“Wise and blessed is he who, during life, strives to be what he would like to be when death finds him. Yes, you can be assured of a happy death if you wholeheartedly despise the world, earnestly desire to advance in virtue, love discipline, dwell in repentance, show prompt obedience, exercise self-denial, and patiently bear all trials for the love of Christ.” Thomas a Kempis The Imitation of Christ p. 34
Part of this ongoing work of Christ in His church wherein He is “….redeeming us from every lawless deed and making us a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14 is the work of purifying we seniors from the world’s take on what our senior years should look like.
There is a whole industry in America designed to convince we seniors that we deserve to come up with our own self served bucket list; that because of how hard we worked in our careers, we now deserve to enjoy to the hilt the world of leisure and recreation. (btw – while I am a senior, I am not retired).
Jesus the Head of His church on the other hand is looking for disciples that will allow Him to define the golden years for them; and whose bucket list is solely to please and count for Him and His kingdom. (There is far more blessing and satisfaction herein, though the world system’s enticing voice is far louder).
One of those disciples in the first century was a lady named Tabitha. Let’s listen in on Luke’s account of this lady, who appears to be a widow in her latter years. “Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.” Comment: No mention of a husband or family in this account. What is mentioned in this verse is Tabitha lived an ongoing lifestyle of day to day deeds of kindness and charity. And one gets the sense that she had lived this way for many years and was known as one who had lived this way for many years.
“And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Comment: Another clue that she might have been an older woman is typically older women when falling sick were more apt to die from it. “Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” Comment: Peter by this time was known for his anointing to heal the sick, but no one had yet been raised from the dead by anyone in the first century church. Probably the urgency was because the need to bury this lady would grow by the day.
“So Peter arose and went with them.” Comment: While Peter nor anyone he knew or knew of (other than Jesus) had raised someone from the dead, Peter by this point learned to do what the Holy Spirit told him to do.
When he arrived they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. Comment: Dorcas/Tabitha had: 1. The talent/skill to make these things. 2. She had means to buy the materials and evidently not work to provide for her own means; and she had an upper room in her home so she was most likely of some wealth. 3. And she had the selflessness and compassion to not give into the pressures and lures of the world to run around with the other wealthy folk and live a self obsessed/entitled life. She clearly lived to meet the needs of the widows and poor in her community. She clearly walked with God and carried His heart for the needy.
But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa and many believed in the Lord.” Acts 9:36-42
Comment: At least one commentator has written that she could not have been old because God wouldn't’ want to raise an old person from the dead. I doubt that she was real old. But very likely in her sixties. But when God finds a disciple, who is older and seasoned and selfless, why would He not want to keep them going? Tabitha’s permanent death would have left a huge vacuum in that community. God knew and God found a disciple named Peter to turn that situation around. Bottom line: Whether Tabitha was old or not, she ended well the first time; and I’m sure she did the second time after seeing God’s resurrection stamp of approval on her life.
Have you ever taken a look at the apostle Paul’s qualifications (written to Timothy for all the churches) for a widow who is worthy of financial support from a local congregation? “A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.” I Timothy 5:9,10
Comment: This is normal Christian living for a widow. It is how a widow who walks with God would want to live. Local congregations who have these kinds of widows should be quick to do whatever they can to support them (unless they have children and grandchildren who can take care of them per I Timothy 5:4).
A few more thoughts about what senior women should aspire to, then we will focus on men. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Titus 2:3-5 Comment: Oh how the church needs and should cherish this caliber of older women!! It is the way God designed for the younger women in the church to grow in godliness, holiness and fruitfulness. But it of course requires that older women pursue this kind of character in their own lives first. Women’s ministries and women’s Bible studies regardless of content and conveyed information can only impart transformed character from those whose character has been clearly transformed over time by dependence upon and submission to the Holy Spirit. No program can do this, no matter how well organized and pumped.
So for we men, in Part I we looked at Paul’s example and Simeon’s. We also looked at a couple of the Psalms. Moving forward, what about Moses? Here’s what God wanted us to know about him when Miriam and Aaron foolishly spoke against him, “(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth).” Numbers 12:3
Here’s a peak at his last moments and what God wanted us to know about how he ended his life: “Then the Lord said to him (Moses from Mount Nebo/the top of Pisgah), This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the world of the Lord. And He (that is God Himself) buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day. Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, not his vigor abated.” Deuteronomy 34:4-7 Comment: God held to His original punishment or discipline for Moses when he blew it, but God still delighted in this old servant. God didn’t have to take him up to the top of that mountain where Moses could see the promised land, but He did. Moses is the only man God Himself buried. If Psalm 116:15 is true of anyone, it was true of Moses. Moses was one of the two “dead” men God chose to appear to and fellowship with Jesus when He was transfigured. Moses appears to have been in his prime at 120 years old! Some might wrongly think that Moses didn’t end well because of God’s punishment, but that is not true at all. Would that I only had one major sin in God’s eyes!! Moses had a strong place in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 (see vs. 23-28).
I love the scriptures that speak of Caleb, especially where he himself says at 85 years old, “I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me (forty years previous as one of the 12 spies); as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.” Joshua 14:11 Caleb was known as a man who for all of his adult days (at least) “followed God fully.” Joshua 14:8, 9, 14. And he was a man who never checked out of the call to war. God give me such a heart until my last breath!!
Jesus was not a senior, but as one who though fully God, operated on the earth as one who was fully man, fully dependent upon God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, Jesus ended His life on this earth well. He was able to say in all truth and humility, "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the world which You have given Me to do."(John 17:4) and “It is finished.” (John 19:30). He drank fully the cup He was given (John 18:11).
Paul was very concerned that the leaders of Christ’s church in his day not leave the behavior and lifestyle of older men up for grabs. Thus he wrote to Titus, “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.” Titus 2:2
Peter in his latter days knew his appointed time (for death) had come, and thus he wrote, “I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” II Peter 1:13,14
Comment: We know from John 21:18,19 The Lord Jesus revealed to Peter how he would die. Evidently He had also revealed to Peter when he would die. There is so much God wants to reveal to His servants who faithfully and diligently walk with Him throughout their days.
OK. I trust there is enough fodder in these two posts to give us some models and examples to pray into as we seniors seek to end well and make our latter years count for Christ and His kingdom.
I do want to end by saying, please know we are not calling for more activism in the church. To the contrary, we are calling for more dependence upon the Holy Spirit who has a wonderful plan for our senior years. And please know that plan will never call us to neglect our wives, children (and spouses) and grandchildren. In fact if you are married, God’s plan for your senior years will ideally come out of your growing oneness with your spouse. I have written elsewhere on how difficult this call to oneness has been for me to attain to. You can see that confession and some of the revelation I have received re: marital oneness at: https://www.kingdomstreams.net/post/oneness-challenged.
Much of the grace I have received from the Lord to let go of worldly attachments (like my decades long following of the D. Cowboys) has come out of my growing realization of the high call to oneness and intimacy with my Lord and with my wife.
Thomas A Kempis knew very little about oneness with a wife, having never been married. But he knew much about what it takes to end this race well, and I leave you with his insightful words: “Great is the confidence of the man, who is about to die, when he knows that he has no attachment whatever to anything in this world.” Thomas a Kempis The Imitation of Christ p. 160
God bless you seniors!! Your best days are ahead!!