Not "just an old man": The Gift of Gray Hair in the Family of God3
"Back when I was in my prime..."
We've all heard it: the former athlete reminiscing about bygone years of glorious competitions and victory. The talk show interview with the 70's rockstar who can't quite hit those notes anymore, but loves to boast of stadiums packed to the last seat. As we age, it's tempting to think that our greatest achievements were "back then" when we could do more, achieve more, and produce quicker, with ease and energy. But those days are gone now, and maybe it's just better to back away slowly, and let the "young guys" take over. This may be just fine in the world, and is mostly the trend. But it ought not be so in the family of God.
Sunday evening, an 80-year-old Christian man expressed to me that he feels like he doesn't have much to offer any more since he's "just an old man" (his words). He sees younger men involved in ways he can't be, or could be but maybe - he thinks - he would just be getting in the way. My heart sunk.
As a young pastor, and younger father and husband, I want to say: Dear older brother (or sister) - we need you! And, this is exactly the time that the Lord has given you, to offer much wisdom and encouragement to another generation; we need you! And, we may need you to seek us out, because, it is possible we are too proud or distracted to see our need.
A little later this older brother asked: "how can we be praying for you and your family right now?" I shared a bit, and after we spoke for some time about his life, lessons learned in parenting, work, and nearly 60 years of marriage, I reminded him that younger men (like me) need men like him to ask them exactly what he had asked me, and then to follow up with a coffee or lunch time to encourage them and point them toward Christ for endurance, just like this older brother did for me yesterday.
Older saints: you may be older, and that is exactly the point. The younger need the older, to help them stay the course, and follow Christ in a world that is luring them away from Christ by the prospect of a little more cash, that big promotion, a better life over there where theg grass is greener, or the good life away from the bad bad world (of which Jesus has sent us in to). He wants to maximize these "older" years for his glory.
Precious older saint, I humbly desire to remind you that the Lord desires to use you, and to use you well to the end. In other words, you've got glorious work to do, before you clock out, and check in to eternity! Your rest is coming. But for now, older brother or sister, remember that by God's grace, as you keep your head in the game and your heart set on pleasing Christ while you are away from heaven here on earth (2 Cor. 5:9), another generation will praise God for your faithfulness to His call on you in these years as you “proclaim [his] might to another generation”, even “to old age”! We need to see Christ in you; for the sake of another generation of disciple makers, may you be found faithful, having spent these “senior saint” years praying for, exhorting, and spurring your younger brothers and sisters on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:23-24). We are praying for you - we need you.
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come."