Have you noticed how birthdays come so much sooner as the years pass by? I can remember when it seemed like it took two or three years for a birthday to arrive. But, now, it is totally different. It just seems like I’m having another one every six months or more often than that. What is even more shocking is the number that goes with it these days. On Thursday, if I make it until then, I will hit the magic number of 75. But it just doesn’t seem right. How in the world can I have been in this world for 75 years? Now, I will admit the body doesn’t work as well as it once did and that the mind doesn’t remember things as easily as it once did. I sure admit that it is far more difficult to remember people’s names than it was in the past. I even admit that when I look in the mirror that sometimes I’m shocked at who is looking back at me. That guy in the mirror looks older than I think he should. Still, there is something deep inside the mind that shouts that I am still much younger than that. When people started coming up to me and asking if I was retired yet, I have to admit that I was terribly offended. Why in the world would anyone think that a person of my age would be retired? The truth is, it still bothers me. It just doesn’t fit either the sense of knowing I’ve been called to preach and teach the word of God or the knowledge of the great need in the world for the good news of Jesus.
Think about it for a moment. If we think of retirement as a time to stop the job we’ve been doing so that we can do lots of other meaningful things that we have always wanted to do or to serve someone that is in great need, then it makes all kinds of sense. But if our view of retirement is that we will sit down, do nothing and serve no one else, we are far afield from what God calls us to do as His children. As you read the Bible you will be amazed at how God often calls those who are older to carry out huge missions in the world. Abraham was 75 when God called him to leave his homeland to go to the land God would show him and give it to his descendants. He was 85 when God renewed his promise to give him a son. He was 100 years old when Isaac was born to Sarah. She was 90 at the time. Moses was 80 years old when God appeared to him in the burning bush to go back and lead the Israelites from the land of Egypt to the land God promised them.
I love the story of Caleb who was at the tender age of 40 when he served as one of the spies to go walk through the land of Canaan alongside eleven other men. They were to bring back a report of how fruitful the land really was. While ten of the spies came back saying it was really a land the flowed with milk and honey, it was a land that was occupied by giants, there were all kinds of dangerous places in the land that could just swallow a person up and besides that the cities all had walls and armies. The places were fortified. They declared that “We were like grasshoppers in their sight and so were we in our own sight.” All the while, Caleb and Joshua were shouting, look at the grapes we brought back from there. It is a wonderful land, flowing with milk and honey. God is with us and we can take the land. But the people listened to the ten and the result was that God had them to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years so that the whole generation of those who were struck with fear would die in the wilderness and their children would go into the Promised Land. But God blessed Caleb and Joshua. He promised Caleb that even though he would be 85 years old when they entered the land, God would spare his life and would give him an inheritance in the Promised Land when they arrived.
In Joshua 14:6-15 the story is told of how the time came to divide up the land. Caleb reminded the people of what Moses had promised him because he was faithful to the Lord when the ten spies led them astray. He said, “Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was on the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out just as the Lord has spoken.” Don’t you love that spirit? He is 85 but as far as he is concerned he hasn’t lost a thing. “Give me the hill country.”
I want to have the heart of Caleb that isn’t making any excuses or pleading for an easier role. I want to be that one that is ready to take on the challenges of God’s work no matter how strong the enemy may be as long as God gives me life on this earth. I don’t know what the future holds nor how many years I may be allowed to live on this earth, but I know I want to use every day God gives me to do His work to the best of my ability. The notion of backing off or sitting down or watching someone else do the job just doesn’t add up in my mind. How about yours?