This past week I turned 60 years old. I don’t see any great significance in that number other than to consider the fact that I’m getting older. That’s not really a bad thing when you consider the alternative of dying young. But one thing that is of interest to me is the ages of some of the people that God chooses to use in their senior years in the Scriptures. Some of these ages we would consider to be significantly disproportionate to how God chooses to use these individuals. First of all, consider Abraham who was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Genesis 25:7). He was actually 99 years old when he circumcised his whole family (ouch). Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob and Esau are born (Genesis 25:26). Jacob, according to the biblical narrative, was probably around 77 years old when he flees from Esau to Padan Aram and begins working for his uncle Laban. That means that his family with Leah and Rachel did not begin until he was at least 84 years old. These numbers illustrate for us that God is not obligated to use just young people. In fact, it is God’s desire that we use us our whole life to serve Christ. Our society has very much put an age on retirement and because of that we tend to think of our usefulness as being defined by what the country defines as retirement age. The concept of retirement is found nowhere in the pages of Scripture except when it is applied to how long a priest can serve in the priesthood. God never stops using us if our hearts are open to his leading and direction.
One of my favorite examples of an older saint whom God used in a mighty way is the story of Caleb. Remember Caleb was one of two spies who came back from spying out Israel who said, “let us enter the land and claim what God has given to us”. Because Caleb and Joshua had followed the Lord wholeheartedly God promised that one day they would enter the promise land after their whole generation had died in the wilderness because of their disobedience to God. In Joshua 14 Caleb is reminding Joshua of God’s commitment to him as he requested a special inheritance from Joshua. We read, “I was 40 years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for 45 years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, 85 years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said,” (Joshua 14:7 – 12 NIV). Caleb illustrates for us the great principle that God can keep us healthy and strong as long as we are in the center of His will. There was no chance of Caleb dying on the battlefield while the Israelites were wondering in the wilderness. God had promised him that he would enter the promise land and he lived his life in accordance with that promise. Caleb served the Lord “wholeheartedly” well into his 80s. As I have reached the point at what some people consider a significant age I am aware that God still has many things that He wants me to do in my service for Christ. I believe that God will keep me healthy and strong as long as I continue to walk in the center of His will.
This is very exciting time as many of us across our country will be turning 60 this year. In fact, 1957 was the highest year of births for the group that is known as “the baby boomers”. I’ve already been invited to a high school classmates surprise 60th birthday party next month. Sometimes my older body doesn’t function the way would like it to and there are times when that my mind makes commitments my body can’t keep. Over Christmas as I was paying for my grandson Tyler and son Matt to go skiing (I couldn’t go myself due to pending knee surgery and a severe cold) and Matt pointed out to me that the ski resort allows people over 70 to ski for free. It was his challenge to me to keep skiing so that one day I could ski for free. Haha, that’s a long way off. But I do know that with age comes wisdom and Caleb illustrates for us the importance of continuing to have a vision for how God can use you. He remembered the mountain of the Anakites and remembered how his fellow spies were concerned about the giants in the land. Caleb didn’t see the giants in the land, but rather he saw the giant God who was on his side. In everything we do let’s make sure that God is on our side. When I was in my previous ministry in Twining, Michigan the retirees that I served rallied around my vision to reach out to our community and specifically to the school across the street from our church. I was very glad when I visited at Twining Baptist Church this past October to find that the release time education program that we started in 1999 is still going very strong and their continuing to make a difference in leading children to the Lord Jesus Christ. We were staffed with retired people who committed to serve the Lord through this ministry and what a huge blessing it was to the church and community. For those who are approaching retirement age let me assure you that God has not called you to retire from your service for Jesus. In fact, retirement itself affords many great opportunities to make a difference in our world for Jesus Christ. Let’s have a vision of what God is going to do in 2017 as he continues to use us to touch hearts and lives for Jesus Christ. And maybe I’ll get some free skiing in in the future.
Pastor Rich Sivo