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I Was Young and Now Am Old

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To say we live in a youth-oriented culture, is to say the least, an understatement. Old age in our society is often looked upon as a blight rather than as a normal and even desirable part of one's life cycle. Youth is "in" while Old is "out."

The market place gives little attention to the elderly in our society. Few, if any, of the great clothing designers of the world create for the elderly woman. The beauty industry is obsessed with finding oils and creams and lotions that supposedly restore the skin, hide the lines and reverse the aging process. Hair restoration for men is a multi-million dollar industry. As the Baby Boomers grow older they have increasingly turned to plastic surgery which is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

Madison Avenue continues to perpetuate the myth that aging is an undesirable consequence of life and best to be avoided. I mean, let's face it, what do you see the elderly advertising on T.V.? Things like Denture Cream, Ex-Lax and Depends undergarments.

Even our language reveals our dim view of old age. How many times have you heard someone drag out this time-worn cliche', "She's not old. She's seventy-two years young!" It is, of course, an attempt at a complement. The implication, however, is that old is bad and young is better.

Even church ministry and outreach are geared toward the young. Many churches call a Minister of Youth. How many call a Minister of Old? Yet most of our churches and communities have vastly superior numbers of retired people than they do of children and teenagers.

1985 was a milestone year in America, albeit one which passed very quietly. For the first lime in the history of our nation there were more people in our society 65 and older than thee were of those who were 18 and younger. Did you know that two-thirds of all the people who have lived beyond 65 in the entire history of the world are alive today. The over-65 crowd now constitutes 14% of our nation's population.

As we look at the Scriptures this morning, we need to face two questions: 1) What does the bible have to tell us about old age and aging? and 2) How must the church respond to an increasingly aging society?

I. THE BIBLE PULLS NO PUNCHES ABOUT THE REALITY OF OLD AGE

          1. first, how do you know when you're getting old?
            • ILLUS. I used to not think about getting old, but there are too many signs present for me to ignore any longer. There are a few more aches and pains now. I only weigh about ten pounds more than I did 20 years ago, but my weight seems to be shifting to places I don't want it to go. So you see, aging is becoming more salient to me as time goes on. A few years ago, Linda were Mt. Vernon, Ill. attending her Uncle Ralph’s funeral. At dinner that afternoon we were eating when one of Linda's cousins looked at me, smiled and said, "Good lord, you're getting gray!" According to my wife, the real tell-tale sign that I'm aging is that I'd rather listen to talk-radio than music!
          2. those may be the tell-tale signs that I'm aging, but how do you know when you're really old?
              1. let me share with you some warning signs
              2. 'You know you are getting old when ...
                  1. You know you're getting older when you finally reach the top of the ladder and find it leaning against the wrong wall."
                  2. You know you're getting older when your knees buckle and your belt won't."
                  3. You know you're getting older when a fortune teller offers to read your face rather than the lines in your hand."
                  4. You know you're getting older when everything hurts, and what doesn't hurt, doesn't work."
                  5. You know you're getting older when you sit in a rocking chair but can't get it going."
                  6. You know you're getting older when you look forward to a dull evening."
                  7. You know you're getting older when you little black book contains names ending only in M.D."
                  8. You know you're getting older when you sink your teeth into a steak, and they stay there."
                  9. You know you're getting older when your favorite part of the newspaper is '25 years ago today."
                  10. You know you're getting older when you watch a pretty girl go by and your pacemaker makes the garage door open
                  11. You know you're getting older when the only thing you want for your birthday is not to be reminded of it
                    • ILLUS. During his presidency, Ronald Reagan told the following story at a White House reception. "It seems that an 80-year-old man's golf game was hampered by poor eyesight. He could hit the ball well but he couldn't see where it went. So his doctor teamed him up with a 90-year-old man who had perfect eyesight and was willing to go along to serve as a spotter. The 80-year-old man hit the first ball and asked his companion if he saw where it landed. 'Yep,' said the 90-year-old. Where did it go?' the 80-year-old demanded. The 90-year-old replied, 'I don't remember.'"
          3. we can laugh at those, but seriously, there is not one problem associated with aging that the bible does not refer to and which God does not understand

A. THE BIBLE IS HONEST ABOUT THE PHYSIOLOGICAL PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH AGING

    • Ecclesiastes 12:1 "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"
          1. the days of trouble the writer refers to are the twilight years of life
          2. the author speaks of a weariness oflife--
              1. he is tired and his body no longer measures up to his expectations
              2. the years have not been kind to his physic
              3. this becomes obvious when the author writes, "I find no pleasure in them"
          3. in verses 2-5 the writer poetically details some of the physical problems associated with aging
              1. "when keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop"
                  1. his bones have become brittle and his posture is not longer firm and erect
              2. "when the grinders cease because they are few"
                  1. his teeth are falling out
                    • ILLUS. In the ancient Eskimo culture, women used their teeth to chew the skin of animals to make them soft for sewing into garments. When her teeth wore out she became useless to the tribe. At that point in her life she was expected to wander out unto the frozen tundra and die. Aren't you glad you're not an Eskimo?
                  2. praise God for Denture Grip
              3. "those looking through the windows grow dim"
                  1. his eyesight is becoming poor
              4. "when the doors to the street are closed"
                  1. he is talking about digestive tract trouble and constipation
              5. "when the sound of grinding fades"
                  1. he is talking about a loss of hearing
                  2. you know you're getting old when you can't even hear yourself chew!
              6. "when men rise up at the sound of birds"
                  1. here he is talking about sleeplessness
              7. "when men are afraid of heights"
                  1. for some, aging is marked by loss of equilibrium -they lose their balance easily
              8. "afraid of dangers in the street"
                  1. loss of strength/inability to defend oneself
              9. "when the almond tree blossoms"
                  1. the hair begins turning gray
              10. "when the grasshopper drags himself along"
                  1. arthritis!
              11. "desire no longer is stirred"
                  1. sex is something you used to do
                    • ILLUS. John MacArthur tells the story of an elderly couple who came back from a wedding one afternoon. Being at the wedding put the wife in a romantic mood. While sitting on their loveseat, the elderly woman looked at her husband and said," remember when you used to kiss me every chance you ?ad."The old man feeling a bit obliged leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek. Then she said," aso remember when you used to hold my hand at every opportunity." The old man again feeling obligated reached over and gently placed his hand on hers. The elderly woman snuggled up to her husband and said, " aso remember when you used to nibble on my neck and send chills down my spine." This time the old man had a blank stare on his face and started to get up off the couch. As he began to walk out of the living room his wife asked, 'Was it something I said? Where are you going?" The old man looked at her and replied, "I'm going in the other room to get my teeth!"
          4. the bible is honest about the problems and fears associated with physical deterioration

B. THE BIBLE IS HONEST ABOUT PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH LONELINESS

          1. loneliness can be the most devastating of problems associated with growing old
              1. loss of friends
              2. loss of spouse
              3. in some cases of extreme old age, even loss of grown children
                • ILLUS. An anonymous poet once wrote: Loneliness is like a piano without keys, Like a violin without strings. Like a sanctuary without a congregation Or a choir where no one sings. Loneliness is like a blade of grass Growing through a crack of cement. Loneliness is like a camp ground Without a single tent. Loneliness is like a mocking bird

That cannot sing a song. Loneliness is a feeling That one does not belong. Like a pansy in a corn field Hidden where no one can see. I know all there is to know about loneliness Because it lives inside of me.

          1. loneliness is not a problem unique to the elderly, but it is a problem they increasingly face in a mobile society where children and grandchildren may be half a continent away

C. THE BIBLE IS HONEST ABOUT PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH FEELINGS OF USELESSNESS

    • ILLUS. When my dad's mother got to the point where she was physically unable to maintain her home, my parents moved her in with them. For the first few months she drove my mother nuts. Grandma was like a little kid - she was into everything and always under foot. It finally dawned on my parents that she was simply trying to be useful. She was attempting to pull her own weight around the house. When they finally assigned her some tasks she was happy as a clam. She felt useful.
          1. even King David of the Old Testament felt a sense of fear that God would desert him in his old age because David felt he had outlived his usefulness to the Lord
            • Psalm 71:9 "Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone."
          2. but our God gives a wonderful promise to the aged:
            • 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."
              1. a society that worships youth my desert the aged, but God does not!

II. THE BIBLE PROCLAIMS THAT OLD AGE CAN BE A BLESSING AND A PRODUCTIVE TIME OF LIFE

          1. many great people of both biblical and contemporary times did there greatest work for God or accomplished their most important events late in life

A. BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF THE AGED LEADING A PRODUCTIVE LIFE

          1. Abraham and Sarah began their family when he was over 100 and she passed 90
              1. through their love and loyalty and faith God blessed the nations of the earth
              2. but I understand if you do not care to emulate Abraham and Sarah in this particular case
          2. Joseph was the leader of his family until a ripe old age
          3. Moses became the leader of Israel when he was 80 and continued to lead them until his death at 120
          4. the apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation when he was well into his 90's
          5. in his late fifties, the Apostle Paul was still making missionary trips

B. CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLES OF THE AGED LEADING A PRODUCTIVE LIFE

          1. at the age of 53, Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first female Prime Minister
          2. at the age of 64, Francis Chichester sailed alone around the world in a 53-foot yacht
          3. at 65, Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister and while he was in his 70's wrote his multi-volume work History of the British People
          4. at 72, Golda Meir became Prime Minister of Israel
          5. at 75, Ed Delano of California bicycled 3100 miles in 33 days to attend his 50th college reunion in Worcester, MA -that's 90 miles a day, folks!
          6. Colonel Harlan Sanders began Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 66
          7. George Burns won an Academy Award for his performance in the film The Sunshine Boys at the age of 80
          8. on his 100th birthday, ragtime pianist Eubie Blake exclaimed, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself."
          9. these examples illustrate the truth that there is no convincing evidence that intellectual powers, creative capacities and productivity must end when we begin to age a. aging is often as much a state of mind as it is a state of physical dysfunction
            • ILLUS. The association was need camp counselors for girls camp. They asked all the pastors of the association to make an appeal to their congregations. We made the announcement one morning and Lorene Johnson said she would volunteer. Lorene was 78 at the time. He family tried to talk her out of it. She was old. She wouldn't be able to keep up with the kids. It would be hot and she might have a heart attack and die. She went anyway. She had a blast and those little girls just loved her. For three summers Lorene served as a camp counselor and only retired when she felt like it was physically impossible. 10. The bible proclaims that old age can be a blessing and a productive time of life

III. THE BIBLE PERSUADES US TO HAVE RESPECT FOR THE AGED

    • Leviticus 19:32 "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD."
          1. one of the greatest tragedies of modern society is the lack of respect we afford to the elderly
          2. an anonymous poem I found underscores our negative attitudes toward the aged among us
            • ILLUS. We love antiques and pay high prices for old pots and furniture that grandma threw out years ago. We love everything old, Lord, except ourselves. We only like ourselves young. The only junk there's no market for are people! the physically handicapped the forcibly retired worker the obsolete elderly waiting to die. How come they're not collectible God? Why don't they bring high prices at auctions? It's pretty clear we don't want them around us. Is it because they remind us that we have to grow old too?
          3. to some, the elderly are seen as a burden
              1. a burden on the tax structure
              2. a burden on medical facilities
              3. a burden on the materialistic lifestyle of families having to support an aged parent
                • ILLUS. Some of you may remember a few years ago that the former governor of Colorado become famous -notorious is the word I would use - for his comment that "Old people have the duty to die."
          4. while some may see the elderly as a burden, others see them as tempting targets
              1. targets of abuse or neglect
              2. targets of all kinds of con jobs and scams

A. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHURCH AND YOUNGER CHRISTIANS

          1. what are we to do?
              1. FIRST, we must evangelize the elderly
                  1. they are the fastest growing segment of our society and a sizable mission field
                  2. because of their age they are, in a very real sense, sitting on the edge of eternity
              2. some of them do not have many years left in which they can be won to Christ
              3. SECONDLY, we must minister to their most pressing needs
                  1. in their loneliness we need to provide opportunities for fellowship
                  2. in their diminished physical capacities we need to provide some basic services which will meet physical needs they can no longer do themselves
                      1. delivering their groceries
                      2. cutting their grass
                      3. cleaning their homes
                  3. in their anxiety we need to provide them with a sense of security that somebody cares about what happens to them
              4. THIRDLY, we must encourage them to continue to use the gifts, and talents God has endowed them with to

minister to their church, their families and their community

                  1. the elderly have so much to teach us
                    • Psaim 92:12-15 /"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13

Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They shall still bring

forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing: 15 To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and

there is no unrighteousness in him."/ KJV

          1. none of us will ever finish "doing our share"
              1. we can never repay the debt of love we owe to Christ
              2. if we are running for the long haul we must determine never to quit His service
              3. if we want to run with endurance we must keep asking as long as we live, "Lord, what do you want me to do?"
              4. only in that way can we expect to stay faithful to the end and be greeted at the finish by our Lord's voice saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

David said, "I was young and now am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken..." Here is the marvelous testimony of the elderly Christian life - they have seen God at work.

The late General Douglas MacArthur wrote something very profound about aging on his 75th birthday: In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, and courage, so long are you young. When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and then only are you grown old.

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