GRACEFULLY GROWING OLDER

By

Shelby G. Floyd

It is a beautiful day to come together to remember our Lord Jesus Christ, to study his word and to praise God’s name.

THE BEAUTY OF AGE

I am speaking on the subject of the art of gracefully growing older. Someone said, “The trick to gracefully growing older is to enjoy it.” That is a good thought. You can enjoy growing older, because no one criticizes you because you’re not out working every day. If you go out to eat at the restaurant two three times each week, that is all right also. There are a lot of things that you can do and get by with when you are older, that people criticize you when you are younger. So getting older is not all that bad, especially if you learn to enjoy getting older.

We can be like Sarah’s grandpa who quoted this poem to me one time:

I get up in the morning,
And read the obits,
If I don’t see my name,
I know I am not dead.
So I eat a good breakfast,
And go back to bed.

And that’s okay too!

Our Scripture reading today was that beautiful passage in the book of Ecclesiastes 12:1-7. That statement is a figurative expression of some of the things that we have to face as we grow older. For example, “the almond tree flourishes” refers to the time when the old man’s hair turns gray or white. “The grinders cease” is talking about losing some of your teeth as you grow older. “The strong men tremble” is talking about your arms and legs that lose some of their power and strength in old age. And that is one of the first things you notice as you grow older.

Someone wrote the following words,

BEATITUDES FOR FRIENDS OF THE AGED:

Blessed are they who understand
My faltering step and palsied hand.
Blessed are they who know that my ears today
Must strain to catch the things they say.
Blessed are they who seem to know
That my eyes are dim and my wits are slow.
Blessed are they who looked away
When coffee spilled at the table today.
Blessed are they with a cheery smile
Who stop to chat for a little while.
Blessed are they who never say,
“You’ve told that story twice today.”
Blessed are they who know the ways
To bring back memories of yesterdays.
Blessed are they who make it known
That I am loved, respected and not alone.
Blessed are they who know I’m at a loss
To find the strength to carry the Cross.
Blessed are they who ease the days
On my journey Home in loving ways.

These words are not about the aged, but about the friends of the aged. God bless all of our people with a lot of good friends as we gracefully grow older?

THE OLDEST WOMAN AND MAN

A few weeks ago I got on my computer and searched to see who were the oldest woman and oldest man in the whole wide world. From my research I came up with,

EMMA MORANO*
Emma Morano is the oldest living woman, who was 117 years, 78 days as of February 15, 2017. I do not know very much about Emma Morano, except that she is the oldest living person in the world. What this should tell us is that we should not put ourselves in the grave before our time. There are a lot of very old people living in our world today. *Emma Morano died April 15, 2017, Verbania, Italy.

YISRAEL KRISTAL
The oldest living man is a Jewish man by the name of Yisrael Kristal. As of February 15, 2017 he was 113 years, 153 days old. He was the oldest living man in the world. I read some about him and did you know that he survived the Nazi death camps? He survived that awful experience in which so many people perished, and here he is 113 years old. If this doesn’t give all of us some hope I don’t know what would! Therefore don’t put yourself in the grave before your time! That is the lesson to learn from these two individuals.

Our lesson today is primarily direct it to the older people of the congregation. We do have quite a few people in the congregation that are over 65 and still alive. But the lesson is also for the younger people, because when Solomon was speaking about the infirmities of old age he said,

“Remember now your creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw near, when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

I am thankful that I started remembering my creator when I was a young man. I started preaching the gospel when I was about 21 or 22 years old. And I do not regret that decision for one minute. I have lived with no regrets for serving the Lord.

The last time I presented thoughts on this subject was July 23, 1995 at the age of 58. That has been about 20 years ago. And I promise you that if I live another 20 years at about the age of 99, I will preach this sermon again. So take good care of yourself so you’ll be present to hear me preach that sermon, the Lord willing.

THE BEAUTY OF GROWING OLDER

The beauty of growing older does not need to be a bad thing and it does not have to be ugly. It can be a beautiful thing.

WISDOM SPEAKS
Some wise person said, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many!” I do not want to hear any older person complaining about getting older. Because many people never have that opportunity. So enjoy getting older and have a good time. Thank and praise God that you have lived as long as you have.

Seneca, one of the Roman poets wrote, “Nothing is more disgraceful than that of an old man should have nothing to show to prove that he lived long except years.” Life is not just about living a long time. While we are living that long time there should be something to show for it beside just years. Therefore as our years go by, try to have something worthwhile and valuable to show for all those years. What does the word of God say about growing older?

THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK
What does God had to say about this subject? The wise man Solomon said, “The silver haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31). That is a big “if!” There is nothing wonderful about having a head of silver hair. There are criminals in prison who have a beautiful silver head of hair. But Solomon says it is a crown of glory if that person be found in the way of righteousness.

Job, one of the three greatest men who ever lived (Ezekiel 14:14), wrote: “You shall come to the grave at a full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season” (Job 5:26). According to this statement, birth, life and death are compared to a lot of different things. Before presenting this sermon I was thinking about life compared to the new day we all have. We turn our clocks ahead one hour. So we had to get up an hour early. So life is like a new day: there is sunrise, forenoon, noon, afternoon, evening and sunset. How many times do we photograph and admire a beautiful sunset? Why is it that we think a sunset is a beautiful thing, but we do not think that a person who has lived a life into the sunset years is also beautiful?

In Proverbs 20:29 the wise man wrote these beautiful words, “The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head.” We do not see very many old men going over to lift weights each day. It is wise when old men do not try to do the same thing they did when they were young men! A person will get in trouble when they try to act like a young man when they are not young. Therefore we should be more proud of our gray head than how much weight we can lift.

We have looked at some wise sayings and what the Scriptures have to say about growing older. Now let us notice what some of the poets have penned.

THE POETS SPEAK
One of my favorite poems is by Robert Browning in Rabbi Ben Ezra:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life
For which the first was made:
Our times are in his hand
Who saith, a whole I planned,
Youth holds but half;
Trust God, see all, nor be afraid.

Those are good words to live by as we go down the journey of life.

Julia Dorr in her poem bouquet club wrote these beautiful words,

“The year grows rich as it groweth old,
And life’s latest sands are its sands of gold.”

And Carly Baker wrote,

Let me grow lovely, growing old-
So many fine things do: laces, and ivory,
And gold, and silks need not be new.
And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old.

Let each one of us take all of these bits of wisdom and make them a part of our life as we grow older. Now I want to talk to you about our relationships with each other.

RELATIONSHIPS: THE DUTIES OF THE YOUNG TOWARD THE OLD

Our relationships with each other are probably one of the most difficult tasks that we face in life. It is very important that our interaction with other people be right. We must learn to have the right relationships between the young and old and everyone in between. But now we want to emphasize the proper relationship between the young toward the older people. Young people have a duty in the eyes of God toward the elderly people. But what are those duties?

TO HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER
One responsibility that we mentioned quite often is the duty that young people have to honor their father and mother. The proper relationship between young people and older people has been lost in our country. And I don’t know all of the reasons. In the extreme we have young people who murder their father and mother. This is not representative of most young people. We tend to remember the extreme cases. But we definitely need to emphasize the biblical teaching of the relationship that should exist between the young and their parents.

Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). That is the first command that God gave with an attached promise. Honor your father and mother and the promise is that you may live a long life upon the earth. Dishonor your mother and father and you don’t have that promise. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul quotes the teaching of Moses when he said,

“Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Therefore, one of the first things incumbent upon young people is to honor, respect and obey their parents. This will produce great blessings in life.

HONOR WIDOWS AND OLDER MEN
Also, all of us have a responsibility to honor widows and older men. Paul instructed the younger preacher Timothy to put out the word about honoring widows and older men:

“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).

So that is good advice for young people, sons and daughters, and mothers and fathers in these mutual relationships.

Then in the same context Paul adds these comments:

“Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God” (1 Timothy 5:3-4).

What this means is that the extended family must stick together and take care of those who are absolutely desolate widows. This is right and should be done out of love in order that the church would not be charged with this responsibility. Family first, but of course if the widow is desolate and abandoned by her family, the church of our Lord should reach out and give love and support.

STAND UP IN THE PRESENCE OF OLDER PEOPLE
One of the ways the Bible teaches younger people to respect an older person is to stand up when they enter our presence. The word of God says,

“You shall rise for the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).

Therefore, God warned younger people in the long ago to show respect and honor to older people. One way this can be done is to stand up in their presence. In summary God expects all of us to show honor, respect and love to the elderly. Older people have been around for a long time and there is still a lot of work that they are capable of doing.

THE WORK OF AGE

Sometimes we hear older people say, “I just can’t do anything anymore.” “I am unable to do any work!” But let us see if God has laid out any work for older people to do.

THE WORK OF OVERSEEING THE CHURCH
First, what about the work of overseeing the church? When God set up the government of the church, he didn’t place teenagers to be in charge of spiritual matters. He didn’t place young married men as overseers of the church. But he did place older men over the church that are called elders, bishops, pastors, shepherds and other synonyms. And they all refer to the same charge.

Notice what Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus when they had a meeting at the Seaport of Miletus. Paul was in a hurry to get back to Jerusalem for the Passover. So he did not stop at Ephesus on his trip back to the Canaan land, but instead he stopped at Miletus and called for the elders of the church to meet him there. They were just a short distance away and they can come to him it easier than he could leave the ship and go over and visit with them. Paul had spent about three years with the church at Ephesus and when they arrived he gave a great speech. But notice how he warned the elders of the church:

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to Shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departure Savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:28-31).

Older men called elders were placed by God over the church to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. False teachers appear innocent, honey may be dripping from their tongues, but they will devour the flock of God if left unguarded. So there is a work for older men to do in the church. Older is a relative term and does not indicate a certain age. But it definitely refers to someone who has some age, experience, wisdom and knowledge.

THE WORK OF TEACHING AND INSTRUCTION
But there are other things that not only older men, but older women also can do in the church. There are Bible classes for all ages. Someone with age, experience, knowledge and wisdom are required to teach those classes.

There are classes that older women can teach. A woman can do anything in the church that a man can do, except she cannot teach “over the man”(1 Timothy 2:12-15). She can teach other women. Our ladies have two Bible classes that are taught each month and they are doing a very good job. The apostle Paul outlined to a young preacher named Titus the different areas of work in which both “older men” and “older women” must be involved:

Titus 2:2-5
That the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

That is a lot of work that has been outlined, especially for older women and young women to do in the church. There is plenty of work for all older and younger people to do in the church. And we need to be busy carrying it out with honesty and humility.

THE WORK OF COUNSELING AND GUIDANCE
And then there is also the work of counseling and guidance. There are so many members of the church today, old and young alike, that are in need of spiritual guidance and counseling. Most preachers are not trained to do this kind of work. One of my Bible teachers, G. K. Wallace, advised us preachers, that when women called us for counseling he said, “Tell them to go and talk to grandma!” That was and is good advice based on Titus 2:2-5.

And we know the best counselors are those who have some age and wisdom. We all remember about King Solomon and the wisdom that he gave us in Ecclesiastes and the Proverbs. After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam was next in line to be King. His father’s counselors came to him and advised him to ease the burdens that had been laid upon the people. They said if he would do that, the people would support him forever. However, Rehoboam listened to his young advisors instead. They urged him to make the burdens on the people even heavier. This was bad counseling advice. As a result the people rebelled and chose Jeroboam to be their king. Rehoboam listened to the wrong counseling and guidance. Many people in the church today are getting bad counseling advice from people who have a worldly and ungodly perspective. When we have problems, let us seek out people who respect God and his inspired word. Therefore, there is a work of counseling and guidance for older people to do in the church.

SOME WORK DONE IN THE GOLDEN YEARS
But as we have said previously, there are too many people who have no confidence in themselves or their ability to do anything constructive as they get older. Some people say I just am too old to do any work in the church. C. S. Lewis wrote: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream another dream.” And Albert Einstein said, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got!” Those words are so true.

Let us now notice some of the work that older people have done that is remarkable:

 Socrates gave the world his wisest philosophy at 70.
 Plato was only a student at 50. He did his best teaching after 60.
 Bacon was 16 when he began his best writing.
 Agassiz was 51 when he gave his great scientific lectures.
 Voltaire did his finest work after 60, and produced his greatest masterpiece at 84.
 Gladstone was still a great leader in political and intellectual circles at 80.
 Victor Hugo wrote “Le Miserable” at age 62.
 Goethe began “Faust” at 60, and completed it at 82.
 Jules Vern was writing his imaginative stories at 70.

From the accomplishments of these aged people we definitely can draw the conclusion that there are plenty of things for all of us to do and to accomplish in our golden years. John Masefield summed it up when he said:

“I cannot sail your seas, I cannot wonder your corn land, nor your Hill land, nor your valleys ever again, nor share the battle yonder. Where the young Knight the broken squadron rallies. Only stay quiet while my mind remembers the beauty of the fire from the beauty of the embers.” From this we learn that there are a lot of things that we can’t do, and that there are also a lot of things that we can do. Let us do what we can. Let us all have the “I can do” attitude. What did the apostle Paul say? “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

ALWAYS LOOK TO THE FUTURE!

Let all of us look ahead more than we look back. Let us never flag nor fail. Let us all stay busy in the work of the Lord and look to the future instead of the past. The apostle Paul exhorted, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Let us spend more time focused on the Promised Land!*


*Shelby G Floyd delivered this sermon Sunday morning March 5, 2017, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 W. Main St., Greenwood, IN 46142. Copyright © 2017 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

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