I fear many older saints believe their age restricts them from redemptive work. For some, the lie that claims their time is long past has triumphed in their hearts. For others, the aches and pains of aging has slowed them down enough that simple comforts are more intriguing than God’s mission of redemption. I can’t possibly know all the reasons why older Christians get off mission, but I know many do. Not all, but many.
To make matters worse, our culture is obsessed with youth and our world promotes the idea that young, beautiful people are the most valuable in society. Such thinking has crept into the church, sadly. Lots of churches today are employing young people who follow the culture rather than faithful people who follow the Creator. Something has to change.
I often find myself wanting to share words of encouragement with older Christians but fear they will be taken wrongly. I don’t want to sound like the young know it all. Despite my hesitation, I think the message must be heard: Older saints, God has work for you to do. Your race is not finished. Although our culture values youth, God values you and has work for you to do.
Some Biblical Examples
God has used old saints before, why wouldn’t he do it again? Remember Moses? God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt when the prophet was eighty years old! I’m guessing at eighty, the last thing on Moses’ mind was leading a dangerous rescue mission. How much strength do you think he felt in his bones? How much grit do you think he had in his heart? I’m guessing very little. God, however, provided Moses with all he needed to accomplish the call. God can do the same for you. When He shows up in a burning bush and calls you to do something revolutionary, you’d be foolish to ignore Him.
Moses wasn’t exactly thrilled about the call. In fact, he tried to back out several times (Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10, 13). Nonetheless, God called Moses despite his age. He wasn’t “too old” to carry out God’s mission. I like to think his age provided an advantage because his faith muscles were further developed. Who knows? God does what God does.
What about Abraham? He was seventy-five years old when he set off from Harran to the land God would show him (Genesis 12:4). He knew nothing about what was ahead and was leaving all he knew behind. Would you take such a risk at seventy-five? Most people are well into retirement at that time. Yet, God was not finished with Abram.
What You Can Do
Although many things will be more challenging for you now than when you were young, there remains quite a bit of kingdom work that needs a laborer such as you. Here are three things I have noticed the mission-driven, older saints in my life doing to stay on mission.
In a recent article I wrote on aging well, I mentioned the persistence of prayer in the life of older Christians. There is, perhaps, no greater calling for a Christian than prayer. It rarely gets you noticed by the world but is crucial in the work of redemption. My hope is you’re way past wanting acknowledgement from the world anyway, so simply pray to your Father, who sees what is done in secret (Matthew 6:6). Things change when we pray. Hearts are drawn to Jesus when we pray. Sin is repented of when we pray. Don’t neglect prayer. It does more than you think.
The Bible teaches us to encourage and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). In a world where people are divided more than ever, encouragement speaks hope to others and reflects the heart of Christ. A simple word of encouragement can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to speak. Your words possess power.
One of the greatest gifts of my life has been the friendships I’ve made with older men. These men have led ministries, raised families, and remained committed to Jesus. Their wealth of wisdom has been a blessing to me on many occasions. I can’t overstate the importance of such relationships. Older saints must seek younger men and women to befriend. Younger Christians who value maturity and growth in Christ-like character will immediately recognize the benefit of such friendships. If you’re not in the habit of forming such friendships, it will feel awkward at first. In most cases, it’s just as awkward for a young person to approach you as it is for you to approach them. Start by praying and asking God to send you a young Timothy. God can put all the pieces together.
So much more could be said, of course. I’ll finish with a few questions and a final plea.
Do your hips and hands hurt? Likely. Are you overlooked in ministry for younger men and women? Usually. Has your energy and creativity waned? It probably feels that way. Is God finished with you? Absolutely not!
Older saints, please press on. You have walked the path of faith longer than us newbies, and although sin still sways your ways and thoughts, your many small victories of faith can greatly encourage us young wanderers. There is nothing wrong with being young (1 Timothy 4:12), but there is nothing wrong with being old, either. God’s not alarmed by your aches and pains or lack of energy. Plus, we younger Christians need you more than we let on.
Don’t give up. There is no age limit for kingdom work.