Thriving Spiritually During Gray-Headedness
“Those who are planted in the house of Jehovah . . . will still keep on thriving during gray-headedness.”—PSALM 92:13, 14.
1, 2. (a) How is old age often described? (b) What do the Scriptures promise with regard to the effects of Adamic sin?
OLD AGE—what does that expression bring to your mind? Wrinkled skin? Poor hearing? Feeble limbs? Or another aspect of “the calamitous days” depicted in vivid detail at Ecclesiastes 12:1-7? If so, it is important to bear in mind that the description found in Ecclesiastes chapter 12 portrays aging, not as what the Creator, Jehovah God, originally intended, but as the consequence of Adamic sin on the human body.—Romans 5:12.
2 Aging in itself is not a curse, for continued existence requires the passing of years. In fact, growth and maturity are desirable characteristics of all living things. The ravages of six thousand years of sin and imperfection that we see around us will soon be a thing of the past, and all obedient humans will enjoy life as it was intended, without the pain of old age and death. (Genesis 1:28; Revelation 21:4, 5) At that time, “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) Elderly ones will return to the days of their “youthful vigor,” and their flesh will “become fresher than in youth.” (Job 33:25) For the present, however, all must contend with the Adamic inheritance. Yet, servants of Jehovah are blessed in special ways as they move into their older years.
3. In what ways can Christians “keep on thriving during gray-headedness”?
3 God’s Word assures us that “those who are planted in the house of Jehovah . . . will still keep on thriving during gray-headedness.” (Psalm 92:13, 14) In figurative language, the psalmist set out the fundamental truth that faithful servants of God can continue to progress, flourish, and prosper spiritually, even if they are declining physically. Many Biblical and modern-day examples bear this out.
4. How did aged prophetess Anna show her devotion to God, and how was she rewarded?
4 Consider the first-century prophetess Anna. At 84 years of age, she was “never missing from the temple, rendering sacred service night and day with fastings and supplications.” As a woman whose father was a non-Levite “of Asher’s tribe,” Anna could not literally live at the temple. Imagine what it must have taken for her to be at the temple daily from the time of the morning service to the time of the evening service! For her devotion, however, Anna was richly rewarded. She was privileged to be on hand when Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the temple to be presented to Jehovah according to the Law. At the sight of Jesus, Anna “began returning thanks to God and speaking about the child to all those waiting for Jerusalem’s deliverance.”—Luke 2:22-24, 36-38; Numbers 18:6, 7.
5, 6. In what ways are many aged ones today manifesting a spirit like that of Anna?
5 Many aged ones among us today are like Anna in their regular meeting attendance, their earnest supplication for the advancement of true worship, and their irrepressible desire to preach the good news. A brother in his 80’s who attends Christian meetings regularly with his wife said: “We have cultivated the custom of going to the meetings. We don’t want to be anywhere else. Where God’s people are, that’s where we want to be. That’s where we feel comfortable.” What an encouraging example for all!—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
6 “If anything spiritual comes my way and I can be a part of it, I want to do so.” That is the motto of Jean, a Christian widow in her 80’s. “Of course, I have my sad moments,” she continues, “but why should everybody around me be sad when I am?” With eyes gleaming, she expressed the joy of visiting other lands for upbuilding spiritual occasions. On a recent trip, she told her companions, “I don’t want to see any more castles; I want to go out in the field ministry!” Although she did not know the local language, Jean was able to arouse people’s interest in the Bible’s message. In addition, for a number of years, she worked with a congregation that needed assistance, even though this meant learning a new language and traveling an hour each way to the meetings.
Keeping the Mind Active
7. During his advanced years, how did Moses express his desire to grow in his relationship with God?
7 Experience in life comes with the passing of time. (Job 12:12) Spiritual advancement, on the other hand, does not come automatically with age. Therefore, rather than merely relying on a reserve of knowledge acquired in the past, loyal servants of God strive to “increase in learning” as the years go by. (Proverbs 9:9) When Jehovah commissioned him, Moses was 80 years old. (Exodus 7:7) By his day, living to that age was evidently considered unusual, for he wrote: “In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; and . . . because of special mightiness they are eighty years.” (Psalm 90:10) Still, Moses never felt that he was too old to learn. After decades of serving God, enjoying many privileges, and carrying weighty responsibilities, Moses pleaded with Jehovah: “Make me know, please, your ways, that I may know you.” (Exodus 33:13) Moses was ever desirous of growing in his relationship with Jehovah.
8. How did Daniel keep his mind active into his 90’s, and with what results?
8 The prophet Daniel, likely in his 90’s, could still be found poring over the holy writings. What he discerned through his study of “the books”—possibly including Leviticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Amos—moved him to seek Jehovah in fervent prayer. (Daniel 9:1, 2) That prayer was answered with inspired information regarding the coming of the Messiah and the future of pure worship.—Daniel 9:20-27.
9, 10. What have some done to keep the mind active?
9 Like Moses and Daniel, we can strive to keep our mind active by focusing on spiritual matters for as long as we are able. Many are doing just that. Worth, a Christian elder in his 80’s, endeavors to keep up-to-date with the spiritual food dispensed by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) He says, “I’m just absolutely in love with the truth, and I’m thrilled to see how the light of truth gets brighter and brighter.” (Proverbs 4:18) Similarly, Fred, who has spent more than 60 years in the full-time ministry, finds it spiritually stimulating to initiate Bible discussions with fellow believers. “I have to keep the Bible alive in my mind,” he says. “If you can make the Bible live—make it meaningful—and if you can fit what you are learning into ‘the pattern of healthful words,’ then you don’t just have isolated pieces of information. You can see how each piece sparkles in its proper place.”—2 Timothy 1:13.
10 Being advanced in age does not necessarily preclude the learning of new and difficult concepts. People in their 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s have overcome illiteracy or have learned new languages. Some of Jehovah’s Witnesses have done so with the objective of sharing the good news with people of different nationalities. (Mark 13:10) Harry and his wife were in their late 60’s when they decided to assist in the Portuguese field. “Let’s face it,” says Harry, “any task in life becomes more difficult with age.” Still, with effort and persistence, they were able to conduct Bible studies in Portuguese. For many years now, Harry has also given district convention talks in his new language.
11. Why consider the accomplishments of faithful older ones?
11 Of course, not everyone has the health or circumstances to take on such challenges. Why, then, consider what some older ones have accomplished? It is certainly not to suggest that all should strive to achieve the same things. Rather, it is in the spirit of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians concerning faithful congregation elders: “As you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7) When we contemplate such examples of zeal, we can be encouraged to imitate the strong faith that impels these older ones in their service to God. Explaining what motivates him, Harry, now 87 years of age, says, “I’d like to use my remaining years wisely and be as useful as possible in Jehovah’s service.” Fred, mentioned earlier, finds great satisfaction in caring for his Bethel assignment. He observes, “You have to find how you can best serve Jehovah and stick to it.”
Devoted Despite Changing Circumstances
12, 13. How did Barzillai display godly devotion despite his changed circumstances?
12 Coming to grips with physical changes can be difficult. Nevertheless, it is possible to demonstrate godly devotion despite such changes. Barzillai the Gileadite is a fine example in this regard. At 80 years of age, he showed extraordinary hospitality to David and his army, providing them with food and lodging during Absalom’s rebellion. When David was returning to Jerusalem, Barzillai escorted the entourage to the Jordan River. David offered to make Barzillai a part of his royal court. Barzillai’s response? “I am eighty years old today. . . . Could your servant taste what I ate and what I drank, or could I listen anymore to the voice of male and female singers? . . . Here is your servant Chimham. Let him cross over with my lord the king; and you do to him what is good in your eyes.”—2 Samuel 17:27-29; 19:31-40.
13 In spite of his changed circumstances, Barzillai did what he could to support Jehovah’s appointed king. Though he recognized that his sense of taste and of hearing were no longer what they had been, he was not bitter. Instead, by unselfishly recommending that Chimham receive the benefits offered, Barzillai revealed the kind of man that he was at heart. Like Barzillai, many aged ones today display a spirit of unselfishness and generosity. They do what they can to support true worship, knowing that “with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” What a blessing to have loyal ones in our midst!—Hebrews 13:16.
14. How does David’s advanced age add meaning to the words recorded at Psalm 37:23-25?
14 Though David’s circumstances changed many times over the years, he remained convinced that Jehovah’s care for his loyal servants never changes. Toward the end of his life, David composed the song known today as Psalm 37. Just imagine David in a reflective mood, accompanying himself on the harp and singing these words: “By Jehovah the very steps of an able-bodied man have been made ready, and in his way He takes delight. Although he may fall, he will not be hurled down, for Jehovah is supporting his hand. A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.” (Psalm 37:23-25) Jehovah saw fit to include reference to David’s age in this inspired psalm. What depth of feeling that adds to those heartfelt words!
15. How did the apostle John set a fine example of faithfulness despite changed circumstances and old age?
15 The apostle John is another fine example of faithfulness despite changed circumstances and advanced age. After serving God for close to 70 years, John was exiled to the isle of Patmos “for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9) Yet, his work was not finished. In fact, all the writings in the Bible that were penned by John were written in the final years of his life. While on Patmos, he was given the awe-inspiring vision of Revelation, which he carefully put down in writing. (Revelation 1:1, 2) It is generally thought that he was released from exile during the reign of Roman Emperor Nerva. Thereafter, by about 98 C.E., when he was probably 90 or 100 years of age, John wrote the Gospel and the three epistles bearing his name.
An Unfading Record of Endurance
16. How can those who have become impaired in their ability to communicate demonstrate their devotion to Jehovah?
16 Limitations can come in many forms and in different degrees. Some individuals, for example, have become impaired even in their ability to communicate. However, they still cherish fond memories of God’s love and undeserved kindness. Though limited in what they can say with their mouth, in their heart they are saying to Jehovah: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.” (Psalm 119:97) Jehovah, for his part, knows those who are “thinking upon his name,” and he appreciates how different such ones are from the vast majority of mankind, who show no concern for his ways. (Malachi 3:16; Psalm 10:4) How comforting it is to know that Jehovah finds pleasure in the meditation of our heart!—1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 19:14.
17. What have longtime servants of Jehovah achieved that is truly unique?
17 Not to be overlooked is the fact that those who have been serving Jehovah faithfully for decades have achieved something that is truly unique and that cannot be acquired in any other way—an unfading record of endurance. Jesus said: “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls.” (Luke 21:19) Endurance is essential for gaining everlasting life. Those of you who have “done the will of God” and have proved your loyalty by your life course can look forward to receiving “the fulfillment of the promise.”—Hebrews 10:36.
18. (a) What is Jehovah delighted to see with regard to older ones? (b) What will we consider in the following article?
18 Jehovah treasures your whole-souled service regardless of how much or how little you can do. Despite what may be happening to ‘the man outside’ as one ages, ‘the man inside’ can be renewed from day to day. (2 Corinthians 4:16) There is no doubt that Jehovah appreciates what you have accomplished in the past, but it is eminently clear that he also appreciates what you are doing right now for his name. (Hebrews 6:10) In the following article, we will consider the far-reaching effects of such faithfulness.
How Would You Answer?
• What fine example did Anna set for elderly Christians today?
• Why is age not necessarily a limiting factor in what one can accomplish?
• How can aged ones continue to demonstrate godly devotion?
• How does Jehovah view the service rendered to him by older ones?
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Aged Daniel discerned by “the books” the duration of Judah’s exile
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Many older ones are exemplary in their regular meeting attendance, zealous preaching, and eagerness to learn