By Irven Lee
I, at age seventy-two, spend a lot more time sitting and lying around than I did the first sixty ‘years of life. Work, either physical or mental, is done by use of will power. The temptation is just to sit.
My three little books have been written as well as several articles and tracts during these lazy years, and a few hundred meetings have been conducted in several states. The writings and sermons are not masterpieces to be treasured in the coming centuries, but there is joy in the belief that they have counted for something in our day.
There is danger in getting old as a gospel preacher. There have been those who have been loved and honored as faithful men and have stayed on year after year preaching to these friends until a loss of energy, senility, lack of patience, and other things that often come with age destroy one’s usefulness. Preaching is not a work in which one gets better and better until the day of death. It is sad to see an able and faithful preacher live on and continue to preach until he brings the church in his community to a very weakened condition.
Is there a time for a preacher to give up regular work and realize that he has had his day of life? Of course, there is! There may even come a time when he should go to a nursing home unless he can first be blessed by the crossing of the river of death into Paradise itself. Death to a Christian is far better than the suffering, frustration, and pain that come to many in their last years (read Phil. 1:20-24; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; Eccl. 3:1-8). Let us prepare to face death as one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.
Must an elder pretend that he is still an elder until he has lost touch with reality and cannot any longer take proper oversight of the flock? Older saints who are still active mentally and physically have much they can contribute to the church and to individuals, and they should be used and honored. They should, by all means, honor and encourage the devout young people. There should never be a time for an unhappy &&generation gap.”
Some brethren who are past eighty are still going strong and doing much good. Even they must surely realize that there is a limit to what they can do. If one lives on and on there will of necessity come to be a slower pace. Professional athletes have wonderful strength, but their work requires this almost super human strength, so they retire early. We all reach that point when we must step aside. Will we be (are we) capable of realizing that it is almost sundown?
Usefulness in the vineyard of the Lord demands knowledge, wisdom, patience, and freedom from envy, jealousy, pride, and stubbornness. it is beyond my power now to learn as fast as I forget. More than fifty years ago I had several courses in math and physical sciences, but that does not mean that I am a great student or even an ordinary student of physics. Some passages of Scripture that have been read or quoted hundreds of times must now be hunted and reviewed to be properly used. The Lord knows our limits and so should we.
Some who could not get a job in the work place can take care of their own yards at their own slow pace. We should be alert enough to realize that in a similar way we may not be the able preachers and elders we would like to be, but we may find a work somewhere that we can do at our slower pace.
Some young people are too eager to be called preachers when their neighbors can plainly see that they are not mature enough to take that special task of feeding the flock regularly. Some of us older men may need help in seeing that in our second childhood we are not mature enough to be left with the responsibility of feeding the flock regularly. I hope that I can find a willing heart within me when brethren see that I should be laid on the shelf.
From where I sit I can see the possibility of blindness, senility, and extreme weakness of body. The “alternative” looks much better. Older people often keep the power to recall the “good old days.” Some things we recall may not be that good, but many of us can recall many things that are pleasant. Beautiful pictures on memory’s wall are pleasant to see as I sit in my recliner. May the Lord help me to remember the debt of gratitude I owe my Lord, my wife and children, my brethren, and the happy privilege of living in this beautiful world. “How beautiful heaven must be! “
Are we honest when we say, “Fine, thank you”? We may hurt, feel tired, have trouble seeing or remembering, but people who ask how we feel are not asking for a complete health report. We may be doing fine in comparison to what many face. We are fortunate to be able to dress ourselves and get out and do our bit of satisfying work. Some of us suffer little pain. Is this not “fine”? Yes, I am fine, thank you, how are you?
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 6, pp. 161, 182
March 19, 1987