Meditations on “God of Transformation: 12: Are you past it?
Luke 1:18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
I am part of the older generation and so I empathize with those around me or older than me and I understand that sometimes the weariness of age, the aches and the pains, the wakefulness at night, the lack of energy, all these things act as a brake on what in younger years was seen as zeal. We are still all for God but that doesn’t mean we still have the energy to go to the world and attack enemy strongholds like we might have done in those earlier years. If we attend Bible weeks and we hear calls to step out anew, we think, “Bless those young people, Lord, as they go.” From time to time we reflect back with a degree of nostalgia to the years when we were involved in bringing others to the Lord – yes, some of us were really good at bringing new lives into being – or we were involved in this work or that work, maybe we were speakers at various meetings. Yes, those were the days, but now they are past.
If we agree with any of the sentiment in the paragraph above, we may be in danger of finding ourselves in the same place as Zechariah when an angel came to him and suggested something was going to happen in his life that was naturally beyond him – his wife Elizabeth, also in old age, was going to conceive and they would have a son after decades of childlessness. Zechariah’s response was basically, “You’ve got to be joking!” We might be most condemnatory and judgmental of him if we had not just read the paragraph above and agreed with it. If we did agree with it, we have settled in a place of believing we are past it and now it’s time for the younger generation to step up to the plate. Well, yes it is, but that doesn’t mean we are out of commission.
I believe I have told in others of these series of an uncle of my wife. His story is worth repeating. He had been a Christian for most of his life. A rather prim and proper Christian his children would say, setting them high demands of their lives, but the Lord doesn’t stop working our sanctification (changing to be like Jesus) until the last day we leave this earth. This man basically retired when most of us do in our sixties, I believe, but when he was seventy his wife went down with one of those debilitating old age things and became bed bound, incontinent, and eventually didn’t even recognize him. He refused to put her in a home and cared for her in this state for ten years until she died.
These years, I believe, softened him and at ninety, he belonged to a relatively small evangelical church in the south, looked after the elderly of the church, led a house group and took Bible Studies, and went and took the assembly at a local primary school once a term. We were invited to his ninetieth birthday party, where I would guess there were about sixty plus people, Christian and non-Christian. They brought out a cake and he had to blow out the candles, at which point somebody shouted, “Speech! Speech!” So for the next ten minutes (and I mean only the next ten minutes), he gave his testimony and truly glorified the Lord sharing the Gospel. He finished with a very funny story which ended right in your face with the truth that you will either go to heaven or hell depending on how you responded to Jesus, and then sat down. I came away from that party thinking, “Lord, at last I have found someone I want to emulate. Lord, I want you to use me every day until I die, and can I keep going at least until I’m eighty five doing that please? Whether He grants me that last bit, only time will tell. I hope so, but that is still my daily cry as I pray.
Now if I am speaking to those approaching or in their so-called retirement years, remember Zechariah. His problem was that he was too religious and was a law-keeper but when your natural resources start to run down, rule keeping isn’t the way ahead; we need additional resources, we need the Lord’s power afresh in our lives if we are to continue ‘child-bearing’. Seriously, if you were a good spiritual child-bearer in your earlier years, what has changed? A person coming to Christ is still a work of God. We merely speak words and the Holy Spirit brings the conviction. Nothing has changed. Except maybe the lie that you listened to from the enemy, “You’re too old!!” Liar! God’s power and ability is still there for you! Yes, there may be limitations on your physical and maybe even mental life, but you’ve got enough energy and enough clarity to read this, understand it, and do something about it – with HIS energising.
I am about to get up and go and preach later this morning and yes, I have had to pray for supernatural energy (especially when I woke up early this morning) but what has changed? If I have not relied on the Spirit all the years I have preached I’ve been wasting my time! The truth is we often speak out of weakness so nothing changes. My favourite challenging verses these days are, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:12-15)
Hey, you and I, if we are Christians, are part of ‘the righteous’ because God has said so, and so I’m going to flourish and I am determined with His grace to go on bearing fruit in old age and I will continue to testify to the Lord’s goodness right up to my last day on this planet before I move on to heaven.
Those verses are God’s promises to you. Zechariah thought he was past it, and naturally he was. The world and the enemy would like to tell you the same, but the story of Zechariah challenges that. It is the story of transformation, of a childless couple to a couple of parents – and that in years beyond what anyone else thought was possible – anyone that is except God because His Holy Spirit comes and energises and enables things to happen that the enemy doesn’t want to happen. It’s all about availability and willingness and then His resources. We provide the first, and He provides the second. Don’t let your latter years just get frittered away. There are great possibilities ahead!