The New Testament…gives numerous examples of men and women who were used of God in their old age. When God announced to Zechariah that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, he didn’t believe it at first. The reason, he said, was that “I am an old man and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18). But God used both of them anyway, in spite of his doubts. Anna, who joyously recognized the infant Jesus as the promised Messiah when Mary and Joseph brought Him into the Temple to be dedicated to God, was “very old . . . a widow until she was eighty-four” (Luke 2:36–37). The apostle John wrote the book of Revelation while imprisoned for his faith on the isolated island of Patmos; at the time he was probably in his nineties. Paul, writing from jail after many years of sacrificial missionary service, described himself as “an old man”- but also expressed the hope that he would be released so he could continue preaching Christ (Philemon vv. 9, 22). Numerous other examples could be given of people whom God used in their latter years, not only from the Bible but also from the pages of history.
Joining the Witnesses
But perhaps you are saying to yourself, “Well, that may have been true for them, but it won’t be for me. Someday I’ll be old, and when it happens my usefulness will be over. And besides that, I want to take it easy when I retire.” You may even be convinced those days have already arrived for you.
These men and women were not unique, however, nor were they necessarily the kinds of extraordinary, superhuman individuals who come along only once in a great while. For the most part they were ordinary men and women, and as such they have lessons to teach us. The first is this: old age may have its limitations and challenges, but in spite of them our latter years can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives. It was for them, and it can be for us.
They were prepared-mentally, physically, emotionally, and most of all spiritually-for whatever old age would bring their way. That made all the difference. They were able to do what they did because long before old age came upon them, they were already prepared for its challenges. Old age didn’t take them by surprise; they knew that if God gave them a long life, then He still would be with them, and He would have a reason for keeping them here. For them, growing older was not something to be denied or dreaded; it was to be embraced as part of God’s plan for their lives. They were ordinary individuals-but men and women of extraordinary faith.
How did they prepare for the unexpected twists and turns of growing older? And how can we prepare for those latter years, no matter how young or old we are right now? To put it another way, how can we build our lives on a solid and unshakable foundation-one that will undergird us the rest of our days? God has given us the answers we need, if we will only discover them and apply them to our lives.
Nearing Home with Triumphant Expectations
While growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life, the greatest triumph is yet to come: experiencing victory over death that will usher me into the eternal presence of my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
While society may not believe that growing old is a respectable phase of life, my prayer is that believers in Jesus Christ will walk the last mile of the way triumphantly, as Moses did when he died at age 120: “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo. . . . There the Lord showed him the whole land. . . . And Moses the servant of the Lord died there. . . . Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:1, 5, 10).
This is a remarkable passage. While Moses was prevented from entering the land because of his earlier disobedience, God allowed him to behold the land of promise in his old age. I often wonder if God, in His sovereignty, allows the eyesight of the aged to cast a dim view of the here and now so that we may focus our spiritual eyes on the ever after.
God’s Word records that Moses’ successor, Joshua, “was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him . . . and [Joshua] did what the Lord had commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9). Even after his death, the impact of Moses’ life lived on in Joshua, the great military commander for God’s people.
What testimony are you passing on to others following you? Remembering what God has done for you will invigorate you in old age. Others are watching your actions and attitudes. Don’t diminish the impact you can make; pass on foundational truths of God’s Word so that younger generations will be as Joshua, “filled with the spirit of wisdom.”