OceanSide church of Christ
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SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN OLD AGE
Victor M. Eskew
Physical growth for most people is completed by the age of twenty. There are instances when some growth spurts have occurred after this age, but these are the exception, not the rule. Other types of growth, however, can continue long after one becomes a young adult. Mental, emotional, and spiritual growth can continue well into old age. Such does not always happen. One writer put it in these words:
“However, this pursuit of growth does not always last. As we grow
older, our zeal to become bigger and better changes. Our tendency
is to become more focused on where we have been than on where
we are going, and our idea of success is measured more often by
what we have than what we are continuing to become.”
The following chart can help one assess whether he has ceased growing or is continuing to develop:
Lack of Growth Continued Growth
Backward look Forward look
For those over the age of fifty, we ask: “Can you put yourself in the growth category?”
In some areas, it may be perfectly acceptable for one to cease growing. Spiritually, however, one should never cease the growth process. In the remainder of this article, we want to encourage those who are older to continue to mature in their spiritual lives. First, let us assure you that spiritual growth is still possible in old age. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, saying: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (II Cor. 4:16). Most of the time, the outer man has little bearing on the inner man. The outer man aches and hurts. The inner man, on the other hand, can still be sharp and active. Because the inner man is still strong, older individuals can continue to mature in Christ.
Second, the fact that one can continue to grow spiritually in old age
should bring much excitement. An
elderly gentleman once told this writer that he was often discouraged because he
could no longer do many of the physical things he did in the past. This is not the case with spiritual
growth. Those who are older can
still read, study, outline, memorize, and meditate on the Word of God. Paul
was an older man when imprisoned in
Third, spiritual growth comes by desiring God’s Word and applying it to one’s life. Peter wrote: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Pet. 2:2). Those who are older need to block off large segments of time wherein they devote themselves to God’s Word. They need to eat abundant portions of the bread of life. They need to drink deeply from the fountain of living water. Once they are filled, they can then exercise their inner man in service to God. Again, it was Paul who admonished his readers to “exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (I Tim. 4:7). When the physical body is limited in its movements, the spiritual man can still vigorously exercise. This exercise of godliness has benefits both now and in eternity (I Tim. 4:8).
Fourth, spiritual growth in old age enables one to specialize and delve into those things that are difficult. Fortunately, most of the Bible is simple to understand. There are, however, some things that are deep and difficult. It was the apostle Peter who noted that some of the things that Paul wrote are “hard to be understood” (II Pet. 3:16). An elderly individual can use his previous knowledge, wisdom, and experiences to come to a deeper understanding of God’s Word. He can take some time and research the more difficult texts. What a blessing to be able to seek the deeper treasures of God’s Word.
Fifth, the spiritual growth of the elderly brings benefits to themselves and to others. We have already seen that the exercise of godliness has promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This growth can also benefit those who are younger. In Titus 2, Paul exhorts the “aged women” to be “teachers of good things” (Tit. 2:3). He continues in verses 4 and 5 with these words: “That they may teach the young woman to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” The older have much to offer those who are younger. The older have acquired knowledge, weathered hardships, fought the enemy, and experienced the ups and downs of life. Their words are golden nuggets of wisdom to the young, unlearned, and inexperienced. Some youth greatly desire their wisdom. When the elderly offer it, the young drink from it deeply.
Old age is not the time to cease one’s spiritual growth. As long as one’s lungs can breath and the mind can think, there can be growth. This writer has often heard the elderly use their age as an excuse for being spiritually stagnation. If this has happened to you, develop a new resolution to begin to grow again. If you are in old age or approaching it, we hope that you have been encouraged to grow in your twilight years. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 4:17-5:1).