Summary: No matter what our age, we’re never too "old" to serve God.
Introduction: We Americans spend billions of dollars each year to look younger. We spend money on everything from anti aging creams to botox injections, to face lifts to plastic surgery. We’re even encouraged to act younger. The underlying message is, "Growing old is bad, so do everything you can to stay young." That message, though, assumes that the opposite of "old" has to be "young." In fact, there’s another way to look at it. The opposite of "old" can also be "new." When we look at it this way, we can get beyond just trying to hang on to that elusive thing called "youth." Abraham is the patron saint of those who feel toyed with by time, who suffer from nature’s limitations and society’s rejection. At 75, Abraham embraced new life, new purpose, new vision, and new hope. Old age to him was not a disaster but a new challenge, not full of death but full of life, not filled with fate but with faith. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance...by faith he sojourned in the land of promise...for he looked forward to the city whose builder and maker is God." All this and at 75 years of age! There are three truths about age I want to touch upon today:
I. First, we’re not growing old, we’re growing new. A growing plant adds newness every day: new roots, new branches, new leaves, new flowers. In a certain sense, "to grow" means to keep adding something new. We could even say that the expression "to grow old" is a contradiction in terms. We really can’t grow old; we can only grow new. That’s what growth really is. But we aren’t plants, adding leaves and flowers. What kind of newness can we bring out each day? The Apostle Paul wrote about the importance of spiritual newness. He spoke of the need to "put off...the old person" and "to put on the new person" (Eph. 4:11-24). We can all put on this "new person" through daily spiritual growth. No matter what our age, we can all find areas of our lives where there’s plenty of room for growth in Christian character. Perhaps we need to be more patient with family members or co-workers, less self-centered, more honest, or more willing to see and correct our faults. These are all ways in which we leave the old land, as Abraham did--and strike out for the new. Spiritual growth can have a very definite effect on the way we view aging. As we grow in Christian character and learn to know God better, we may find that we’ve stopped thinking of ourselves as growing old, because we’re actually growing new. As we discover the joy of growing new, we find the future leading not to declining years but to the spiritual newness of becoming more like Jesus.
II. Second, what’s important is not the amount of days in our life but the amount of life in our days. Our natural, quantitative age is unimportant as long as we’re being renewed daily by the spirit of God. While we want to measure everything from profit margins to life, in terms of quantity, the real issue is quality. The question we need to ask ourselves is not how many years we’ve lived but what’s the quality of our life been, however short or long. Some people are able to live and produce more in one year than others do in a life time. The quality of our life can’t be measured by the number of years we’ve lived. As someone has said, "Many people brag about hitting 70 to 80, who never hit anything in their life, except perhaps a golf ball or maybe a bottle." That’s a cynical statement, but a telling point. Living a certain number of years is nothing to brag about. What matters is how we’ve lived. And even more important, what are we reaching for now? If we begin to reach today, then this is the birthday of our life. Abraham’s "birthday" came at 75 years of age, when he responded to the call to travel with God to a new land.