August 16, 2017

When Does Old Age Arrive?

Bob Jones III

When my grandfather was the age I am now and I was a teenager, I heard him speak often about how much older people had to offer the next generation — wisdom, prudence, experience, the benefit of learning from their mistakes. I did not receive his comments with understanding or appreciation. There is no reason to expect that my grandchildren will think that I know what I’m talking about either, but my generation will, and it is to them these thoughts are addressed. They know how it feels when someone younger says to them, as was recently said to me, “Do you still ski?” Or, when while hunting for bear in Alaska recently, one of my younger and esteemed hunting partners said, “I can’t believe the stamina and energy you have at your age.”

I’d like to make a case for old age being more a state of mind than a chronological occurrence. We all know people who seem old at forty and others who seem delightfully young at eighty. The point is, whenever old age arrives, it can be accompanied with grace, cheerfulness, sweetness, and helpfulness in such great measure that although a look in the mirror says “old,” the spirit says “young.” James Garfield, twentieth president of the United States, said, “If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be upon the heart. The spirit should not grow old.”

Someone said, “Few people know how to be old.” There is no excuse for despondency about age; there should rather be a vigorous embrace of the advantages it brings. The latter years can be the most profitable and productive years of life. Our work and service are never ended so long as we have breath. The latter years of life bring with them opportunities for increased usefulness in eternal causes. Stagnation and self-pity rob the aged of the vision and purpose of this new stage of life. When the mind and spirit become jaded and the heart bitter, despair becomes a robber of the contribution and blessedness that can make the latter years the best years.

The blessing of old age is not merely a pleasant thought, a euphemism — it is a reality. Albert Edward Wiggam said, “Nearly two-thirds of all the greatest deeds ever performed by human beings — the victories in battle, the greatest books, the greatest pictures and statues — have been accomplished after the age of sixty.” That isn’t surprising, considering that the psalmist said, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the Lord is upright” (Ps. 92:14, 15). In the pamphlet “Letters to the Aged” by Archibald Alexander (founder of Princeton), the writer of the preface said, “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was 80 when he finished his Faust; Alfred Tennyson was 81 when he wrote Crossing the Bar; Tintoretto, the great European master of painting, produced his greatest painting at 74; Pablo Casals played the cello, conducted orchestras, and taught music till his death at 96; Will Durant, in collaboration with his wife, Ariel, wrote five volumes of his ten-volume ‘History of Civilization’ between 69 and 89; Grandma Moses did not become a painter until she was 70, yet she produced more than 1,000 primitive paintings and made herself famous before she celebrated her one-hundredth birthday.”

It is said that between the ages of sixty and seventy, 35 percent of the world’s greatest achievements are accomplished, and between the ages of seventy and eighty, 23 percent. The years after eighty account for 6 percent. God never brings some men to full bloom until that time in their lives that their contemporaries are retiring. Others, whose lives were fragrant blooms for God in the early days of life, are transplanted by Him, or “repotted,” to blossom again while the bloom of their contemporaries — through neglect or indifference — withers and dies.

Have you ever pondered what exploits God asked aged men in the Bible to do for Him? When Noah completed the ark, he was approximately six hundred years old. Twothirds of his life was over. When Abraham was told by God to leave his homeland, he departed Haran at the age of 75 and undertook a hike based on God’s promises (Gen. 12:1, 2) — hundreds of miles with a household of possibly a thousand people — to a land called Canaan, because “he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:8–10). The key to Abraham’s success in old age was that he believed God. His faith began with saving faith that granted him the imputed righteousness of Christ (Gen. 15:6; James 2:23), the same way we enter into righteousness through faith in Christ. We really don’t know what Abraham did during his working years of life in his hometown, Ur, but the significance of his life began when he became a man who put faith into the action of obedience.

Between the ages of forty and eighty, Moses was a fugitive from justice, a man living in isolation, caring for his father-in-law’s sheep on the backside of the desert. For the next forty years of his life — with all of his warts, complaints, anger, and reluctance — he was the emancipatorleader chosen by God to take His people from Egypt’s curse to Canaan’s comforts.

Perhaps no Biblical character inspires awe or ignites the imagination more than Daniel — the captive prophet, the courageous petitioner, the chief of Babylon’s princes, the conscientious man of prayer. The conundrum of Persia was in his mid-eighties when cast into the lion’s den because he refused to worship Darius, the ruler, as a god. He was probably about forty years of age when deported from Jerusalem to Babylon, and the latter half of his life was spent in distinguished and persecuted service for God.

The advanced years of life are not without their faults. Older people can be cranky, obnoxiously opinionated, derisive of the young, prideful and egotistical, poor listeners, complainers, and colossal bores who speak little else but of the past or of their physical maladies. Goethe admonished, “We must not take the faults of our youth into our old age; for old age brings with it its own defects.”

Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit who resides within must remain in sweet control of the believer. The Christian elderly should look not to the past years of life as though the best is over but to the remaining years on earth as holding possibilities for greater enjoyment of God and active employment in service to Him. The greatest benefit of age was best described by Richter: “As winter strips the leaves from around us, so that we may see the distant regions they formerly concealed; so old age takes away our enjoyments, only to enlarge the prospect of the coming eternity.”


Dr. Bob Jones III serves as Chancellor of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.

(Originally published in FrontLine • September/October 2008. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

Comments

  1. E. WAYNE THOMPSON says:

    PLEASE TELL DR. BOB JONES THAT AT AGE 90 I CAN REMEMBER WHEN HE WAS A SMALL CHILD. THOSE COMMENTS THAT HE WROTE HAVE MUCH TRUTH IN THEM.. HO W RECLESS MY TEEN AGE WAS BUT I SOBER UP DURING WWII WHEN I SERVED IN THE MARINES. ALSO I RECEIVED MUCH WISDOM WHEN I SEARCHED GOD’S WORD. MUCH OF IT WAS IN PREPARATION TO PREACH AND TEACH THAT WORD. I STILL HAVE MUCH ROOM TO GROW AT FOUR SCORE YEARS. THERE ARE MANY ADJUSTMENTS THAT OLD AGE BRINGS AND BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO IS HUMBLE ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE THEM AND YIELD TO THEM. i THAN OUR LORD THAT HE GAVE US 6 CHILDREN WHO KNOW HOW TO IMPART LOVING WISDOM TO US.

    ALSO I AM GLAD FOR THE FRIEND OF MY MOTHER’S RECOMMENDED BOB JONES COLLEGE TO ME. I RECEIVED MUCH WISDOM AND INSPIRATION FROM YOUR GRANDFATHER AND FATHER AS WELL AS DR. MONROE PARKER WHO BECAME A LIFE LONG FROM FOR ME.


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