Aging with Joy

Last Thursday I had the privilege of speaking to the Senior’s Christmas banquet at Southeast Christian Church.  It was great to greet so many friends I hadn’t seen for ages.  I often tease that it seems like just last year I was a youth speaker, now I’m a Senior Adults’ speaker.  But I look out in the audience and I see the same people!

Below is a segment of my talk, “Aging With Joy” in which I challenged my peers to finish the final chapter of life with a contagious, joyful spirit.  That’s not easy to do.  The Bible warns that the last decade of life is usually filled with trouble and sorrow.  It’s hard to be joyful when the body hurts, people disappoint, friends die and the future is uncertain.  But 1 Peter 4:13 urges us, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”  Even when we hurt we can be thankful that we can better appreciate what Jesus endured for us.

The circumstances surrounding the first Christmas weren’t very joyful.  Roman soldiers bullied the Jews.  Mary & Joseph were poor.  Jesus’ birth took place in an unsanitary shed.  The shepherds worked the night shift.

In spite of the negative circumstances God’s angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people.”  GREAT JOY!

Christians are supposed to be distinctively joyful  Just hours before He died Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you & that your joy may be complete.”  The Apostle Paul wrote, “The fruit of the spirit is joy.”

However, I encounter a lot of older Christians who aren’t very joyful.  Our lives are characterized by complaining about what’s wrong with us physically, pining for the past when we were more important, criticizing the younger generation for their lack of respect, whining about how horrible the government has become.

It seems the older we get, the more sour we become.  One teen complained, “My Grandpa is OCD.”  A friend asked, “He has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?”  “No, he’s old, cranky and dangerous!”

Remember that movie, ‘Grumpy Old Men” with Jack Lemon and Walter Mattheau?  We can become grumpy old Christians – sad old dogs spreading gloom on everyone else.  We turn into negative gripers.  Our distinctive isn’t joy; our distinctive is the word, “but…”

“Have a good Thanksgiving?”  “Yes, but I worked like a dog and no one seemed to appreciate it.”

“The leaves are pretty, aren’t they?”  Yeah but you know what that means…winter right around the corner.”

“Isn’t that Lamar Jackson something?”  “Yeah but he fumbles a lot.”  “Good church service!”  “Yes but I wish they would sing some songs I know.”

“How are you feeling?” “Okay I guess, but my arthritis is acting up.”  “Food’s pretty good here.”  Yeah, but the service is really slow.”

We’re not joyful or cheerful.  We’re mournful, doleful, miserable, sorrowful and dismal.  That shouldn’t be!  The Bible doesn’t say, “Rejoice in the Lord until you get 65 and then gripe as much as you like.”  It says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

Several weeks ago I encountered a retired preacher at Kentucky Christian University who was 104 years old.  He walked into the meeting where I was preaching and I got to meet him afterward.  He was alert, had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face.  He was joyful.  Maybe that’s why he lived so long.  Maybe that’s why so many were eager to meet him.

Older people who are joyful are fun to be around and they are a positive witness for Christ.  People who are “old, cranky and dangerous” are not.  Sadly, they are wasting their lives, one day at a time.

A little boy wrote, “Dear Grandma, I hope you live all your life.”  Jesus said, “I’ve come that you might have life and have it the full” (John 10:10).  I want to remind you today that Jesus came to bring great joy.  And I want to challenge you to be joyful and live every day to the fullest.

Years ago Doctors Minirth and Meier wrote a book with the captivating title, Happiness is a choice. I believe that.  We think happiness is a by-product of what happens to us.  If the circumstances are favorable we’re happy, if not then we’re miserable.

Circumstances are certainly a contributing factor.  But the more I’ve observed life, the more I’m convinced that contentment is learned.  Joy is a daily choice.  You usually can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose your attitude.  You can choose to refrain from complaining.  You can choose to laugh out loud.  You can choose to develop a cheerful countenance.

Before you get out of bed in the morning, say to yourself, “This is the day the Lord has made and I refuse to waste it by being grumpy and making others miserable.  I’m going to “rejoice and be glad” for the opportunity to be alive today.”

lea-2

Dr. Bob & Lea Tate

Lea Tate was an attractive, joyful, older member of our church who died a little over a year ago.  Lea was always positive, encouraging and cheerful.  Every time I met her I was impressed with the gentle, sincere smile on her face.  She had such a radiant countenance that the secular world often used her as a model to advertise goods for seniors.

She lived to be 89 and her circumstances the last decade weren’t easy.  Her beloved husband, Dr. Bob Tate, had died and she battled cancer.  But she remained active in the church as a greeter, decision counselor, choir member and encourager to all who knew her.

After she died, I was given a note Lea had left for me.  It read, “Dear Bob, When you receive this note of thanks I will have arrived safely home to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the sweet prince he gave to me as my traveling companion through this earthly journey.  But when you arrive, don’t look for us at the gate because we will have gone on downtown where the action is.  Bob may be playing drums in the marching band!  Meanwhile comfort my darling precious girls Sara and Robyn.  Until we meet again.  In Christ Jesus, Lea.”

That’s what I’m talking about.  Confidence in her salvation, a joyful spirit in spite of her circumstances, a generous, unselfish spirit that would take time to write a note in advance of her death, and a focus on the action that’s yet to be.  That Godly attitude produces impressive joy.

“I bring you good news of great joy.  Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

 

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