Few things in life I loved more than baseball; I often pictured myself hitting a big-league grand slam and hearing the roar of the crowd as I ran the bases -- nearing home. As I look back I see how God's hand guided me; most comforting is the knowledge that He will not forsake me during this last stretch of life as I am 'nearing home.'
Soon I will celebrate my 93rd birthday, and I know it won't be long before God calls me home to heaven. More than ever I look forward to that day -- not just because of the wonders I know heaven holds in store for me and every believer but because I know that all the burdens and sorrows that press down upon me at this stage of my life will be over. I also look forward to that day because I will be reunited with Ruth, my beloved wife and best friend for almost 64 years, who died in 2007.
All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in my latter years. Old age has its challenges and is not for wimps, but God wants us to embrace it as part of His plan for our lives, and to look for the Lord's purpose in every circumstance and in every face or voice we encounter daily.
The days when the aged were admired, looked up to, and respected are gone. But old age brings with it the gifts of remembrance, observation and reflection. The greatest comfort available, even to the aged, is when we remember Him. Amidst the realities of my latter years, I have come to experience the hope, fulfillment -- even joy -- that can result from looking at this stage of life from God's point of view and to discover His strength to sustain me every day.
In a sense all of us are nearing home, but we need to learn what it means to grow older, and with God's help, to grow older with grace and find the guidance to finish well.
The Bible has a lot to teach us on the topic of growing older, including the fact that God has a reason for keeping here anyone who has made it to his or her sunset years. The challenge -- and opportunity -- is to find God's purpose for these years and align with that.
Old age does not exempt one from fulfilling one's purpose in life. Scripture is filled with examples of men and women whom God used late in life, often with great impact. For the most part they were ordinary men and women, but individuals who possessed extraordinary faith. Biblical characters like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua and the Apostle Paul demonstrated that in spite of the limitations and challenges of old age, our latter years can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives.
What made the difference among the men and women God used is that they were prepared -- mentally, physically, emotionally and, most of all, spiritually -- for whatever challenges old age would bring their way. They knew that if God gave them a long life, He would be there for them. As a result, for them, growing older was not something to be denied or dreaded; it was to be embraced as part of God's plan for their lives.
God doesn't want us to waste our latter years or spend them in superficial, meaningless pursuits. Instead He wants us to use them in whatever ways we can to influence those who will come after us. He wants us to finish well, and one of the ways we do this is by passing on our values and our faith to those who will follow us. In Psalm 71:19 we read, "When I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation."
The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life. The greatest legacy one can pass on to them is a legacy of character and faith.
Life is uncertain; we don't know what the future may hold. But since death is an undeniable reality, we should all be diligent to prepare for the last years of life. God does not want us to leave a legacy of resentment or conflict or confusion behind us, but this can easily happen if we neglect the practical issues that press upon us as we grow older.
When Jesus came and dwelt among mankind, He provided us with the example of how to live -- and how to die. He came to die so that we may live. He also was resurrected in order to 'fulfill the promise He made': "I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). This is why the Bible says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116:15).
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