In the last two columns I’ve tried to show that old age doesn’t mean the end of your Christian usefulness. Older saints are particularly well positioned to glorify God, through your trials and through your prayers. In this final instalment we’ll think about how you can do so through your legacy — and I’m not talking about money!
In Joshua 14, Caleb recalls how he spied out the Promised Land when he was 40 years old. He’d seen a fertile, bountiful country, and he’d set his heart on winning it for his family and nation, as God had promised.
When the Israelites refused to enter in, the Lord condemned them to die in the wilderness. But he gave Caleb this promise: ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever’ (v.9, NKJV).
Now 45 years have gone by, and Caleb’s dream hasn’t faded one bit. Now that Israel has finally launched an invasion, Caleb presses Joshua, ‘give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day’ (v.12).
At 85 years old, Caleb must know he can’t have long to live. But he’s determined, before he dies, to secure a home to pass on to his children and grandchildren, where they can live and prosper after he’s gone. The last record we have of Caleb shows him marching into battle, driving out the inhabitants and taking possession of his family’s inheritance (Joshua 15:13-15).
What legacy will you leave behind when you go to glory? Some mature believers have benefitted from decades of solid Bible teaching. The twentieth century saw a rediscovery of Reformed (biblical) truth, which seems to be disappearing again today. Can you take a younger Christian under your wing, and pass on to them the knowledge which you’ve been privileged to receive?
Perhaps you can remember times when you’ve witnessed God’s power, provision, grace and mercy in the past. Psalm 145:4 encourages you to testify about it to those who’ll outlive you: ‘One generation shall praise your works to another’.
Older ladies have a unique role in teaching younger women, especially about family life (Titus 2:3-5). What lessons did marriage and parenting teach you? What mistakes did you learn from? What advice can you share?
Some older Christians take a deliberate and prayerful interest in the children and young people in their extended family, or who attend their church, and make a point of talking to them about the gospel. Seek to be like Lois, who made sure her grandson knew ‘from childhood…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation’ (2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15). And maybe that little one whose faith you nurture will be a Timothy in years to come.
In its elderly members, the Christian church has deep deposits of biblical understanding, spiritual experience and learned wisdom. Don’t keep it to yourself! As your days head toward their close, make sure you pass on this legacy to those who’ll come after you.
Whatever your age, I hope you can see that your most valuable service for Christ might still lie ahead of you. Remember, as it’s said, ‘the best goals are scored in extra time’. Or to use a more scriptural illustration, make it your ambition and prayer to be a fulfilment of Psalm 92:13-14: ‘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’.
Matthew Cox, Pastor of Union Chapel Bethersden, Kent, and book reviews editor at Evangelical Times.