Into Eternity We heard the joke about the aged man who bought what he thought were “youth pills.” The first night after purchasing the pills, and before he went to bed, out of desperation to be young again, he swallowed the whole bottle of pills. In the morning his wife kept shaking him to wake up. After some vigorous shaking, the man rubbed his eyes, but grumbled, “Ok, Ok, I’ll get up, but I don’t want to go to school.”
We remember one time in the kitchen on the Kansas farm many, many years ago that as children we asked our father how old he was. He replied, “40.” All of us children gasped and responded, “That is so old!” A person of 40 is old to some, but young to others, depending on which side of 40 you are. A person of 60 starts to reconsider that his father was not that old when he died at 80. We just never want to be considered “old timers,” regardless of how old we are. Nevertheless, we must all remember the words of the Holy Spirit:
The days of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they are fourscore years, yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and we fly away (Ps 90:10).
We seem never to be ready for that day when we “fly away.” Nevertheless, we must remember the words of James: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Js 4:14). We must always live as if we were about to vanish away into eternal dwelling. It is for this reason that old age is a beautiful thing when in the company of one with whom the promise was made many years before, “‘Til death do us part.” But until that time when either partner “flies away,” it would be good to reconsider some precious concepts that will preserve one’s youthful attitude until the flesh takes its first steps to dust—no “youth pills” needed.
A. Be old in flesh, but not in spirit.
It was Shakespeare who said,
Some men never seem to grow old for they are always active in thought, always ready to adopt new ideas. They are never chargeable with fogyism; satisfied, yet ever unsatisfied; settled, yet ever unsettled. They always enjoy the best of what is, and are first to find the best of what shall be.”
They are as Paul wrote, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Co 4:16).
Paul surely felt age slowly creeping upon his body, but he would never allow the inevitable wasting away of his flesh to damper his spirit. We have seen those who are old in spirit when they were only 30. But we have also witnessed those who are 60 to be 30 in spirit. The old proverb is still true: “You are as old as you think you are.” There is divine revelation behind this statement. For the “aged youth” we would resort to the following encouraging words of God:
He gives power to the faint. And to those who have no might, He increases strength. Even the youths will faint and be weary, and the young men will utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not be wary. They will walk and not faint (Is 40:29-31).
The word “age” must apply only to the body, but never to the state of one’s spirit. If one would preserve a youthful spirit, then he must not leave his dreams behind as his body ages into its evening years. His mind must always be nursed with the invigoration of hope of what yet lies in the future. If our dreams are dead, our hope will grow cold, and we will no longer look forward to great things. If hope is old, then our mind is old. If the fire of ambition has long cooled, then our spirit has aged. But aging does not have to be this way. We must remember the following words of a poet:
If from life you take the best,
And if in life you keep the jest,
If love you hold;
No matter how the years go by,
No matter how the birthdays fly,
You are not old.
O. H. Tabor gave some very good advice for those who let down their guard in old age, and subsequently, relinquish themselves to becoming old in spirit. You can know if your mind is old, Tabor wrote, when the following starts to characterize your attitude and behavior:
- When you start making something out of nothing and allow your imaginations to build the wrong images of others.
- When you are easily annoyed by little things that should be disposed of in a Christian sort of way.
- When you are afraid to face up to the future and dread what may lie ahead.
- When you lose interest in life and look to the past most of the time.
- When you withdraw from others and want to shut the door of your life.
- When you find yourself growing more critical of others, especially the young people.
- When you look on the dark side of life most of the time and feel mistreated and unloved, and find you are becoming bitter and sour.
We might find ourselves in those words somewhere, and thus have allowed the spirit of being cranky to come into our attitudes. If so, then we have proven true what Solomon wrote, that “… the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ec 12:1). But this does not have to be the character of our inner spirit. Solomon’s “evil days” were only evil because in old age this is how some people view their lives. But “evil days” exist only in the minds of those who have grown old in spirit.
[Next lecture: September 22]