As an older Christian, you have a special calling. Read here how to overcome the obstacles and fulfill it.
"The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31). So says the great God, the One who will live forever and the One who created the physical aging process in human beings. God respects those who, further along in years, are striving to live His way in the face of the special challenges and trials with which they are confronted. Yet how different God's viewpoint is from that of the youth-oriented society in which we live! Television, magazines, entertainment and advertisements tell us that young is in and old is out. Our modern idols are young, beautiful, lithe and rarely more than 30 — almost never more than 40 — years old. The generation gap widens. We are left with the impression that to grow old is to enter a wasteland of loneliness, ignorance and uselessness. Becoming "old," it would seem, is to be avoided at all costs! What a paradox! As the forces of science struggle to extend life, society in general strips from old age all the respect and honor once accorded those who had lived long lives and who had the experience, skills and wisdom to share for it. Older people make up a significant part of the Body of God's called and chosen people today. One in eight members of God's Church is older than age 55. Perhaps you are one of them. If so, read on. Your calling gives you a unique role in the Body of Christ. And if you are not in this special group, read on anyway. You probably know several people who are, and you are responsible as a Christian for appreciating their feelings and needs and serving them.
A special group
If you are an older Christian, you are specially blessed! God says, "The splendor of old men [and women!] is their gray head" (Proverbs 20:29). You have a special place in God's Church. These should be your golden years — the best years of your life. However, the world we live in — Satan's world — produces trials that are particularly hard on the elderly, especially in Western societies. Various worries and pressures beset older people, even in God's Church, and can lead to discouragement. Perhaps the present financial "squeeze" feels more like a stranglehold to you, living on a limited income and struggling to make ends meet each month. Perhaps you have no family nearby and no close friends, and fight desperate bouts with loneliness. Maybe your health is not what it once was, and you are forced to face your mortality in pain or merely by not being able to do what you want. You may even have a gnawing feeling of uselessness — you just don't feel wanted and wonder sometimes what you are doing in the world. How can you fight — and win — battles such as these?
What is your outlook?
A major key to overcoming in this Christian struggle is to develop the right outlook on life. That outlook must be tremendously, overwhelmingly positive! The almighty God in heaven — your holy Father — is ageless! He is "the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity" (Isaiah 57:15), and His purpose is to share that eternity with you. He deeply wants you, more than your human mind can realize. The mighty God is "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (II Corinthians 1:3). You can literally rely on Him for your every need. You can cast every care upon Him, for He cares about you (I Peter 5:7). He wants you to enjoy an abundant, happy life (John 10:10), and will provide such if you will only look to Him in faith. God has given you this life as a training ground. He has given you time in which to develop His character and qualify for His coming Kingdom. Notice how King David, as he grew older, relied on God: "Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails" (Psalm 71:9), David cried out. "Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come" (verse 18). Abraham enjoyed a long, successful life because he relied on God: "Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things" (Genesis 24:1). Whatever state or circumstance you are in, determine to live life to the fullest — positively!
Do you have a habit of looking back on failures in your life, like one man I knew? After this man retired he was forever lamenting all the mistakes he had made in his life, and sorry he had not accomplished more. The result? He wandered from room to room, looking out the windows and feeling sorry for himself, until the day he died. But his real failure was that he looked backward instead of forward. He thought his life had already ended when he reached a certain age. And after all, isn't that what society had told him? Live in the present and look to the wonderful things you can do now and in the future if you will only apply yourself. You say you're too old to change? Change is the name of the game in the Christian life! Make this your motto: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). You're never too old to gain new knowledge and accomplish even more. Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong, now in his 92nd year, is a tremendous case in point. He has often remarked on the happy, abundant life he enjoys. Why is he happy? Because he has applied himself, with God's help, and can look back on great achievements in his life, and is looking forward to doing even bigger and better things. God's purpose for you is that you rule the universe with Him (Revelation 21:7). That means an eternity of extraordinary accomplishment. You need to keep that in mind and ingrain a positive attitude into your character now. There is no human alive who cannot improve and grow, especially with the direct, loving assistance of our powerful Father. God will even renew your strength and give you new vigor for life: "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord [this means you!] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:28-31). Much of it is in the attitude you take toward life. God will provide your every need and help you overcome every obstacle (Matthew 6:25-33). "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8). Remember God's calling. He specially chose you to actively assist in the most important job in the final days of this age. And God doesn't make mistakes. He knew and knows exactly what He is doing. You can grow in grace and knowledge, develop talents, overcome, endure to the end and be born into God's Family at the return of Christ.
What part are you to play in the Church and work of this end time? How can you become more involved? Overall, concentrate on giving and not getting. Don't occupy your mind with your problems — your bills, your loneliness, your illness. Let God take care of those things — you concentrate on what you can do for others. Share as much as possible. Perhaps you are not capable of rendering financial assistance. Maybe you can't volunteer for work projects. But you can maintain a cheerful attitude for the benefit of those around you. "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad" (Proverbs 12:25). Remember the incredible future awaiting us in God's Kingdom, and keep on hand a large supply of those "good words" with which to encourage others. A kind word can work wonders for someone who is down. If you are close to God through Bible study, prayer, meditation and, if your physical condition permits it, fasting, you will have real godly confidence, and this will radiate to others. You will remember that Jesus Christ overcame the world (John 16:33), and that you are on His side. You will face your trials with courage, persistence and a stiff resolve to obey God in all things. And think of the fine example you will set for others. Do you feel that you don't support God's work enough? You simply don't have the money to make the large offerings you wish you could, and you feel like you are not doing your part? Well, never underestimate the power of prayer. You can do more with one deeply felt, believing prayer than a hundred others can do with a hundred halfhearted offerings. James said, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). The Bible is filled with records of what believing prayers accomplished for God's people. God hears such prayers and answers. Perhaps you even have more time to devote to prayer than those who must work or who have more family responsibilities to take care of.
Set a right example
Paul devoted a whole section of one of his epistles to you as an older person: "Speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 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" (Titus 2:1-5). This is no small responsibility! You are to develop love, patience, temperance and the other fruits of God's Spirit. Your behavior is to literally be holy, as befits a saint. And you are to set a good example, to teach younger people the right way to live. Your age or situation in no way excludes you from an active part in the work of God's Church! In short, it is your duty to let people around you know what it means to be truly Christian. The help you give your fellowmen, your encouraging example, your cheerful words, your contagious smiles, your confident attitude, your prayers and your faith — all this is well within your means. You are never too old to sow these good seeds. Notice this combination promise-command from God: "Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing [in God's Spirit, in Christian works]" (Psalms 92:13-14). Strive to truly make these your golden years — the most productive, most useful, most interesting and happiest years of your life!