Psalm 71 can serve as an insightful view on how to age with God's grace, John Piper says.
Piper, who serves as chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minnesota, wrote in a post for his DesiringGod.org website that Psalm 71 offers seven exhortations on how to age and approach death with God's plan and grace in mind.
The Psalm reads, in part: "In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel" (verses 1-4).
"For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you," verses 5-6 read.
"Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone," verse 9 adds.
The first exhortation, Piper explains, relates to verse 1, which calls on Christians to take refuge in the Lord.
This verse is especially relevant to age because it encourages us to trust in God and forgo complaining, with the theologian saying: "Let's resolve to take refuge in God rather than taking offense at our troubles."
Verses 5-6 and 17 call on us to "resolve to remember with wonder and thanks the thousands of times we have leaned on God since our youth," Piper continues.
These verses show us that we should remember our past experience with God's grace as we move forward into old age.
"[…] as we look back, we should be filled with thankfulness. And as we look forward, that thankfulness should turn in mighty hope," the teacher writes.
As we age, we should also make the commitment to sing God's praises, Piper says, explaining that because life is a gift from God, "the longer we live, the more we should praise."
Even as our bodies fail us, let's remain joyful and optimistic, as verse 14 calls us to "hope continually."
"We will get to the point where we feel useless and too weak to do any good. And the temptation to despair will be huge," he writes, adding that hope should be rooted in the fact that although our bodies are failing, our spirits are becoming stronger in their walk with Jesus to eternity.
Despite old age, Christians should continue spreading the Good News, Bethlehem College & Seminary chancellor continues, referencing verses 15 and 18, which encourage older generations to spread news about God's salvation to all, including younger generations.
Piper concludes his message by calling on Christians to take away two more themes of encouragement for old age found in Psalm 71, including remembering that we will eventually get to meet God in heaven and until that time we should castaway "stuffy stereotypes" of the elderly.
"There won't be any phoniness in heaven. There will only be complete authenticity. We will discover what childlikeness was really meant to be," Piper writes. "We will be free. For freedom Christ has set you free. Let's do this. Don't lose heart."
Other evangelical leaders have also spoken on the topic of old age, including famed preacher Billy Graham, who wrote in his 2011 book Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well that "all my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die."
"I wish they had because I am an old man now, and believe me, it's not easy," Graham says in the book.
The Baptist minister adds that growing old shouldn't be something negative, but rather a time for being an impactful Christian.
"While the Bible doesn't gloss over the problems we face as we grow older, neither does it paint old age as a time to be despised or a burden to be endured with gritted teeth (if we still have any). Nor does it picture us in our latter years as useless and ineffective," Graham writes.