Are You Too Old for God to Use?

Are You Too Old for God to Use?

by Bob Day

I have a confession to make. In September of this year, I will celebrate the 47th anniversary of my 21st birthday. My kids used to say that I was so old I remember when the Dead Sea was just sick. That may sound funny, but I do intend to inject a little humor into times inexorable march towards the end of my mortal life. It is scary for many of us, so why not. Even though I cannot empirically prove it, I am convinced that in the quietest, most sober times of our lives we can't help but contemplate our own mortality. When we were, as Billy Joel would sing, "wearing a younger man's clothes" we believed that we were invincible and going to live forever and have fun doing it. Surprise! So, have a good laugh about growing old if you can. At this point in my life I find myself thinking a lot, some would say too much, about how I have lived this life that was given to me by God 68 years ago.

There are two questions that tend to stay in the forefront of my mind. The first is, did I spend much of my life, which is in the past, to the glory of God and the benefit of the society and community in which I live, or did I waste it on pursuing unrealistic, selfish dreams and desires? The second thought that comes to mind is this, I am closer to the end of my life than ever before. This thought tends to hit me like a ton of bricks every time it pops into my head. There's no doubt about it. No one is ever going to stop the natural aging process and the problems and physical maladies growing old tend to bring with it. No one gets out of this life alive.
In Genesis 6: 3, the Lord makes it clear that because of human depravity and its destructive effect on His good creation, that He would not "strive," read: "put up with", "agonizingly endure" with humanity for more than 120 years. Do you realize that this means that regardless of how many medical advancements and wonderful things that science is doing to enhance the quality of our lives, we are never ever going to live much longer than 120 years, no matter how healthy we are. Surprise!

The author of Ecclesiastes advises his younger readers to think long and hard about growing old because death is inevitable (11: 9, 10). He then goes on to describe in a humorous way what it's like to grow old (12: 1- 7). And believe you me it is not a pretty sight. He describes growing old like a house that, regardless of how well it has been taken care of, becomes dilapidated and eventually crumbles around its foundations.

I would like to point out here that we learn something to help us correctly think about God and eternal things. We learn that God strongly advises us to regularly examine ourselves and consider our mortality because there is an inevitability about it that cannot and should not be neglected. It's not my intention to be morbid or come across as "Dr. Doom", which I have been accused of many times because of my understanding of the Scriptures and God's relationship with us. I'm not an overly intelligent guy, but I have learned a few things in my life and one of them is this: birth has a 100% mortality rate.

With that in mind I would like for you to think with me about Luke 1:5 -25 and its implications for the follower of Christ as he or she grows older. I also believe that it is something that all of us, young and old within the church community need to think deeply about God's attitude towards old age and the vital necessity of living with and serving our God as a testimony to His glory and grace is a responsibility and privilege we have until the day we draw our last breath regardless of our age. Quite simply, we learn from this passage that nothing is impossible for our God and that He intends for us to live a meaningful life that testifies to this fact right up to the very last moment. An attitude that has dominated church life for the last few decades has been that once you reach old age, whatever that age is, you become irrelevant and unusable in the advancement of God's kingdom.

The statement may shock you, but it is true. Trust me. I was a casualty of this mindset. I entered the ministry at the ripe old age of 36. That may seem ridiculous to say but the attitude within the "professional ministry" is "wherever you are at age 40 in vocational ministry, that's where you are going to stay for the rest of your life." "You", I was told by a seminary professor, "as an older adult would never be able to attract people of childbearing age, which negatively impacts the growth and influence of God's kingdom in this world. I was told I was too old to serve vocationally at 40 years of age! It didn't matter that I had been called by God to join Him in the work of the ministry; it didn't matter that I had studied the Scriptures as diligently as I possibly could; it didn't matter that I had proven leadership skills, along with the compassion and understanding necessary to minister to God's people. I was too old to genuinely relate to a younger generation. Ouch! That's cold. Believe me when I say that it is hard to hear, but that is a prevailing attitude within postmodern evangelical Christianity and it can cause Christ's Bride a lot of unnecessary trouble. I was told from the time that I was a young man that if I wanted to know for certain that I was doing God's will, all I had to do was "to pay attention to what the world says is a good life and then do the exact opposite." I don't bring this up so folk will feel sorry for me, cluck their tongues and suck air through their teeth in disbelief and act as if this is the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone who has a desire to live for God and, I can assure you that I'm not bitter. The Scriptures make it clear that the Lord puts a premium on the life that ages gracefully and wisely into a deeper love and trust for Him. So, I'm going to trust Him on this one.

Now, let's get back to thinking about what the verses before us have to say about God, since that's the reason He gave us the Scriptures in the first place. There are 3 observations that I would like to point out as we make our way through this passage, but I will only elaborate on one of them. The first thing that I see is God's attitude about the way that Zechariah and Elizabeth lived (vs. 6). All of us are concerned to one degree or another about what others think of us. In truth, even those who say they don't care, really do care. We can't help ourselves. This is a very human way of thinking. All of us have a desire to be well thought of by our contemporaries and loved ones. However, there's a problem with this kind of thinking. We can, and sometimes do, live for the positive approval of those whom we come in contact with, and we soon find ourselves on the slippery slope of valuing human approval rather than God's approval and we all know just how fickle humans are in our attitude towards one another.

Today I may think you're a wonderful person, however, tomorrow, I may think of you as worthless. In the final analysis, what really matters is God's opinion and attitude towards our life and the fact is, everyone, regardless of age or station in life, who is in Christ, is looked upon by God as a "good and faithful servant" and as worthy of living in eternal bliss in His presence.
Second observation, there is no such thing as fate or random blind chance as far as our lives are concerned. Vss. 8 and 9 state that Zechariah was chosen by lot, basically by chance, to perform the once- in- a lifetime opportunity of ministering to God on behalf of His people in the temple. The fact is, there were so many Levites in the first century that they were chosen for this opportunity by casting lots. Some lived their entire lives and would never be chosen. After performing this duty their name would be removed forever so that someone else could have this opportunity and blessing.

Let me ask you a question. Do you, as a Bible believing, Christ- follower believe that God allows anything to happen by chance? I think it's safe to say that from the human perspective Zechariah was randomly chosen, but the fact is that he had a divine appointment with his God that very afternoon. There is no way that the Lord was going to allow this to happen by random chance. This had been part of God's will for Zechariah all along. Think about this, if you are breathing and on this side of the grave, your life has purpose in God's eyes. You still have a part to play in God's grand scheme of bringing about His kingdom to this earth. In God's eyes, your life is precious and has been since its inception. God has a purpose for your life as long as you are on this earth, and nothing is going to happen to you by happenstance or random chance until you have completed your mission and are called home to heaven.

Finally, and I believe this is the most important observation, nothing, put that in all CAPs, then put a couple of exclamation points “!” behind this statement- "nothing is impossible for our God" (Gen. 18: 14; Jer. 32: 17, 27). Keep reading. While Zechariah was ministering before God in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. He was so frightened that Gabriel had to start the conversation with a "don't be afraid" statement. Have you ever noticed how often an angel must tell his auditors to not be afraid? Anyway, Gabriel had come to bring wonderful news to Zechariah from the very throne of God. Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents in their old age. He then goes on to explain and describe the life and ministry of their son John. As a matter of fact, Gabriel has more to say about John's life and ministry than he does about Jesus's life and ministry when he meets with Mary (verses 26-38).

I'd be willing to bet, if I were a betting man, that Zechariah stopped listening to Gabriel just as soon as he told him that he and Elizabeth were going to be parents. Notice Zechariah's response. "How can this be," he asks. "I am an old man, and my wife is way past her prime."  Do you see Gabriel's response? Gabriel is surprised and angry that Zechariah would even ask this question. Do you know why? Zechariah knew the Scriptures. He had walked with the Lord all his life and constantly studied and meditated on His Word. It should have occurred to him that this same conversation took place millennia ago between YAHWEH and another old man long past his prime, Abraham. Abraham also questioned the Lord's ability to override nature and cause him and Sarah to conceive a child.

God must have considered this a legitimate response because as far as Abraham knew nothing like this had ever happened before. You know the rest of the story, God's promise to Abraham came true. Now, back to Zechariah's response. He had no right to ask this question because he knew, or should have known, God had done this before through Abraham and Sarah. So, it stands to reason that He could do it again. So, Zechariah's question was the wrong one. Instead of praise for answered prayer; instead of exercising faith, he questioned God's veracity and power. Notice Mary's (vs 38) and Elizabeth's (vs 25) responses to their angelic messages. They both believed God without question.

Think about this, age and ability are of no consequence in God's mind, availability and trust are His only criteria. Your life will always have meaning and purpose for God for as long you have breath. Think about it. God knows that you would be better off in heaven in His presence (Phi. 1: 23-24) but He chose to leave you here to accomplish the work for which you were created. Ours should never be the thought of backing away from ministry and "letting the young folks take care of it."

There's a truth here for us as individuals and as a believing church. If you genuinely believe that your age, physical abilities, illnesses and disabilities are an obstacle to God's work in and through your life, think again. If age and abilities are a stumbling block for us as believers we need to reconsider what God has to say on the same subject. Perhaps we need to read the Scriptures again as if for the first time.

Does God have a problem with using an elderly man or woman to do the impossible in this world? You need to take that up with folks like Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Caleb, Joshua, and the list could go on and on. We should pay attention to the wisdom and knowledge that comes along with living to a "good old age." The older, mature women of the church should teach and mentor the younger women as to how to live a godly, fruitful, married life. The older men, the elders of the church, mentor and be a positive influence on the young men. These are just 2 ideas that come to mind. I know this is a hard thing to hear, but if you have a problem or serious reservations about whether the Lord God finds you useful at this time in your life, then you are saying in effect that you know better than God as to how your life should be lived.
Let everyone examine themselves considering what we've read (see 2 Corinthians 13:5).

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