• Canon Kevin Stone

Spiritual ripeness can continue as we get older...

There are some people who seem old. Take Queen Elizabeth as an example and her husband. This year she is 90 and he will be 95!

Of course there are others who are even older. But we who are elderly can classify ourselves into 'younger olds' (65-75), 'medium olds '(75-85) and oldest olds’ (85 plus).

We can all do well to follow the example of our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, and aim to follow her example of unflagging faithfulness. But of course many people are not as fit physically as The Queen - and remember The Queen Mother.

We may miss out on those vital genes that give us longevity. Others sadly have poorer health and impaired working of the mind. For those who are the 'oldest old' these things are usually irreversible.

As Christian people who are getting older, our desire surely, is that we want to continue to live to God's glory as we get older.

So, how should we view the onset of old age?

More than four centuries ago, Shakespeare assessed the situation like this when Jacques in As You Like It, surveying the seven ages of man, said:

“Last scene of all

That ends this strange eventful history

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

Before Shakespeare, Ecclesiastes in the Bible had a realistic view of old age. Read Ecclesiastes 12:1-5.

But is this the whole story?

In Shakespeare's tragedy, King Lear, one of the world's classics on dysfunctional families:

“Men must endure

Their going hence; even as their coming hither;

Ripeness is all.”

“Ripeness” carries a very positive meaning. We know the difference between ripe and unripe fruit. And so we find that some grow old gracefully. It would be good for all of us to have this desire.

The Bible highlights the thought that spiritual ripeness is worth far more than material wealth and that spiritual ripeness should continue as one gets older.

In Psalm 71 an elderly preacher prays like this:

“You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth...

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent...

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day,

for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone....

So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.”

(Acknowledging J.I. Packer “Finishing Your Course With Joy”, Crossway, 2014.)

May God assist us to hope in the Lord and to let others know how great is our God!


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