SOMETIMES I FEEL THAT I’M TOO OLD

Sometimes I Feel That I’m Too Old

 

Sometimes Series #6

A Christian hero – Dr. J. Vernon McGee – Pastor and Bible teacher – died in 1988 at the age of 84 …still preaching and teaching on a daily basis 

When Dr. J. Vernon McGee talked about the Bible, people listened. He was the most beloved Bible teacher of his generation.

In a sit-down conversation after he had preached what would be his last Sunday sermon he did not talk about the past

He did not mention the good old days and all that he had accomplished for the Kingdom – which was seriously substantial

The only subject that interested him was the future

He was fascinated by the technology of audio-tape and broadcasting

He was looking to the future and how to keep his ministry fruitful long after he was gone

He was correct about that

Fifteen years after Dr. McGee’s death (2003), the Wall Street Journal published an article about him

Writer Anne Wilde Matthews reported that McGee’s radio program was broadcast on 800 radio stations in the U.S. And Canada

His teachings were being beamed around the world via satellite and the Internet in more than 100 languages

Thru the Bible, his radio program, had added an additional 300 North American affiliates and dozens of new languages since his death…

A side note: The numbers are even greater today as every year his ministry grows in nations around the world

Dr. McGee’s wholehearted ministry has not stopped even in his death 

A similar story could be told of another giant of that same era – Derek Prince – whose teachings and books are still read and listened to worldwide – especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

It’s fascinating to me that Dr. McGee foresaw this and carefully planted the seeds for it

In his final message, he was teaching from the verse: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4 emphasis added)

In other words, the excellence of his gifts gave Abel a voice beyond the grave

That’s what Dr. McGee wanted, and again God has granted it!

He lived “Life Wide Open”

Some men leave monuments of stone – where I work in every city there is one or more monuments to Lenin and Stalin who were the key founding fathers of the nation of Russia

And the U.S.S.R. and now several economic unions involving former U.S.S.R. nations

But Christians are to leave living monuments that continue to impact people and change hearts so that the Kingdom continues to expand even after they are gone

Dr. McGee and others did just that and continue to do so today

Though he spoke of Cain, Dr. J. Vernon McGee reminds me more of Caleb – the less celebrated friend of Joshua

You’ll remember that the two of them brought the minority report from the Promised Land, which they described as an abundant land of milk and honey

They were ready to seize their inheritance in God’s name

Joshua and Caleb were, at that time, in the prime of their lives — Caleb was 40 years old

But the other scouts / spies – the majority party – counselled the Israelites to fear the giants in the land and keep away

The lack of faith cost Israel an entire generation of restless wandering before they finally claimed the land God had reserved for them

But it is the rest of Caleb’s story that is most fascinating to me

He was 85 years old when he achieved his peak accomplishment — a man living with wide-open faith right to the end – just like J. Vernon McGee

Slogan: Life Wide Open

Caleb was enthusiastic about life

He engaged life

He embraced life

He lived life with energy and excitement and anticipation

Always looking forward and never looking back — Life Wide Open

This is how Caleb described himself at age eighty-five

“Now look at me: GOD has kept me alive, as he promised. It is now forty-five years since GOD spoke this word to Moses, years in which Israel wandered in the wilderness. And here I am today, eighty-five years old! I’m as strong as I was the day Moses sent me out. I’m as strong as ever in battle, whether coming or going” (Joshua 14:10-11 The Message Version)

It’s clear that Caleb was passionate in his youth as well as his elderly years

And, of course, I am looking at this on a very personal level as I reach what today would still be considered old age … because “Sometimes I feel that I am too old”

So, the question would be: “Where did his passion come from?”

It certainly wasn’t the product of an easy journey

You could summarize Caleb’s life at eighty-five in three D’s: Desert, Death, and Discouragement

All of his contemporaries and friends were dying

You might remember that a condition for entering the Promised Land was that all of the unfaithful generation — the one that shied away from giants — had to die before God would permit the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land

These were Caleb’s friends and neighbours; family and friends

It took 38 wilderness years for that to happen

Caleb grew older as he waited through the decades

Checking the obituaries every day and seeing the last of his old friends die

A generation of funerals would make the best of us gloomy and depressed

But not Caleb

We see in these verses that his engines are still reviving

The fire in the furnace of his soul was still lit

He was living life wide open for God!

He was not enjoying retirement

He was not just waiting to die – coasting downhill 

He was passionate about God, about his calling as a believer, and about life

He was engaged with life – embracing all and every opportunity 

He was excited about the future

He was living with a vision of what could be

In a discussion recently with nine secular leaders who had distinguished themselves by their vision… the moderator wrote:

“While their contemporaries groped at the present to feel a pulse, or considered the past to discern the course that led to the moment, these nine squinted through the veil of the future. Not that they were mystics … For most of them, reality was pure and simple. What set them apart was the conviction that a greater reality lay a number of years down the pike.”

No one questioned Caleb’s pulse as he too looked to a greater future and had a vision of what could be

Forty years earlier he had done reconnaissance work in hostile territory

He and Joshua had seen opportunity where the others had seen opposition

He based his recommendations not on the problems but on the provision and power of God

Listen to the boldness in his declaration:

Numbers 13:30; 14:7-8 “But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it … and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey.”

If only the people had listened to the voice of faith instead of the voice of fear

In listening to and believing the ten spies who brought a negative report, they doomed themselves to a generation of emptiness and wandering

And, we do the same when we listen to the wrong internal voice

      • It is just too difficult – I can’t do it
      • I will never be smart (strong, fast) enough to manage that
      • There is no way I can overcome my past – scared for life
      • I am getting too old for this type of challenge
      • This is just who I am
      • I was always told I would not amount to anything
      • No one cares what I think
      • No one ever listens to what I am saying
      • God could never use me…

Caleb waited out the time though the punishment wasn’t his to endure

He kept his heart young and his faith active – and at 85 years old he told God what he wanted:

Joshua 14:12 “So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.”

What would most of us ask for at eighty-five?

“Lord, giver me a nice mountain cabin in one of the fortified regions, where I will be safe. Just give me a nice place to rest these tired bones.”

No one would have criticized Caleb for being ready to sit back, relax and take it easy

We expect people to be broken down and sick and living in quiet despair at that age

To live life with “little energy and no spirit”

But in fact Caleb was living life wide open (to the future) … embracing and engaging in God’s plan and purpose

With tremendous energy and a strong spirit

In our world today … many who are in their 30’s and 40’s are already living like they are in their 70’s and 80’s…

Life shut down and not life wide open

Disengaged and not embracing the challenges

Waiting for the weekend so they can relax or go drinking or watch the game on cable television…

A survey of people in the business world… but the findings of the survey speak volumes about the church world as well…

“People enter business as bright, well educated, high energy people, full of desire to make a difference. By the time they are 30, a few are on the fast tracking; the rest put in their time and do what really matters to them on the weekend. They lose the commitment, the sense of mission, and the excitement with which they started their careers. We get … little of their energy and almost none of their spirit.”

Why is this true in life and in the Christian faith?

I believe it is because, unlike Caleb….

Most adults have little sense of real vision

We have goals and objective, but these are not vision

When asked what they want, many adults will say what they want to get rid of

They’d like a better job – that is, they’d like to get rid of the boring and demanding job they have

They’d like to live in a better neighbourhood

Not have to worry about crime 

Being finished putting their kids through school

They would like their mother-in-law to return to her own home

It would be great if their back stopped hurting

These are “negative visions” and really not visions at all – but common among believers and non-believers as well

Real vision allows you to live life wide open and is looking to the future

One bright teenager looked at those over thirty and said:

“We shouldn’t call them ‘grown ups,’ we should call them ‘given ups’

They are not living life wide open – embracing opportunities and celebrating life

They lack passion and drive

And so live life with little energy and no spirit

Caleb had both passion and drive

He did not use his grey hair or his age to beg off the heavy lifting

He asked for a worthy challenge that he could embrace and engage in

The alternative that many settle for – old and young alike – is to “retire” from life – doing as little as possible to get by … not challenging themselves – in essence, already retired

Since I retired from life’s competition,

Each day is filled with complete repetition.

I get up each morning and dust off my wits,

Go pick up the paper and read the “obits.”

If my name isn’t there, I know I’m not dead,

So I get a good breakfast and go back to bed.

 

We might call this a life shut tight

Going through the motions with no emotions

Dead fish float downstream …

A life shut down … for all intents and purpose – dead but still living

Caleb lived a life wide open as did J. Vernon McGee

Why is it that we fear growing old?

We fear getting old either in age or old in our approach to life

In the Bible – old was good!

Proverbs 16:31 tells us, “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory”

In our youth-possessed culture it seems to be consider a crown of thorns

Here’s a thought:

As soon as we stop living (engaging in life; living life wide open), we literally begin dying

We find the words “old and advanced in years” six time in the Bible

It means exactly what it says

But, five of the six times this phrase crops up in the Bible, the “old and advanced” person is about to experience something astonishing

      • Abraham (100) and Sarah (age 90) are “old and advanced in years” as they are about to give birth to Isaac
      • Zacharias and Elizabeth are “old and advanced in years” before they give birth to John the Baptist.
      • Joshua was “old and advanced in years” before he gave the marching orders to enter the land of God’s promise

The Israelites were given specific instructions about dealing with the region’s inhabitants

But at the age of 85, only Caleb fully carried out his orders

As we read through these chapters of the book of Joshua, we see the words “did not drive them out” over and over – failure to do as commanded

Joshua 13:13 Yet the people of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites, but Geshur and Maacath dwell in the midst of Israel to this day.”

Joshua 15:63 “But the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.”

Joshua 16:10 “However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.”

After the glorious crossing of the Jorden, the Israelites left unfinished business in their wake

If they had driven out the various tribes who were enemies of God, their future would have been peaceful and secure

Instead, the Canaanites remained a thorn in Israel’s collective side for many years to come

But then there was Caleb…

Joshua 15:14 “And Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the descendants of Anak.

No unfinished business there

Caleb did exactly what he was told, and he did it immediately

He is one of those success stories whose secret is not a secret

There is a distinctive that sets him apart from the others

Caleb’s entire life story is told in 30 verses in the Bible

Six times in those 30 verses we see a recurring theme – the secret of success

  • “”But my servant Caleb—this is a different story. He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately. I’ll bring him into the land that he scouted and his children will inherit it (Numbers 14:24 MSG).
  • “None, except for Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, and Joshua son of Nun; they followed me—their hearts were in it’” (Numbers 32:12 MSG)
  • “Not a single person of this evil generation is going to get so much as a look at the good land that I promised to give to your parents. Not one— except for Caleb son of Jephunneh. He’ll see it. I’ll give him and his descendants the land he walked on because he was all for following GOD, heart and soul” (Deuteronomy 1:35-36 MSG)
  • “My companions who went with me discouraged the people, but I stuck to my guns, totally with GOD, my God. That was the day that Moses solemnly promised, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance, you and your children’s, forever. Yes, you have lived totally for GOD’” (Joshua 14:8-9 MSG).
  • “Hebron belongs to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite still today, because he gave himself totally to GOD, the God of Israel” (Joshua 14:14 MSG).

Caleb’s passion breaks through so we can’t miss it

He had a “different spirit” and followed God with all his heart (passionately)

The Great Commandment was embedded deep in Caleb’s soul in his early life

And it guided him throughout his days

“Love GOD, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got” (Deuteronomy 6:5 MSG)

”’Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’” (Matthew 22:37 MSG)

By the time he was 85, while most of his generation had given up hope and died

Caleb was still a bright fire burning

He still wanted to leap on the greatest possible task that God could give him

In his biography of Bob Pierce (Founder of World Vision), Dr. Graham’s son Franklin tells about Dr. Charles McCoy, a pastor from Oyster Bay, New York

Dr. McCoy was a tall, distinguished man with seven university degrees

His church expected him to step down at age seventy-two and move into a retirement home

But Dr. McCoy was an explorer at heart, and to everyone’s surprise, he sold his possessions and travelled to India, where a man had invited him to preach.

His friends tried to dissuade him, saying, “You might die in India.”

But he replied, “It’s just as close to heaven from there as it is from here.”

During his trip, his luggage was lost

And he no sooner arrived than his billfold and passport were stolen

The man who had invited him had returned to the States, and Dr. McCoy knew no one else in India. 

A group of missionaries took him in but were not sure what to do with him.

Dr. McCoy never missed a beat

He travelled through Asia for 16 years, having unusual opportunities to share Christ before political leaders, military academies, educational institutions, and large crowds of people

He planted churches in Calcutta and Hong Kong.

When he passed away at age 86 at the Grand Hotel in Calcutta, a friend said, “He had come to the end of his great adventure. He was as close to heaven as if he had never left New York. He had been faithful.”

The truth is that if you are being moulded into the image of Christ every day

And if the Holy Spirit is doing His ongoing work in you

And if you are doing all that you can to serve God as the days and months and years are piled upon one another

Then you are going to shine

Think of what the Spirit of God can do within someone who has lived half a century or more and still wants to grow and mature

Living life wide open

Swimming up stream 

Embracing and engaging with life – every day, every opportunity

Think of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) continuing to blossom in that person’s life

In your life…

Think of that fruit coming into season as you reach your ripening years

We should call, those years harvest years when the best, sweetest things in your life become ripe and delicious

One of the most pervasive and cynical lies of our time is that all  the good stuff comes in the first half of life

That after you reach 60, it’s all downhill

Bruce Larson (Christian author with 23 books still in print …died in 2008) wrote:

“A life of safety is no life at all, whatever your vocation. Still, we are programmed from an early age to start providing for a safe and desired future. Through pension funds and retirement benefits, we work towards removing all risk from our lives by the time we are 65. Yet in the three societies sociologists have studied where people normally live to 100 and frequently to 120, there is no special treatment for the aged … Scientists who have studied these societies have found they have nothing in common in terms of climate, diet, geography, or lifestyle. But in all three places, the inhabitants are expected to live normal lives with no cushion for safety. They continue to work, tend fields, and keep shops until they die at 100 plus. I am convinced that God never invented old age. Death is a gift, but old age is man’s invention. It is a cultural blight in our lifetime.”

George Bernard Shaw – not a believer – came close to the essence of the man I want to be in these words he wrote:

“This is the true joy in life — being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy … I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I’ve got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

No matter what age you are – young or youngish…

Embrace each day of life as a gift from the Lord

Engage in that day fully living life wide open – eyes on the future

Encounter each situation or problem as an opportunity to see God work on your behalf

Encourage everyone you speak with to consider Jesus 

Experience life fully –  don’t shut your life down as you hit the upper years