One of the most encouraging verses in the Bible is Paul’s words to the Corinthian church in II Corinthians 4:16, where he says:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
This is pertinent to all of us who are getting up there in our years.
Paul begins with the word “therefore,” which is in reference to something he previously said. If you go back to verse 14, where he says that the One who raised Jesus from the dead is the One who will also raise us.
For this reason, we as Christians do not lose heart even though our bodies are wasting away. However, Paul seems to be saying if you are not a Christian and do not have hope in the risen Christ, you will lose heart and become discouraged as time goes by. This is what the aging process naturally does to people, particularly when you live in a culture that puts so much emphasis on outward beauty and appearance. You cannot help but lose heart as you watch your body age and slow down.
As Christians, we have the opportunity each day to grow, be renewed, to be re-invigorated inwardly, in our souls. Paul is telling us that this cannot happen to us physically, but only in our innermost being. We have the opportunity to grow into old age. For this reason we do not lose heart.
King David puts it in these words:
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green. (Psalm 92:12-14)
Notice, David uses the word flourish twice. In age this person will still yield fruit, will be full of sap, and very green. This is what it means to thrive, to finish strong.
Howard Hendricks was a professor at Dallas Seminary and also the chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys for many years. I love this story he tells about a friend of his.
Some time ago I lost one of my best friends, a woman eighty-six years old, the most exciting lay teacher I’ve ever been exposed to.
The last time I saw her on planet Earth was at one of those aseptic Christian parties. We were sitting there on eggshells, looking pious, when she walked in and said, “Well, Hendricks, I haven’t seen you for a long time. What are the five best books you’ve read in the past year?”
She had a way of changing a group’s dynamics. Her philosophy was, let’s not bore each other with each other; let’s get into a discussion, and if we can’t find anything to discuss, let’s get into an argument.
She was eighty-three on her last trip to the Holy Land. She went there with a group of NFL football players. One of my most vivid memories of her is seeing her out front yelling back to them, “Come on, men, get with it!”
She died in her sleep at her daughter’s home in Dallas. Her daughter told me that just before she died, she had written out her goals for the next ten years.
I remember someone saying that most people do not live purposeful lives, because for most people, life is nothing more than the meaningless passage of time. Let not that be said about us. Our challenge is to yield fruit, to be full of sap and be very green, regardless of what state of life we are in.