Summary: Before passing on, make sure you pass it on by leaving a legacy.
Leaving a Legacy
Rev. Brian Bill
Jeanne Calmert, at 120 years-old, was the oldest living human whose birth date could be authenticated. When asked to describe her vision for the future, she replied, “Very brief.” When a reporter asked what she liked best about being so old, she answered wryly: “Well, there’s no peer pressure.” I heard about an elderly man who was filling out an application for a retirement village. He very carefully and deliberately answered all the questions. After filling out his current address he came to the word “Zip” and printed: “Normal for my age.” A young child asked a woman how old she was. She answered, “39 and holding.” The child thought for a moment and then asked this question: “And how old would you be if you let go?”
I want to propose this morning that no matter how old you are, or whether or not you have much zip left, it’s not time to let go. If you’re in the golden years of life, you have more to give. As we grow older, our responsibilities grow with us. Listen to the words of Psalm 92:14: “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” Or to say it another way: Before passing on, make sure you pass it on by leaving a legacy.
Pontiac has a lot parks and our family takes advantage of them on a regular basis. One of the most unique ones is called Dargan Park. Perhaps you’ve seen the three statues made out of iron. Below each one is a maxim set in a stone.
* Under the one that depicts youthfulness: As children, learn good manners; as young men, learn to control the passions.
* Under the one in the middle: In middle age, be just.
* And under the one that shows an older man: In old age, give good advice; then die without regret.
I like that. In old age, give good advice; then die without regret.
Aging in America
In a special aired on MSNBC a few years back, researchers found that “The most defining social change taking place is the aging of America.” Here are some stats that I’ve pulled together from the Census Bureau, the National Institute on Aging, and AARP (which I get to join in just two years).
* Someone turns 50 years of age every six seconds and people over 50 account for 43% of all U.S. households
* The over-85 age group is the fastest growing segment of the population and the number of citizens over 85 will double by 2030
* The U.S. population age 65 and over is expected to double in size within the next 25 years
* Life expectancy at the turn of the century was approximately 46 years; today it is approximately 76 years
According to the Reveal survey results, 44% of people at PBC are over the age of 50 which means that we are reflective of our culture. Several weeks ago I shared some stunning national statistics about how faith is not being passed from generation to generation. Let me refresh your memory.
Judges 2:10 paints a picture that may be prophetic of the state of the church today: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.” These findings from Thom Ranier in his book The Bridger Generation, show the decline of evangelical Christianity among each successive generation. Here’s the percentage of born again believers in each generation:
* Builders (born 1927-1945) 65%
* Boomers (born 1946-1964) 35%
* Busters (born 1965-1976) 16%
* Bridgers (born 1977-1994) 4%
Here’s what strikes me about these numbers. If it’s true that many “Builders” and “Boomers” have a vibrant faith, then it’s imperative that the older generation look for ways to intentionally pass along their faith to “Busters” and “Bridgers.” Before passing on, make sure you pass it on by leaving a legacy.
Friends, the character of our children tomorrow depends on what we put in their hearts today. If we expect the younger generation to grow spiritually, those of us who are older must pass on what we possess. The pastoral staff and one of our elders participated in a conference call this week with Focus on the Family to hear about some things we can be doing to help reverse the spiritual decay in families today. We’re continuing to discuss how we can do a better job of connecting and equipping families by having a vision for the next 100 years whereby one generation tells the next which passes it on to the one not yet born.
A Psalm for the Aged
We live in a culture that promotes youthfulness and denigrates the elderly. The Bible calls us to instead honor 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.” Did you know that there’s a passage of Scripture that’s referred to as a “psalm for the aged?” Please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 71. We’re not entirely certain who wrote these words but many believe it was David in the latter years of his life. Look at verse 9: “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” He’s older now and weaker and yet he’s holding on to hope in verse 14: “But as for me, I will always have hope, I will praise you more and more.”