Dawn Wilson | Aging
As we enter our senior years, we sense some changes. We are more realistic, and while we may still have dreams, we realize we have changed and have certain limitations. We may have retired from a job or ministry. We may wonder if we’re “done.”
That’s the human perspective. But how can we persevere with a biblical worldview as we age?
Here are seven ways.
1. Surrender What’s Left
Though we may make the decision to retire from a career or ministry, we should never retire from following God into fresh opportunities for obedience.
It’s been said there is no Scripture or biblical principle that indicates a retirement option for the believer. The Levite males retired from regular service in the tabernacle at a certain age, but they were still allowed to “minister to their brothers” (Num. 8:23–26). Simeon and Anna served the Lord faithfully into their elderly years (Luke 2:25–38). Older men and women, the senior saints, were encouraged by Paul to teach the younger generation how to live (Titus 2:1–8).
Retirement is often associated with the pursuit of pleasure, and while pleasurable pursuits are not wrong, they really aren’t a wise focus for any age. To persevere in your senior years, we can seek out new opportunities to serve God by loving and serving others.
2. Sharpen Your Focus
Paul, in Philippians 3:13–14, told believers he had a focused goal for his life. “One thing I do,” he said. Paul had an eternal goal, and he pursued it—he strained toward it—until God called him home. When I recently received a cancer diagnosis, my doctor said, “There is only one thing you have to do—focus on getting well.” That simple statement helped me to prioritize what is important in the rest of my life, determining what things were primary concerns and what things I could release.
We are all terminal (Eccl. 9:2–3; Rom. 6:23). Someday, we will all stand before the Lord who loves us. It’s wise to ask, “What is the one thing God is calling me to do or be before that day?” We can make new goals with a sharper, more biblical focus, not worrying about pleasing others, but take renewed action to please the Lord (Rom. 12:2; Gal. 1:10; Eph. 5:8–10; 1 Thess. 2:4). We can get to know God’s heart in the Word and in prayer, and we should never stop memorizing Scripture. I am amazed by how the Lord has used the Scriptures I’ve memorized in my senior years.
We need to persevere in spiritual growth and determine what skills we’ll need to be more effective servants of the Lord in our senior years. Then we must not waste time (Eph. 5:15–17). We must pursue the works God prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
3. Step Up Your Obedience
Over the years, I’ve learned that procrastination—willfully delaying the doing of something God has already given me direction to do—is akin to disobedience. The time I spend procrastinating is fertile ground for Satan to sidetrack me or stop me in my tracks completely. Delayed obedience is disobedience, and disobedience is costly (John 14:15; 15:14; 2 John 6).
There might be many reasons we procrastinate—fear, laziness, stubbornness—but procrastination that leads to disobedience is an ugly habit with eternal consequences. We might ask, “What has God already told me to do, and I haven’t obeyed yet?” And, “Why haven’t I obeyed?” Stepping up our obedience in our senior years is one way to persevere with power!
It’s important to remember we cannot do this apart from the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Our flesh does not want to obey God (Rom. 8:7–8), but when we walk by the Spirit, we will not carry out the desires of our flesh (Gal. 5:16).
We need to live out the gospel (Rom. 6:6–11), be filled with the Spirit, and prepare for spiritual battle (Eph. 5:18; 6:10–17). We need to study and memorize Scripture (Ps. 119:11), draw near to God (James 4:7–8), and remain fully dependent on His enabling power (2 Cor. 12:9–10) so we can overcome any besetting sins and obey the Lord.
Idols in our hearts will only get in the way of our love for and obedience to the One True God (Jonah 2:8; Col. 3:5; Gal. 5:19–21; 1 Cor. 10:14); so if we want to be spiritual mature, we will give up self-serving idols. Idols can be subtle. It might be a collection that uses up funds God might want us to use otherwise. It might be wasted time in front of a TV or pursuing another pastime. We can ask God to search our hearts for pet idols that rob us of obedience and senior-years ministry.
4. Settle Your Past
One of the most important ways to persevere in senior years is to resolve past issues so you can move forward with God’s blessing. That might mean asking for forgiveness—or giving it. The goal is unity and peace.
God says to deal appropriately with anger so we won’t give the Devil a foothold (Eph. 4:26–27), but many of us still hold on to bitterness from our pasts.
The Bible says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). God wants us to obey the Holy Spirit by settling past issues and persevering in peacemaking! To do this, we’ll need to leave weighty baggage behind, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13).
5. Spark Your Creativity
We cannot know how many years the Lord has prepared for us. But we can “number” our days, or count them carefully, so we can gain a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12). Our lives are brief (Ps. 39:4), and we must measure our days with biblical thinking.
Just because we’ve entered our senior years, that doesn’t mean we can neglect our spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6–8; 1 Cor. 12:4–11, 28). This is the time—especially since we have more time on our hands—to cultivate new skills or talents God can use to encourage and bless others. This is the time to continue in the good works He has prepared for us to do and bring Him glory (Eph. 2:10).
It’s not wise to neglect community and friendships. We can cultivate new relationships that encourage us and others—and perhaps find new ways to minister with others. We can practice the “one anothers” of Scripture.
6. Share the Gospel
One of the regrets I hear most often from senior saints is that of not having shared the gospel or led people to their Savior. Persevering often means stirring up our courage and relying on God’s presence. We need to go beyond praying for our family, friends, and neighbors who do not know Christ and actually share the gospel with them. The Spirit of God is able to use His Word and our testimonies to draw souls to Jesus (Matt. 28:19–20).
We may be living a godly life example, but we need to also share how Jesus has changed our lives. A testimony of a changed life in Christ is powerful. God can use our stories and help us speak up for Him in new, creative ways.
Let’s be authentic Christians. We’ll want to be sure our lifestyles back up our testimonies. We can make ourselves more available and cultivate caring relationships. Let’s ask God to help our neighbors and others see us as the “go to” people when they want answers for life and spiritual questions.
7. Stay the Course
Paul, as he came to the end of his spiritual journey, wrote words of testimony that can motivate us to persevere as seniors. In 2 Timothy 4:7, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In his final years, Paul’s struggles became a victory cry!
After arduous training, competitors in Greece’s Panhellenic Games worked hard to win a prize. Paul used the Games as an analogy for faithfulness in believers’ lives (1 Cor. 9:24–25). While those winning the Games received a crown, it was only temporary. Paul said Christians run the race of life “to get a crown that will last forever.”
Our motivation to follow and obey Christ should increase in our elder years. We should still be vigilant and get rid of anything that weighs us down as we “run with endurance” the race God has set before us (Heb. 12:1–3).
We want to leave a legacy to the next generation so they will be encouraged to run the race well. So let’s stay the course, senior saints. Let’s be diligent and finish well. Let’s finish strong!