God And The Gray Head

old-lady-300590-mA friend of mine recently expressed concern about her age. Not that she’s feeling any different than when she was young, but she’s noticed people treating her differently, like they do the elderly. She’s NOT elderly, and the idea that others look at her as if she is, was disturbing.

As it happens, that morning I read from the book of Proverbs. One of the verses gives perspective on my friend’s concern:

A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness. (Prov. 16:31)

This verse also reminded me of the New Testament passage that contrasts what happens to a believer’s body with what happens to his spirit:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16)

Clearly, the more days we rack up, the more our inner man will be renewed. Other passages in Scripture make it clear this renewal is spiritual, drawing us closer to God:

[you Colossian Christians] have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Col. 3:10)

Perhaps the most powerful passage indicating this inner-man relationship with God comes in Ephesians:

[Paul’s prayer is] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (3:16-19)

Over and over, Scripture also contrasts the temporal with the eternal, and the latter always comes out on top as that which matters most. Paul refers to this life as “momentary light affliction”:

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)

Sadly our culture has grown further and further from this perspective that the unseen far outweighs the seen. Once we recognized the wisdom of age and the experience. We even admired the courage and example seniors set for us. And the elders in our churches most likely were indeed elders.

As western culture has grown more and more preoccupied with pleasure, we’ve elevated beauty and the body and youth. Seniors? We’re talking more and more about euthanasia, not the strength of the inner man. Because, after all, life is about being healthy and fit and strong and virulent. When these things start to fade—when the outer man starts to decay—what’s the point?

How wrong that perspective is. Above all else, those with gray heads can teach the rest of us what a strong inner man looks like. No, we can’t see the inner man, but we can see gentleness instead of anger, hope instead of despair, contentment instead of dissatisfaction, peace instead of hostility, and the joy of the Lord instead of bitterness.

Our culture may not value the older generation, but God seems to. Later in Proverbs He says gray hair is the honor of the old. When He gave the people of Israel the Law, He specified they were to “rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32).

The bottom line for those of us who are aging . . . which would be, all of us . . . is to remember that God looks on the heart today in the same way He did when He was about to have Samuel anoint David as King of Israel. It’s the heart that matters for eternity, not the clay jars in which it is temporarily housed.

Now is the time to grow in our walk with God, to yield to His work to make us in the image of His Son.

The stuff the world tells us we should do to stay young and vibrant? It’s a sham. No matter how young we may look, the parts don’t work as well as they once did. The outer man is fading and will continue to fade no matter how much we might like to stop time.

Aging is part of sin’s curse. God never intended us to die, but someone recently opened my eyes to the fact that even the curse, God turned into a blessing. Because of God’s mercy and grace, this decaying body will one day be replaced with a new, better, 2.0 model.

Something to look forward to.

Published in: on February 3, 2015 at 6:03 pm  Comments (3)  
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Despising Youth

McCainFatherandGrandfatherWhen I was young, I loved Paul’s counsel to Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth. Now that I’m likely in Paul’s generation at the time of his writing that letter, I’m less certain it’s such a good idea for young pastors to lead the elders.

Of course it was a great idea in Timothy’s case. Paul described him like this to the Philippians:

But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. (Phil. 2:19-22)

Timothy was Paul’s kindred spirit. He was genuinely concerned for the welfare of the church in Philippi. He didn’t seek after his own interests, but those of Christ Jesus. He’d proven his worth in the past, publicly. He’d served with Paul to advance the gospel. He’d worked for Paul the way a child would for his father.

Those are a lot of pluses, but there’s more. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he tells him to

remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. (1:3-4)

Young though he was, Timothy could discern between strange doctrine, myths, endless genealogies, speculation and the truth about God. He wasn’t fooled, though apparently men his senior had fallen into such error—people Paul had “handed over to Satan.”

In fact, Paul told Timothy to be an example to others by his speech, conduct, and quality of godly living.

Is it so hard to imagine that young people today might not have the same qualities Timothy had?

I don’t think Timothy was one of a kind, but at the same time, I don’t think his validation in Scripture is cause for the church to rubber stamp someone because he is young.

In other words, in the same way Timothy’s youthfulness was not to be a reason for people in the church to discount what he said, his youthfulness was not the reason they were to pay attention to him, either. Rather, Paul was saying Timothy had a spiritual gift and had served with him and had the ability to discern error. Because of his godliness and service and work for the gospel, his youthfulness wasn’t to prevent him from ministry.

In Colossians Paul said that in the family of God there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Sythian, slave, or freeman, but Christ is all and in all. In Ephesians, he added male and female. In many ways, though he didn’t list it, he was making a case in 1 Timothy for old and young being included with the others.

Today I see a sad turn of events in the church—division based on age. Maybe I spent too many years teaching junior and senior high schoolers, but I happen to enjoy the Timothys of the church. As I’ve heard from several sources lately, they aren’t the future of the church; they are it’s present, just as much as I am.

Age divisions aren’t new. I experienced the “generation gap” when I was growing up. It’s simply ridiculous, as if youths have nothing to contribute because they haven’t lived long enough and older folk have nothing to contribute because they’ve lived so long.

Isaiah says that “vigorous young men” can stumble badly and that those who are weary and tired can gain new strength by waiting on the Lord.

In other words, old age is not an excuse to retire from Christian service, and youth is not an excuse to avoid it. Older saints serve an important role in the church—they are “like fathers” and “like mothers” to younger members. But youths play an important role too, some, in fact, as significant as Timothy.

More important than the believer’s age is their heart-attitude. Timothy was Paul’s kindred spirit. Any young person who thinks like Paul and cares like Paul and serves like Paul should most definitely not be despised because of his youth.

Published in: on July 14, 2014 at 5:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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