Imagine taking your seat in the stands to watch your favorite football team play for the National Championship, for all of the marbles. The game is a back and forth battle. Defenses rise up at just the right time throughout the first thirty minutes of the game. The teams go into the locker room with the score knotted at “6” at the half.
With the kick-off of the third quarter expectations reverberate throughout the stadium. Your team marches down the field, pushes the ball into the “red zone,” but the opponent’s defense stiffens and mounts an impressive goal line stand inside the five yard line. Throughout the third quarter both offenses look impressive, but the defenses are equally impressive. At the end of the third quarter the score is still tied, but at 13.
When the fourth quarter is set to begin your head coach calls all of the seniors to huddle up and says, “Guys, I know this is a big game. I know this is your last year to wear the helmet and put on the pads. I hate to do it, but I feel like I need to bring in the younger players to finish out the game. You guys have given it your all in the first three quarters, but let’s face it…you’re not as young as you use to be. You’ve lost more than a step through the years. You guys are getting a little long in the tooth. Go sit down and relax. I’ll bring in the young guys to finish out the game.”
Can you imagine? That’s a crazy scenario that no coach in America would even think of making reality and yet that is the reality we see taking place in our society every day with the senior citizens among us. The message being sent to those who are older in our society is: “Your time is past. Thanks for your service, but it’s time for you to retire. Buy a Zebco 202 and hit the lake. Dust off your clubs and hit the course. Get out the garden tools and plant some vegetables.”
As a result of this mindset we have ushered some of our greatest treasures into the backroom and encouraged them to do nothing more than rest. Rest? Even though the predominant mindset of our culture is that once you reach retirement age your best days are behind you, there are those seniors who thumb their noses at conventional wisdom and refuse to take a seat in a recliner to wait for the end to come. They keep living, they choose to use their newfound free time to make an impact on the lives of those around them, and for many of them they produce their greatest work in the home stretch of their life. Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about.
Just this past week thousands of people of all ages gathered at Chesapeake Arena to listen to 65 year old Stevie Wonder “wow” the crowd with his wonderful music. For 3 ½ hours the 65 year old man held the crowd spell bound as he sang classic after classic. Here’s a few more examples for you.
- At 62, J.R.R. Tolkien published the ?rst volume of his fantasy series, “Lord of the Rings.”
- At 68, the English experimentalist Sir William Crookes began investigating radioactivity and invented a device for detecting alpha particles.
- At 75, cancer survivor Barbara Hillary became one of the oldest people, and the ?rst black woman, to reach the North Pole.
- At 88, Michelangelo created the architectural plans for the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
- At 92, Dr. Paul Spangler finished his 14th
- At 96, Harry Bernstein published his ?rst book, “The Invisible Wall,” three years after he started writing to cope with loneliness after his wife of 70 years, Ruby, passed away.
I really didn’t have to go to Google to find great examples of seniors who are doing great things. There are seniors in our midst this morning who are currently being used by God to impact lives in every ministry of this church and beyond. The youngest among them is 75 years old, at an age when most would say they just need to slip away to Sarasota and play shuffleboard for the rest of their lives. Yet, they are giving their time to work in the King’s Klinic, the BritVil Food Pantry, they’re tutoring kids in Study Buddies, singing in the choir, volunteering at hospitals around town, serving as greeters in worship on Sunday morning, cooking meals for those who have been in the hospital, serving in Children’s Church, and leading Bible studies. Isn’t that amazing! In Leviticus 19:32, the Lord told His people,
32 “‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:32 NIV)
I think that is good advice for us this morning. Won’t you join me in standing in honor of our seniors who are faithfully serving the Lord this morning? We stand in honor of your love for our Savior. We stand in honor of your love and willingness to serve God’s people. We stand in honor of your faithful service to the Lord for these many decades. We stand in honor of you, our brothers and sisters, for being such an incredible inspiration to all of us!
This morning I want to share the story of another senior, a senior found in the pages of God’s Word. Let me give you a little background on his story. Caleb was born a slave, in Egypt. His ancestors had been slaves for almost 400 years when God raised up Moses to deliver them from the Egyptians and lead them to a new homeland. Caleb was there among the masses of former slaves when Moses led the people through the Red Sea, over to Mount Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, and then they went north to Kadesh Barnea. When they got to Kadesh Barnea Moses sent twelve spies, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to spy out the land they would be entering. The land was everything God had told His people it would be and more. After 40 days the spies came back with their report. Ten of the spies said, “Don’t do it! There are giants in the land and they will crush us!” Joshua and Caleb saw the same things the other spies saw and yet their report was different. Caleb spoke up and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30 NIV) Caleb was forty years old at the time. The people listened to the ten spies with the fearful report instead of Joshua and Caleb. As a result, God would make the people of Israel wander around the wilderness for the next forty years, until everyone in that generation died out except for Joshua and Caleb.
Fast forward forty-five years. Moses had died, Joshua was now leading the children of Israel, and God’s people were in the land flowing with milk and honey. In Joshua 14, the land was about to be divided up and distributed to the tribes of Israel when Caleb approached his lifelong friend Joshua. Turn with me to Joshua 14:6-15 and let’s read together.
6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’ 10 “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war. (Joshua 14:6-15 NIV)
Did you hear what Caleb said? “I’m eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.” Don’t you just love that? You’ve got to love the passion and optimism of Caleb! I want to share with you the key to Caleb’s passion in just a moment, but before I do that I want to challenge those of you who are younger among us this morning. The truth of the matter is this lesson has much more to say to those who are younger than it does to those that we are honoring today. Let me explain to you what I’m talking about.
In the years that I’ve been here I’ve seen so many young people, on fire for the Lord, somehow lose their zeal. I’ve known young men and women whose lives were changed by Jesus. They wanted to learn how to study God’s Word, they wanted to grow in their relationship with the Lord, they wanted to get involved in serving the Lord and His people, and then the fire began to die down. They got distracted by the things this world has to offer. They started strong, but it’s not how we start that counts. God calls us to finish strong.
We’ve got some amazing young people with us this morning. I want you to know how inspired I am by your love for the Lord and your willingness to live for Him when everything in our society is enticing you to live differently. I don’t want to be a downer, a bearer of bad news, but I want you to look around, not just at your friends here at BCC, but your circle of Christian friends outside of this church as well. Most of your Christian friends will not finish strong. When they reach the end of their life, most will not be able to say with the Apostle Paul, when he reached the end of his life,
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV)
Most will succumb to the temptations of this world. Their zeal for the Lord will slowly be replaced by a fascination with other things. They will become “lukewarm,” like many of the believers in Laodicea of whom the Lord said,
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! (Revelation 3:15 NIV)
In a few years, if you follow them around during the week, you won’t be able to notice any difference between their lives and the lives of those who claim no allegiance to Jesus at all. They won’t be taking the risk of sharing their faith. They won’t be sacrificing their time to serve the Lord. They’re money will be tied up in building their own kingdom instead of building God’s Kingdom. It’s sad but true and I don’t want you to be among their number.
How can you who are young avoid this trap and finish strong? That’s a great question and I want to share the answer with you this morning by showing you the key to the sustaining power, passion, and zeal that Caleb lived out throughout his life. There is a phrase that is used six times in God’s Word to describe Caleb. The first time we run into it is in Numbers 14:24. Turn there with me and let’s read it together. God says,
24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. (Numbers 14:24 NIV)
This was spoken by God right after He announced His judgment on Caleb’s generation of unbelief: they would never see the Promised Land. Caleb would see that land flowing with milk and honey one day because, God said, he “follows me wholeheartedly.” “?????????? ???????? ???????” (male’ achar YHWH) The Hebrew word which is translated, “wholeheartedly” is the word, “?????” (male’) and it means, “to be full” or “to be filled.” Caleb was filled to overflowing with a desire to “follow after, follow behind,” that’s what the Hebrew word, “?????” (‘achar) means. His burning desire was to follow after YHWH. That was God’s assessment of Caleb when he was forty years old and forty-five years later Caleb tells Joshua,
7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’ (Joshua 14:7-9 NIV)
Forty-five years of following after the Lord with his whole heart. That’s the key for you and me. Six times, in Numbers 14:24; 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8; 9; 14, we read that Caleb followed the Lord wholeheartedly; he was filled up with a burning passion to seek after God. Now, stop and think about that for a moment with me. If something is “filled up” there’s no room for anything else right? Isn’t one of our problems the fact that other things interfere with our commitment to the Lord? I’d have time to grow in my relationship with the Lord if I didn’t give so much time to… I’d love to give some money to BritVil at Thanksgiving to help feed hungry families if I didn’t spend so much money on… Our lives are so filled with unnecessary things, extraneous, irrelevant things, that we don’t have any room left for what is most necessary. We give so much of our time to secondary concerns that we have no time left for that which is of primary importance. That wasn’t the case with Caleb. He was filled up with a passion to seek after the Lord with all of his heart.
Following the Lord wholeheartedly doesn’t mean that you will leave your family, quit your job, and join a monastery or convent. Following wholeheartedly after the Lord will make you a better, more conscientious employee who works hard at your job because you are working for the glory of God. Following the Lord wholeheartedly will also keep you from becoming a workaholic and selling your soul to the company. Your work does not define who you are. Who you are is defined by your relationship to Jesus and your life is more than your work.
Following the Lord wholeheartedly will also make you a better husband, wife, mom or dad if you have a family. You’ll have a desire to love and sacrifice for your family in the same way the Lord has loved and sacrificed for you. At the same time, following the Lord wholeheartedly will also prevent you from making your family into an idol. Some of us are husbands, wives, moms, and dads, but who I am as a husband and father isn’t my identity—it’s part of my calling as a child of God. If your identity is wrapped up in and defined by your role as a wife and mom, employee or boss, husband or father then what happens if those things go away?
Dave and Patti Stevens married in 1990. They were madly in love for 25 years until Dave was stabbed to death by an attacker while he ran around White Rock Lake in Dallas. Patti’s world came apart at the seams. She tried to pick up the pieces of her life, but as hard as she tried she just couldn’t seem to make sense of living without Dave by her side. So, less than two weeks ago, Patti started her car in her garage and went to sleep with it running. She was 54 years old. Oh Patti, how I wish you could have seen that your life was more than Dave. How I wish you could have known that God had a plan for you on the other side of a broken heart and shattered hopes.
So many of the seniors who are with us this morning know what it’s like to suffer from a broken heart and shattered hopes. I’ve watched some of them take care of the love of their life when their bodies and minds began to deteriorate and continue to care for them to the end. They are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s and yet some of them are still praying for their kids to turn to the Lord. Yet, even in the midst of loss, sorrow, and brokenness they continue to serve the Lord with all of their heart.
I want you seniors who are here this morning to know that the Lord will continue to sustain you, He will continue to strengthen you, and He will continue to use you to bless those around you if you will continue to seek after Him with all of your heart. God promises that you will continue to bear fruit in your old age. Don’t believe me? Turn to Psalm 92:12-15 and let’s read together.
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, 15 proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psalm 92:12-15 NIV)
“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” God has much fruit for you to bear right here at BCC. You’ve been through struggles that many of us will go through one day and we need your counsel and prayers. You’ve walked with the Lord for decades and we need your godly wisdom to help us as we seek to grow in Him through the years to come. Don’t allow those in our society to convince that your best years are behind…we see how the Lord is bearing much fruit in your life even now. Finish strong!
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 8, 2015