Well, I did it. I turned 80 years old, but as I have told my congregation, 80 is the new 60. Over recent times, as I have been approaching this milestone, I have received or come across various items about growing old. Let me share a few.
A friend in Perth, Australia sent me an article entitled ‘The Explanation’ which stated, ‘The brains of older people are slow because they know so much. People do not decline mentally with age. It takes them longer to recall the facts because they have more information in their brains . . . much like a computer struggles as the hard drive gets full, so too do humans take longer to access information.’ That may not be true, but it makes a pretty good excuse. By the way, I told my congregation I had asked the Lord if I could live long enough to see the Vikings win the Superbowl. They replied, ‘You better live to be 120.’ Go Vikings! I also found out that older people need CAT SCANS almost every day. CAT as in ‘cat naps’ and SCAN as is ‘Senior Citizen Afternoon Nap.’
The best word I received for my birthday was from my wife Dorothy and was a portion of scripture. It was actually quoted by Dr. David Jeremiah, well known bible teacher out of San Diego. The scriptural phrase was, ‘Old and stricken in years.’ Now I know what you are thinking, that’s not a very inspiring word. It is not an encouraging word. But don’t laugh it off. Hold on to it because, believe it or not, it was a very meaningful word that my wife gave me. Dr. Jeremiah pointed out that there are some six occasions in scripture where this phrase is used. I went back and searched them out and sure enough that is the phrase used and depending on the translation can be ‘well (or far) advanced in years’ or ‘getting on in years.’ Whatever way you put it, it seems to imply that the person was ‘over the hill’ so to speak or ‘old and stricken in years.’ Maybe getting ready to ‘kick the bucket.’
OLD AND STRICKEN IN YEARS
Here are six references in scripture to ‘old and stricken in years.’
- Abraham and Sarah were ‘old and stricken in years’ and Sarah was past the age of childbearing when God gave them a miracle baby Isaac. Genesis 18:1
- Abraham was even older and the word declares ‘the Lord has blessed Abraham in all things’ (Genesis 24:1) and he is described as being ‘old and stricken in years.’
- Joshua was ‘old and stricken in years’ at the time of the conquest of the Promised Land and he was parceling out land to the tribes of Israel. Joshua 13:1
- Joshua was even older when he gave his farewell discourse to the tribes of Israel (Joshua 23:1-2) and he is described as ‘old and stricken in years.’
- David is described as ‘old and stricken in years’ as he came to the end of his life. I Kings 1:1
- Zachariah and Elizabeth were ‘old and stricken in years’ when an angel came and told Zachariah that Elizabeth would have a miracle baby, John the Baptist. Luke 1:7-8.
Dr. Jeremiah pointed out that for five of those people, who were ‘old and stricken in years’ they had achieved their greatest purpose in life when they were 80 or more years old. This was the actual word that Dorothy gave to me for my birthday.
Abraham had a son Isaac.
Sarah had a miracle baby.
Joshua saw the conquest of the Promised Land.
Zachariah fathered John the Baptist.
Elizabeth had a miracle baby.
Add to this, one of my favorite biblical heroes is Caleb, who was 85 when he received his inheritance in the Promised Land and was vigorous in spirit and body. He was a visionary and he claimed ‘Give me this mountain.’
A PROPHETIC WORD FROM JOHN PAUL JACKSON
Back in 2009. at the Lutheran Renewal Conference at North Heights Lutheran Church, John Paul Jackson gave me a prophetic word at the Leadership Gathering. He pointed to me and declared, “There is a man over here. You have white hair and a kind of dark blue shirt; sitting on the wall; I just need to share with you. There’s so many things that you are going to see yourself fruitful in that you never knew you were fruitful in. The Lord says to me to tell you, ‘You have fathered many in the faith. You are known in heaven in ways that you never thought that you would be known.’ He wants me to tell you that ‘you’re not done yet.’ He wants me to remind you Moses was 80 and herding sheep when the Lord started his ministry. I need to say to you that not one of your children will fail to face God and be in His kingdom; not one of your spiritual children, not one of your natural children.
I received that word from John Paul Jackson and also the word Dorothy passed on to me about being ‘old and stricken in years’ or if you prefer ‘well advanced in years.’ So I am declaring God’s not finished with me yet. I am going to give life and ministry my best shot and expect God to do great things in the days and years to come, both for me and also for Dorothy, for we have been ‘Called Together’ to serve Him, particularly in ‘Church on the Hill.’ I believe ‘The Best is Yet to Be.’
POSTSCRIPT – Another story I came across as I approached my 80th birthday was this story from Bob Gass’s devotional book ‘A Word for you Today’ about a lady called ‘Granny Brand.’ www.bobgass.com
Evelyn Brand felt called by God to go to India. For a single woman in 1909, a calling like that required a truckload of faith. She married a young man named Jesse and together they began a ministry to the people in rural India, bringing education and medical supplies, and building roads to reduce the isolation of the poor. For seven years they went without making a single convert to Christianity. But then a priest in a local tribal region developed a fever and grew deathly ill. No one else would go near him, but Evelyn and Jesse nursed him as he was dying. He said, “This God, Jesus, must be the true God because only Jesse and Evelyn will care for me in my dying.” The priest gave his children to them to care for after he died-and that became a spiritual
turning point in that part of the world. People began to examine the life and teachings of Jesus, and in increasing numbers began to follow Him. Evelyn and Jesse had thirteen years of productive service, then Jesse died. By this time, Evelyn was fifty years old, and everyone expected her to return to her home in England. But she wouldn’t do it. She was known and loved for miles around as “Granny Brand,” and she stayed another twenty years under the mission board she had served so faithfully. Her son, Paul, came over to see her when she was seventy years old, and this is what he said about his mum: “This is how to grow old. Allow everything else to fall away until those around you see only love” (See 1Co 13:1-2).
At age seventy she received word from her home mission office that they weren’t going to give her another five-year term. But she had Caleb’s “we can certainly do it” attitude. A party was held to celebrate her time in India, and everyone there cheered her on. “Have a good trip back home,” they all said. “I’ll tell you a little secret,” she announced, “I’m not going back home. I’m staying in India.” Evelyn had a little shack built with some resources that she had smuggled in. Then she bought a pony to get around the mountains, and this septuagenarian would ride from village to village on horseback to tell people about Jesus. She did that for five years on her own. One day, at seventy-five years old, she fell and broke her hip. Her son, Paul Brand, the eminent doctor, said to her, “Mum, you had a great run. God’s used you. It’s time to turn it over now. You can go back home.” She replied, “I am not going back home.” She spent another eighteen years traveling from one village to another on horseback. Falls, concussions, sicknesses, and aging could not stop her. Finally, when she hit ninety-three years old, she could not ride horseback any more. So the men in these villages-because they loved Granny Brand so much-put her on a stretcher and carried her from one village to another. She lived two more years and gave those years as a gift, carried on a stretcher, to help the poorest of the poor. She died, but she never retired. She just graduated.