road that ends in eternal dwelling. Heaven will be much sweeter when they recognize one another in their eternal rocking chair. At the age of 70, the best advice I can leave for the aged is to wake up every morning with goals to do, knowing that this will be the best day of your life . . . considering the prevailing physical circumstances.
[End of series. The book, Building Eternal Relationships, will be published on the website as Book 69 in the Biblical Research Library: www.africainternational.org]