Monday, June 25, 2012

The Value of Age and Wisdom

     Recently, our church has lost several saints who have gone home to be with the Lord.  Their lives were rich not only in faith but in years as well.  Our congregation was blessed by their wisdom, insight and loving outreach to others.  In fact, our children grew up in the days before there were three services.  We would come each Sunday to be greeted by the older members of our fellowship who took time to talk with our children and encourage them in their walk with Christ.  In addition, we heard nearly every week about a couple who had been married 50 or more years.  What a wonderful testimony for our children to grow up  knowing that marriage is not a momentary thing but a lifetime commitment.  This intergenerational community where old and young alike interacted was rich with godly wisdom.
     Unfortunately, things have changed in churches across our nation.  Now there are contemporary services and multiple services which tend to break up the body into segments.  The younger couples (with a few older couples interspersed) and teens tend to go to contemporary services. They are no longer in the company of the older generations and their faith stories.  The older generation with the exception of a few younger families tend to go to more traditional services.  These people are deprived of the enthusiasm and joy of being with younger folks and have little opportunity to encourage them.  This type of segregation has kept the fellowship from the full expression of what it means to be the Body of Christ.  It is my firm conviction that the older members are rich assets to the young and serve, as they did for my children, as examples of a life devoted to the Lord.  We miss so much when we do not have an intergenerational approach.  The Bible refers to older members as those who should be honored in Leviticus 19:32:  "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord."
Our families gathered for the baptism of Bennett Thayer.
     In fact,  the Bible is full of many examples of older believers leading the younger generations.  Moses and Aaron were 80 and 83 respectively, and they were called to lead the people out of bondage. Imagine that!  We, in our day and age, look upon those age categories as too old to serve.  Our society has become so youth focused that we are missing the wisdom and experience that only comes with age.  Obviously God had a different perspective since He didn't select a young person for this task.  In Psalm 90:10, Moses (the author) even remarks that a lifespan is around 70 to 80 years, so both he and Aaron were past a normal life expectancy when they were called.
     Another example for us to consider is Joshua and Caleb.  Joshua led the people in the conquest of Canaan during the last thirty years of his life.  He died at 110 (Joshua 24:29).  This means he was in his late seventies when he took over the leadership.  Caleb was in his eighties (Joshua 14:6-11) when he also served in the conquest of the land.  Amazing isn't it?
     Other Bible examples of older people who served in key positions include Daniel who was well over eighty when he served as one of three governors over Babylon, was thrown into the lion's den and  prospered under the reigns of King Darius and Cyrus (Dan. 1:21; Dan. 6:1-3; Dan. 6:4-27 and Dan. 6:28).  Zacharias and Elizabeth were well advanced in age when they bore John the Baptist.  Zacharias was still actively serving in God's temple during this time period as well.  Simeon and Anna were two elderly people who bore witness to Jesus in the Temple.  Anna was at least 84 at the time and spent many days and nights praying and fasting for the coming Messiah.
     Each of these seasoned believers played a part in God's grand scheme.  Their age was not a barrier to their service and they provided a role model for younger men and women to follow.  Several things can be gleaned from these examples.  First, there is no retirement in God's economy.  He will use us until the day we die if we offer ourselves in service.  Secondly, these older men and women were leaders of the younger generations.  They provided the guidance and could draw from their life experience to bring victory as in the case of Joshua and Caleb or Moses and Aaron.   Finally, the older saints can offer encouragement to the faith of the younger people as in the case of Anna and Simeon.  Their statements of belief in Jesus Christ as Messiah blessed both Joseph and Mary.  Don't we need a few more like these two to assist younger couples as they raise their young?
     My point in writing all this is to say that today we need more intergenerational fellowship and less age segregation.  We need to learn from one another, and the young need to learn to respect the older members of a church.  It is hard to do when they are never together in worship.  The testimony of long marriages, many years of life, a faithful witness after the death of a spouse are all things which the younger generations need to be exposed to in our churches.  Some day, they will face some of the same challenges, and if they have a frame of reference that came from an older member of the church, they will have the encouragement to continue on through the difficulties that come with living.
     I am eternally grateful to all the older saints who have ministered to my children as they were growing up.  With God's help, I desire to do the same for the young people I encounter.  Let us pray for our churches that none may miss the opportunity to mingle all age groups so that we can all grow in a balanced manner according to God's plan.  Selah!

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