(Note from Joe: this is a variation on the same subject as our recent article “What the Godly Elderly Can Expect.” As with most pastors, I’m just trying to find the most effective way of getting the message across.)
…the time of my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing. (II Timothy 4:6-8)
I wish you could have known Ed Logan. The Saturday morning that will forever stand out in my mind, he got up early and left Mary Ellen asleep while he drove across town to Shoneys. The Gideons were having their monthly meeting to plan for more Bibles to be handed out in local schools. When Ed got home, he told Mary Ellen, “I didn’t take any money with me, and those pancakes sure smelled good.” She made him pancakes and they sat there and visited while he ate.
“I’m going over and plow Mr. Everett’s garden,” Ed told Mary Ellen. Everett Beasley lives a couple of blocks from our church. I imagine the two men were similar in age, but Mr. Beasley had numerous medical problems. Ed cranked up his tiller and went to work in the back yard.
That’s where they found Ed Logan. Dead of a heart attack.
That’s the way to go out. In the saddle, with your boots on. In the harness. Hard at work. In the trenches. Choose your metaphor.
The Apostle Paul had been given a gift. He knew his departure was eminent. “I am already being poured out as a drink offering,” he said. “The time for my departure is close.”
So, he reported in. He filed his final report, announcing for anyone interested that his work was done and he had finished the assignment given him by the Lord on that Damascan Road.
They tell me that the trapeze artist and tightrope walker are most vulnerable when taking their last step or two to safety. They’ve been out there above the circus ring, defying death, thrilling the audience. Now, their routine has ended, the crowd is applauding, they’ve done well. If they are not careful, they’ll let their guard down. That final step to safety is critical.
Ty Cobb was one of the great baseball players ever. Over a 22-year-career with the Detroit Tigers he set records that still stand. But he may have been the orneriest, the surliest, the rudest player ever. He lived the last years of his life in a small town in Georgia. Someone told me recently that a few weeks or months before his death, Cobb gave his life to Jesus Christ and was saved.
He sent a message to his teammates. “Tell them I got into the Kingdom in the bottom of the ninth.” Then he said, “I sure wish I’d come in at the top of the first.”
My question for you today is: What inning is it for you? If life is thought of in terms of a baseball game, what inning are you in?
The answer is: There’s no way to know.
The challenge then becomes for each of us to play each inning–to live our lives–as though each part were the last. To finish strong.
I’m addressing two groups of people: those of you who are senior adults, and all of you who aren’t. Not yet, anyway.
To you who belong in the “all others” group, you are not yet considered an older adult, I have three things to say.
1) Don’t you wish you were. You ought to envy the elderly.
Growing old is a privilege.
It’s a privilege denied to many. Over a half century of ministry, I’ve done funerals for people of every age. And I can tell you, many would have given everything they own to have been able to grow old and to see their children grow up and their grandchildren born.
2) We do something contradictory here: “We do not want to die, but we do not want to grow old.”
Go figure that one. We want to go on living without becoming old.
I suggest we embrace our elderly status when we get there. Don’t deny it or try to hide it or run from it. It’s a privilege, a blessing, one we should be enjoying and appreciating and using for whatever the Lord has for us. It’s our last chance to get it right.
3) Since none of us know what inning we are in, we should not assume anything.
I meet people all the time who think because their parents lived to old age that they will also. Bad assumption. My father lived to be 95-and-a-half, and my mother is nearing her 95th birthday. But it would be foolish for me to assume I’ll live that long. My youngest brother died at 62.
Do not assume you have plenty of time to make critical decisions in life. If you’ve never received Jesus Christ as Savior, but you plan to some day, my question is: What in sam hill are you waiting for? You’re not getting any younger. Life is passing you by. Do it now. There is a reason Scripture says, “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts” (In fact, it says it three times in the New Testament: Hebrews 3:7,15 and 4:7).
Senior adults fall into two groups: those who have “run well the race set before us” and those of us who haven’t.
1) If you have done well, good for you.
Perhaps you came to know the Lord early in life. You joined the church and got active, and you’ve served the Lord all through your years. Great.
I have two questions for you: a) do you want to finish strong? and b) are you aware you can still mess up?
2) To those whose record to this point is not good, I have two questions: a) Would you like to get it right and finish with a flourish? It’s possible to do that. b) What are you waiting on? Do it now.
A preacher I know was taught piano by his mother. Once in a recital, he lost his way in the middle of the piece he was playing and walked off the stage with great embarrassment. Later, his mother gave him some great advice.
“Son,” she said, “anytime you mess up in the middle, be sure to end with a flourish. If you end with a flourish, no one will remember what you did in the middle.”
Someone reading this has messed up “in the middle.”
You can still end with a flourish, my friend.
One: Give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Do it now. Wait no longer.
Two: Get up tomorrow morning and ask the Lord, “What is on your agenda for me today?” And go do it. Live that day for the Lord.
Three: Repeat that the next day. And the day after that. And one day, that will be your last day, and you will have finished strong.
My friend Mary teaches piano in Baton Rouge. Recently, she told me about Suzanne, one of her students, who in a recital went completely blank and walked off the stage.
At the end of the recital, Suzanne asked Mary if she could go back on stage and try it again. Mary says, “She played Debussy’s Reverie almost perfectly,” and added, “What an example of courage to the audience, the other piano students, and most of all to herself!”
Maybe you have failed. Perhaps you have left the stage and embarrassed yourself and humiliated those who believe in you. But the concert is not over. Get back out there and get it right this time.
Give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ now and serve Him the rest of your days.
Finish with a flourish.