The Gold in the Golden Years
Every day the mailman delivers to my house reminders that I will turn 75 soon.
- Advance reminders to apply for medicare
- Insurance applications for long-term care insurance
- Coupons for hearing aids, walkers, and adult diapers
These and other reminders tell me that in the next ten to fifteen years, the largest group in America, the "Boomer" generation, will all become senior citizens. The war time babies will retire and form the single most influential segment of our society. Politicians and marketers are not ignorant of this fact as laws are being passed that speak directly to these voters' concerns, and products are being developed that will meet their growing needs.
If you want to invest your money, you can't go wrong if you put it into nursing homes and funeral parlors because these will be the growth industries of the future.
For the moment, while the relatively "young" and "healthy" seniors are around, companies selling luxury cars; condos in Florida; travel agencies and home improvement products are working hard to sell you their products. It's time to relax, enjoy yourself, indulge yourself cause you've worked hard and you deserve it. This is what the commercials are saying.
Of course, what the commercials, politicians, salesmen don't say but secretly imply is this, "You'd better enjoy yourself and get yourself a comfortable place to be old in because you're going to die – and sooner than later."
Of course, I'm not against retiring comfortably and doing things that I was too busy to do earlier. I hope to have that opportunity one day. What I'm against is the total disregard for God's presence in one's life, especially when one's life is drawing nearer and nearer to its end. The great danger in America is that rich seniors seek only to maintain their comfort until the end, and the poorer ones grow older resenting the fact that their American dream was lost in the financial meltdown of the last decade.
The golden years should be special, and can be if we are searching for what is truly precious. The Lord is the gold of the golden years. He should be the wealth we have after a long life, not more "things" that we should know by now will simply turn to dust one day.
In Psalm 71, an old man describes three golden blessings that only God can provide when we are old.
The Three Golden Blessings – Psalm 71
This Psalm was written by an older person who was suffering some illness (we don't know what). It is a serious, life threatening illness. His problem is that his enemies see his weakness as an opportunity to attack him and try to destroy his character. They are saying that he is sick because he is a sinner. Much like Job's friends accursed Job. In writing this Psalm, the old man goes to God in prayer for help, and as I mentioned before, reveals three golden blessings that God has supplied him with in his later years:
1. Security – vs. 1-11
1In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed.
2In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
Incline Your ear to me and save me.
3Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come;
You have given commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.
4Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man,
5For You are my hope; O Lord God,
You are my confidence from my youth.
6By You I have been sustained from my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother's womb;
My praise is continually of You.
7I have become a marvel to many,
For You are my strong refuge.
8My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long.
9Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.
10For my enemies have spoken against me;
And those who watch for my life have consulted together,
11Saying, "God has forsaken him;
Pursue and seize him, for there is no one to deliver.
Note the words he uses to describe the safety he finds in God:
- God is his refuge (safe place) – vs. 1
- God is his rescuer – vs. 2
- God is his dwelling place – vs. 3
- God is his fortress on a rock – vs. 3
- God is his savior – vs. 4
- God is his hope – vs. 5
- God is his confidence – vs. 5
- God is his sustainer – vs. 6
- God is his protector and deliver – vs. 11
The world has always offered gold, armies, locks, laws to protect us (and they do to a certain extent). This man has found who can make him feel safe, that is the Lord. In vs. 7-10, he says that even when it seems that all are against him, that he is in imminent danger, he will trust in the Lord to keep him safe.
Security cannot be measured in money or weaponry (because people who have a lot of both still don't feel safe, they just feel safer than those who don't have these things). In order to feel totally secure one must go to the Lord and find safety in Him.
A golden blessing of the aged is that in their weakness and vulnerability, they can feel safe with God.
2. Witness – vs. 12-21
Another golden blessing of the aged is a lifelong witness of faith that grows stronger, not weaker with age. The body dissipates with age, but God blesses the faithful with an ever increasing and powerful witness as they grow older.
12O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, hasten to my help!
13Let those who are adversaries of my soul be ashamed and consumed;
Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor, who seek to injure me.
Even though things are going badly for him (sick, attacked in-justly), he continues to call upon and trust in the Lord.
14But as for me, I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
15My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And of Your salvation all day long;
For I do not know the sum of them.
16I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.
Their attacks, his illness and old age, cannot suppress his faith, his enthusiasm, his praise for God. It's as if the inner man of faith grows more visible as the outer man of dying flesh grows weak.
17O God, You have taught me from my youth,
And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
18And 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.
19For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens
You who have done great things;
O God, who is like You?
He has praised and trusted God all of his life and as his death becomes imminent, he grows stronger and stronger in his appreciation for the Lord and blessings.
One common complaint of the elderly is that they live in the past or are dissatisfied with the present and refuse to accept the future. This man's past and present resemble his future. He has spent a lifetime telling of God's great deeds and now in old age nothing can stop his praise and witness of God's love and power, not even death.
Another golden blessing…
20You who have shown me many troubles and distresses
Will revive me again,
And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
21May You increase my greatness
And turn to comfort me.
22I will also praise You with a harp,
Even Your truth, O my God;
To You I will sing praises with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You;
And my soul, which You have redeemed.
24My tongue also will utter
Your righteousness all day long;
For they are ashamed, for they are humiliated who seek my hurt.
It takes great confidence to let go of this life. I've seen many people struggle to hang on to it, not wanting to leave this earth. That's because this is where they belong. This world is home and they love it here. They never want to leave. The writer says that he looks forward to being with God, praising Him, confessing His name. He's not afraid to die. He looks forward to it because it will release him to finally be with the one he's always wanted to be with.
This feeling of confidence is a blessing bestowed on those who have been faithful to the Lord and obeyed His word and confessed His name. You can't practice being confident; you can't psyche yourself out so you'll be confident before death. It is a gift that God gives you. Confidence before death is the most precious blessing of all because it confirms a life lived faithfully and it provides the peace and joy that we need at the most critical time of our lives. The old man in the Psalms says that those who are his enemies will be ashamed of themselves for having attacked him and spoken badly about him when they observe the confidence he has in facing death.
The true blessings of old age don't come from the things we've produced or the amount we have saved. The true blessings of old age come from the one we've spent a lifetime knowing. Those who have invested their time and resources in knowing and serving the Lord will find true gold in their golden years:
- They will feel safe regardless of the condition of their bank accounts or governments.
- They will be filled with praise in the knowledge that each day reveals more clearly to the world their true spiritual nature and all that this means.
- They will have confidence in facing their greatest enemy, death.
There are things that money or influence cannot buy, only God can give these golden blessings to those who reach their golden years. The wonderful thing about these golden blessings is that the Lord wants everyone to have them. Whether you are old or young, ask yourself this evening, "Do I want these blessings for myself now or in the future?" If you don't have these things, perhaps it's because:
- You haven't obeyed the gospel in repentance and baptism.
- You haven't lived like God wants you to live.
- Like many, you've simply become a little too involved in the world and its activities and begun to neglect the Lord.
The danger of old age is that it tends to make us focus on ourselves too much.
Will you have these blessings when you are old?
If you are not close to the Lord and need to come to Him for forgiveness, prayer, or greater commitment so you can receive His blessings, come now as we stand and sing.