Yes, my friends, there is the age thing. And, I am there, in that final stage of life one writer has described as "From 65 until...", death being the unmentionable. I'm not moaning and groaning about it but am realizing that I can't do what I could do in the earlier stages of life. It's true, I slog 5 miles every day. But, the ten minute mile was long ago. Truth is, my memory banks don't remember when. So, today, at age 70+ they are fourteen minute miles. I think.
All meaning that even our spiritual lives pass through life stages as well. The Christian experience is often defined in terms acknowledging those stages. The idea of "rebirth" is central to the Christian experience, the new person God creates in our spiritual heart. In this case maturity is our goal and we pass through the stages from spiritual infancy to become that mature, fully functioning Christian. That's what becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about, spiritual growth. According to Scripture we're not supposed to remain in that child-like stage Simon Peter wrote about---
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk that by it you may grow up into
salvation, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2: 2, ESV
Even when that spiritual growth is real there's still the age thing. My spiritual heartbeat is as strong as ever, the desire to serve and minister more real than ever before, but with the limited capacities of geezerhood. Does that mean that us older Christians can no longer function as truly heart healthy Christians? Certainly not.
In the Apostle Paul's letter to the Roman church he wrote something about this very thing. The context of Romans 11: 29 is not about age. He was explaining to the Romans the acceptance of the Christian gospel among the Gentiles, that is, non-Jewish people. He was also reminding them of God's promise to restore Israel, even after their rejection of Christ as their promised Messiah. So, he wrote---
For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.
Romans 11: 29, ESV
It is a profound truth in many areas of the Christian experience. Right now, for me, it is the declaration that God does not revoke my spiritual gifts and calling because of age. Yes, of course, we humans can forfeit our gifts and calling in sinful living and immoral behaviors. But, his gifts and calling for ministry, remain sure and certain even when we pass through those life stages and reach old age. It's true. I cannot physically do the the things that were normative for me in earlier years. But, my gifts and calling are still functional. I must be the heart healthy Christian even in my advanced years.
It's another sad commentary on the spiritual landscape of our nation. Many older Christians are on the sidelines, or in the viewing stands, of Christian ministry today. They are either excluded from many church functions, or have taken themselves out of active mission because of their age. And, what the contemporary church needs today, among other things, is the wisdom, experience, discernment, and gifts and calling of their more mature believers. It doesn't mean that Christ's church needs to revert back to our old ways or in some way keep the body of Christ from effectively reaching younger generations with this life changing Gospel.
Being truly mature is beyond our calculation of years. The Apostle Paul wrote about Christian maturity often in his Epistles. To the Philippians he wrote---
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting
what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal
for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature
think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Philippians 3: 13-16, ESV
The mature, heart healthy Christian should follow Paul's pattern: clearing the path of what is behind, straining forward to what lies ahead, and pressing toward the prize of the upward call of God.
Yes, again, there are life stages. We must remain heart healthy Christians as we navigate through each of them.
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