“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [2 Tim 4:7]
“Where in the Bible do we see retirement? Did Moses retire? Did Paul retire? Peter? Do military officers retire in the midst of war?” Dr. Ralph Winter
I have a pastoral friend who told me of a great story concerning his three year old granddaughter. He caught her staring at him for a long time. Finally, he said to her, “What’s a matter?” She replied, “You are old and pretty soon you are going to see Jesus.” I laughed, but not too hard. I had my own story. Just the other day as I exited my gym, I saw a mother and her two small children sitting on a bench next to the door. Apparently they were waiting for their dad to finish his workout. As I walked out the door, the little boy looked at me and then said to his mother: “That is not him. That’s a grand daddy.” If you have stopped laughing, we will go on.
We have been looking at the nature of spiritual battle in the life of the Christian. We have said that this battle is located in the heart. It is a fight for faith and joy in Jesus Christ. It is fought with the provisions and promises that are found in God’s Word. It battles the lies of the enemy as he seeks to destroy what God loves by robbing us of the truth that is found in our Lord and Victor, Jesus Christ. We win by preparing for battle. We will persevere as we continue to fight in the strength God provides. We are soldiers, called to fight and proclaim the wonders of our God to the ends of the earth. As long as we have breath in our bodies, we are called to warfare.
I am writing today to encourage us old fogies. We live in a world that focuses on the youth, because “they are the future.” At the same time, the elderly are urged to find their comfortable place of retirement and to enjoy a life of leisure that they so richly deserve. I strongly protest. That idea is wrong! That kind of retirement is a waste of a lifetime of experience and wisdom and a sin against God’s plan for our lives. We are soldiers from the day of our spiritual birth till the day we die. Ralph Winter hits the nail on the head when he writes, “Where in the Bible do they see retirement? Did Moses retire? Did Paul retire? Peter? Do military officers retire in the midst of war?” We are in a spiritual battle that will rage on from our conversion until our final promotion.
When Paul wrote, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power,” [Eph 6:10] he was not just writing to the young bucks. He was addressing old fogies as well. The authority and power that are found in the Lord will strengthen us for battle all the way to the end. Paul testified to that truth when he wrote shortly before his martyrdom, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [2 Tim 4:7] The call to fight is not just to the “young forties” but to the “old fogies” too.
Sure, old age is filled with the pains and the pressures of loose joints and weak muscles. Someone has rightly said, “Growing old is not for sissies.” But the faulty vision, the arthritis, and the stiff joints do not have to keep us from being fighting fogies to the very end. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone in one of my churches say: “Well, I am going to step back and let the youth take over. I have done my part and now I will let them do theirs.” What is that all about? Here are seasoned saints who have wisdom and gifts that can be used to support and encourage youthful disciples. Instead these vets opt for retirement.
Doug Nichols was the Director of Action International when he came to our church to speak at our annual mission’s convention. Doug almost died of cancer and has a colostomy with him everywhere he goes around the world. When told by his doctor that traveling overseas might bring infection that would kill him, he responded that we all have to die sometime. He preferred to die serving the Lord wherever he would lead him. So, it was with that kind of authority he could challenge us by this call: “Don’t waste the rest of your life by retiring to the golf course or settling in the comfort of your condo. Go to Africa. We have orphanages that have so many children that the staff does not have time to give them the love they need. Come for two weeks and hold those babies in your arms and rock them with the love of Jesus.”
Although I am 65 years old, I still feel like I am forty. Every time I pass a mirror I wonder who that old man is looking back at me. I regularly exercise my body. Sure, it is harder to do than it once was. And, I don’t recover as quickly as I once did, but I have made it a life-long commitment. Working out helps preserve my strength, increases my endurance and reinforces my discipline. Old age may not be avoided, but I am not going there without a fight. Being strong in the Lord is not a wish, it is also a commitment, a commitment to train and grow all the days of our lives, physically and spiritually. We do so with the assurance that our God will sustain us as long as he has determined to use us. So, he reminds us in Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Caleb was an “old fogie” that refused to retire. He came to Joshua and declared: “Here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” At the age of 85, Caleb wanted to fight, not on the golf course, but in the mountains. May the Lord increase his tribe!
John Wesley had that spirit. At the age of 83, he was upset that he could not work more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes. At 86, he was ashamed that he could not preach more than twice a day and was angry that he would sleep until 5 AM.
At the age of 79, resting safely in Europe, Richard Lull refused to live out his life in comfort. Instead he asked God to enable him to “die in the glow of love, even as Christ was willing to die for him. So, in 1341, at the age of 80, his body old but not his spirit, he went to Bulgia in North Africa, where he publically pleaded for the Muslim people to turn to Jesus Christ. They dragged him from the city and stoned him to death, as a martyr for Christ. He died in the glow of God’s love. He was a soldier to the end.
I confess, I get tired more easily now and I don’t always feel well. But as Teddy Roosevelt once said, “90% of the work that is done in this country is by people who don’t feel well.” There is too much to do, too many battles to be won, too many hearts to be changed, too many missions to be accomplished, for us to lay down our arms. Giana Carlo Menotti once wrote, “Hell begins on that day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts that we wasted, of all that we might have done that we did not do.” May we, by the grace of God, avoid that kind of hell. As long as we have breath, whether on the mission field, convalescent home or the death bed, let us fight for the glory of God and the delight of our souls. So, rise up “old fogies,” fight on!
“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Ps 71:17-18
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