"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16
Paul's teaching has an application to those who are growing old. He was an old man when he wrote these triumphant words. As a missionary he had traveled over many lands to carry the gospel to lost men. He had been exposed to storms, illnesses and fierce persecutions. He had suffered all manner of hardships, and was a broken man, physically. The 'old house' he had lived in so long—was battered and shattered. But while his body was thus worn out—the outward man decaying—his inward man was strong, undecaying, triumphant!
The problem of Christian old age—is to keep the heart young and full of hope and of all youth's gladness, however feeble and broken the body may become. We need to be most watchful, however, lest we allow our life to lose its zest and deteriorate in its quality, when old age begins to creep in. The best, then, seems behind us—and there is less to draw us on. Hopes of achievement appear to be ended for us—our work is almost done, we think.
Sometimes people, as they grow old, become less sweet and less beautiful in spirit. Troubles, disasters and misfortunes, have made the days hard and painful for them. Perhaps health is broken, and suffering is added to the other elements that make the old age unhappy.
With many, their life of youthful hopes, dreams, successes, loves and joys—has been sunk out of sight, submerged in misfortunes and adversities, and has vanished altogether. Nothing remains of it all, but a memory. Their hearts have grown hopeless and bitter.
But this is not worthy living—for those who are immortal, who are true children of God. These hard things are not meant to mar our life—they are meant to make us all the braver, the worthier, the nobler!
It is not meant that the infirmities of old age shall break through into our inner life. Our hearts should grow all the more beautiful, the more the outer life is broken. The shattering of the old mortal tent, should reveal more and more of the glory of the divine life that dwells within!
Do you ever think, you who are growing old—that old age ought really to be the very best of life? We are too apt to settle down to the feeling that in our infirmities, we cannot any longer live beautifully, worthily, usefully or actively. But this is not the true way to think of old age. We should reach our best then, in every way.
Old age should be the best—the very best, of all life!
It should be the most beautiful, with . . .
the flaws mended,
the faults cured,
the mistakes corrected,
the lessons all well learned.
Youth is full of immaturity, mid-life is full of toil and care, strife and ambition. Old age should be as the autumn, with its golden fruit. When we grow old—we ought to be better Christians than ever we have been before—more submissive to God's will, more content, more patient and gentle, kindlier and more loving! We are drawing nearer to heaven every day, and our visions of the Father's house should be clearer and brighter.
Old age should always be the best of life in its harvest, not marked by emptiness and decay—but by richer fruitfulness and more gracious beauty. It may be lonely, with so many gone, of those who used to cluster about the life; but the loneliness will not be for long, for it is drawing nearer continually to all the great company of waiting ones in heaven.
Old age may be feeble—but the marks of feebleness are really foretokens of glory. Dr. Guthrie, as his life grew feeble, spoke of his thin locks, his trembling steps, his dullness of hearing, his dimness of eye—as like the appearing of 'land birds', telling the weary mariner that he was nearing the haven!
Aged Christians have no reason for sadness; they are really in their best days. Let them be sure to live now at their best.
Paul was growing old when he wrote of his enthusiastic vision of beauty yet to be attained—but we hear no note of complaint or weariness from him. He did not think of his life as done. He showed no consciousness that he had passed the highest reach of living. He was still forgetting the past—and reaching forward, because he knew that his best was yet before him. His outward man was feeble, his health shattered, his physical vigor decaying—but the inner man was undecayed and undecaying. He was never before so Christlike as he was now, never so full of hope, never so enthusiastic in his service of his Master.
Those who are growing old should rise . . .
to holiest joy,
to most triumphant faith,
to sweetest love,
to most rapturous praise, and
should attain the ripest spiritual fruitfulness!
They should do their best work for Christ, in the days that remain for them. They should live their gentlest, sweetest, kindliest, most helpful life—in the time they have yet to stay in this world. They should make their years of old age—years of quietness, of peace; a glad, holy repose in Jesus. In trust and peace, they should nestle like a little child in the everlasting arms that are underneath them, and give out to all who are about them—the sweetest love, the holiest joy, the most blessed hope. But this can be the story of their experience, only if their life is hidden with Christ in God. Apart from Christ—no life can keep its zest or its radiance!
"For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die!" 1 Corinthians 15:53