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Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 – ESV)
We hear it said time and again, as if it were some new revelation, either saying that the children are our future, or that the children are our right now. I want to dispel those notions right here and now. Children are not our future and they are not our right now. The old folks are the right now, and they will be the right now in the future as well.
How and why, you say? Think about it. By the time children become our future they will be older. When will we wise up and discover that the future of the church is in its old people not its young people? Young people will be growing older just like the rest of us, and hopefully the emphasis is on the growing not the older but the wiser. Yes we need the young people for many things, but what we need is for them to start young and grow old with God. So yes lets get them in while they are young, but lets grow them up so they can be old and mature as well.
The way to get them young is to show them hope for when they are old. I want a church full of old saints, a community of spiritual sages, wise old oaks who burn on a low simmer but whose kindling embers are real fuel for the younger set giving them something to look forward to.
We think young people are more important because they have more life to live but actually they need old people, old people are more important because they have more life to give. They have a lifetime of living with Jesus and all those young folks are coming that way too, we all grow older, even if we die young, the day we die we will be a day older than the day before etc., and we had better be longing for continued growth. Spiritual life is not meant to be an early peak and then slow fade out; that is a flawed concept. It is not our physical or mental strength that gives the gospel its power but God and the relationship with Him is the demonstration of that power. Why would it ebb backward unless we are backsliding, and do you mean to tell me that all older people are on a downward slide spiritually just because they are physically? Think about what you’re thinking with that type of nonsense.
In a sense the old oaks matter more, at least as much as we all do but they matter more than they did, not less, because they have grown more with God over time. They may be able to do physically less, but their relationship ideally had ought to be more. Spiritually they can do more in prayer, etc. mentoring or just being a witness by being alive. The old oaks can take the heat, and they can bear a dry season, and they bear fruit when others don’t. If you grow old with God you can count on abundant fruit even as the seasons change.
When you don’t respect the hope of the elders you don’t respect the hope for yourself, because that is they way you and I and all of us are headed. Even if we die young, we will die older than we were before we did. It is no wonder so many want to delay the onset of aging they don’t have anything to look forward to. People see it all as if youth and vigor is all that matters, and as if only youthful vigor means useful vitality. Instead the truth is that spiritual vigor comes through maturity, and that should be increasing as we age.
We need to model the spiritual fact that we can be looking forward to growing old as opposed to merely getting old. Young person you need to find an oak. Adults get growing and become an oak. Old folks make sure you stay old oaks by keeping others lit. We are like trees that are planted by the water (Psalm 1:3 / Isaiah 61:3) and we need more oaks. We need to keep showing all our people the right path, that of growing older in God. In our church communities, let’s surround our young ones with hope. Let’s become an avenue of oaks.