Something strange happens as you get older. You get a little smarter, primarily because you learn from all the mistakes you’ve made over the years. Essentially, though, you’re the same. But people start to look at you differently. They think you know more than you do, simply because you’ve lasted. We gain credibility simply by remaining faithful over a prolonged period of time.
It’s a good goal: not to do great things, but to remain faithful. We’re not good judges of what’s a great thing, and in any case, the great things don’t matter if we’re not found faithful.
Here’s a vision for all of us, regardless of our age right now.
To Remain Faithful
“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching,” writes Paul. “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
It’s one thing to keep a close watch and ourselves and our teaching. It’s another thing altogether to persist in this. Everyone who’s been disqualified because of moral or theological failure used to keep watch on themselves. The hard part is persisting.
I’ve met older people who have become more brittle and angry. I’ve also met those who have quietly and faithfully served the Lord over generations. They’ve persisted. I’ve sat under the ministry of such a man this week. Our prayer should be that we join their number: persisting in the daily work of keeping an eye on our lives and teaching for a long period of time. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
To Bless the Next Generation
I visited with a friend recently. He teaches at a university. He and his wife have poured themselves into the lives of students. He isn’t just a professor; he’s a mentor. He loves those students.
As I walked through the campus, I saw the way that students lit up when they saw this professor. They knew him, and even more, he knew them. He’s a renowned scholar, but he seems more concerned with blessing the next generation than he does building his curriculum vitae.
I think of another pastor. I spoke at a conference and was looking forward to meeting him. The speakers met for dinner, and he was nowhere to be found. I asked where he was, and the answer came back: he had brought a young staff member with him, and was meeting to mentor him. I know this pastor well enough to know that this is his pattern. He’s older, but he influences scores of young pastors. He’s pouring his life into the next generation.
As we get older, we have more opportunity to practice what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:1-2. We can impart the gospel, and our lives, into others, who will then impart the gospel to others. We can cheer on and encourage those who are younger and create opportunities for them to serve. There’s something compelling about a godly, older person who’s all about blessing those who are younger. Few people are more attractive or compelling than a person like this.
The Blessings of Aging
Aging has its drawbacks. Just read the beginning of Ecclesiastes 12 if you want to know what they are. But it also has its blessings. In fact, they say that people become happier after 50.
But this isn’t the real blessing of aging. The real blessings are these: that we, by God’s grace, can remain faithful and bless the next generation. Who wouldn’t want to get older to experience these blessings?