What Can an Older Person Do for God?

Last Sunday was my birthday and my friend greeted me with these two words, “Old age.” Ouch! But he’s a faithful friend and what he said next was strengthening, because he pointed me to a verse that can function as a mission statement for those of us who can no longer claim to reside in the land called “middle-aged.” What my friend has to say here can be encouraging not just for the older crowd, but for all young people, too, since you are already in training for old age.

Who is this friend? I’m using the word “friend,” loosely here, as I refer to the words I read each day from D. A. Carson in his two volume work, “For the Love of God.” Through these books he’s been speaking to me and informing my reading of Scripture for many years.

His comments (you can read the whole thing here – and who knew Kenneth would comment on this theme in yesterday’s email?) about old age came from reflections on Psalm 71 generally and verse 18 in particular, which says,

“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.”

We live in a culture that values looking and feeling young. Old age isn’t something we talk about much and few people aspire to it. Carson writes,

“We talk about preparing for retirement, but only with the greatest reluctance do we prepare for infirmity and death. Very few talk about these matters openly and frankly—without, on the one hand, dwelling on them (which shows they are frightened by them), or, on the other hand, suppressing them (which again shows they are frightened by them). It is much more responsible to learn how to age faithfully, to learn how to die well.”

How can we age faithfully, and what do older people have to offer? Psalm 71:18 is a wonderful mission statement for the gray hairs amongst us, and I’ve become one. Every church needs older men and women who can tell others from first-hand experience of God’s saving power. One of the blessings of being in a multi-generation church is to have experienced Christians who can help the next generation find the way of faith in earlier seasons of life.

Carson urges, “Should not senior saints be praying for grace to pass on what they have learned to a new generation? Perhaps this will be one on one, or in small groups. Perhaps one of them will take under his or her wing some young Christian or abandoned waif. Perhaps some experienced prayer warrior will teach a young Christian leader how to pray. And when there is too little strength even for these things, we shall pray that God’s grace will so operate in our weakness that God will be glorified in us: perhaps we shall teach younger Christians how to persevere under suffering, how to trust in the midst of pain, and how to die in the grace of God.”

Psalm 71:18 is a marvelous mission statement for us gray hairs. May God enable us to tell another generation or two of the saving power of our great Lord Jesus. Fellow gray hairs, is there a younger brother or sister God is putting on your heart to reach out to?

I’m grateful for the number of people in their 20’s and 30’s who have become members of our church in the past few years. Older saints need the joyful energy and zeal of younger ones. Younger believers need older saints to show them the ropes, encourage them along the way, pray with and for them. My younger brothers and sisters, is there a senior saint nearby you can reach out to for wisdom and mutual encouragement?

Mark Mullery

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