Don't Waste Your Golden Years

On May 20, 2000, John Piper preached what would become one of his most famous sermons nicknamed the “sea shell sermon.” The sermon is amazing and I encourage you to give it a listen or a read. In his introduction, he contrasts the death of two missionaries that Bethlehem Baptist supported. The brakes on their vehicle failed and they went over a cliff. The two missionaries were both women in their eighties. One was a missionary her whole adult life. The other was a widower and doctor who entered missionary work later in life. Think about that. While the rest of their contemporaries in America were living easy in retirement these two faithful women were compelled to declare Christ on a foreign mission field. Piper said many would call this a tragedy. According to Piper, the real tragedy was a couple he read about in Reader’s Digest, “Bob and Penny . . . took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”

What do we do with our lives as we get older? Psalm 71:17-18 gives a wonderful prayer and goal for our golden years,
 “O God, You have taught me from my youth,
And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to all who are to come.”

The author of this Psalm has been a believer since youth and is still declaring the “wondrous deeds” God has done. He asks God not to forsake him in his old age but give him continued opportunities to “declare Your strength to this generation.” It is one thing for a mature Christian of a younger age to share the gospel and instruct others in the faith. It certainly does have a profound impact when a spiritually and elderly believer does it. Why? Because they have walked the long road of obedience and faith. They have experienced the deep sorrows and joys of existence and still declare the wondrous deeds of God. I think I’ve shared this story before but it will help illustrate my point. I used to volunteer as a hospital chaplain. One day I was informed of a family getting ready to move from the hospital to hospice. Everyone was talking about the peace and piety of this family, particularly the soon to be widow. As I entered the room, she was sitting and reading her Bible. Her hair was short and gray but distinguished looking. She looked up as I came in and gave me a smile. I asked how she was doing today. She let out a sigh and looked at her husband of 50 years who was in a coma and said, “Today we are good because God is good.” I asked if she needed any additional support after he was settled at hospice. She thanked me but said “I have my family and my church family. I have all the help I will need.” I could not stop myself before I asked the next question, “how are you so peaceful right now?” With faint tears in her eyes she said, “I have been married to my husband for over 50 years, and we’ve both been believers in Jesus Christ our whole lives. I know and am confident that when my husband passes I will see him again.”

This sweet Southern lady declared to me the strength and power of God. Even when she could have felt forsaken, she chose to declare God’s wondrous deeds to the next generation. Saints that is a life well lived and one worth living into.

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