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Beginning in Endings: End of Years, Rebirth of Joy!

Beginning in Endings: End of Years, Rebirth of Joy!

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Category: Two Minute Meditations
Special Note: These thoughts are shared in dedication to Ray Butts, a longtime servant of God who has blessed our Heartlight.org and VerseoftheDay.com ministries and literally hundreds of thousands of people a day because of his quiet proof reading and corrections to our articles and devotionals. Thank you for your faithfulness to the King, to the Kingdom, and to your precious wife Doris. I know you will find several things to correct after this goes live, but it wouldn't have been a surprise if you had seen it sooner!

In the last days, God said, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams (Acts 2:17 NLT).

At our Christmas candlelight service — led mostly by our children — one of our older members led a special prayer. It took him a little time and a little help to walk up a few steps and make his way to the microphone. As he did, one of our younger children whispered loudly, "Is that God?"

No, Joe McKissick isn't God, but he is certainly one of God's great servants. Joe has been a missionary to Africa, preaching minister, prison minister, visitation leader to shut-ins, and a pioneer in gerontology and ministry with older adults. For his eightieth birthday, Joe took a dangerous mission trip back to Africa — Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya. A few years later, he and his wife, Mary Lou, and many of their children and grandchildren went back to Africa on a mission trip together. Yes, Joe is battling health issues, but my oh my, how he has lived passionately for God in the second half of life!

We live in a time when politics — whether church or national politics — often pits young against old in a polarization that surely must break the heart of the Father of all children no matter their age. Idealism and great dreams for the Kingdom are reserved for the young. Defense of the status quo is the expected position of the aged. Taking risks is for the young and foolhardy. Being careful is the expected lifestyle of those who are nearing retirement.

Such crass oversimplifications should be beneath us as God's people. But we fuel our church debates based on these ideas and like Lemmings, many of us live up to the expectations of our prejudices. Yet for a people filled with the Spirit, all of God's sons and daughters, young and old, should have visions, dreams, and prophetic expectations of God's great work in their time. It was part of Joel's prophetic promise of a people who were called into existence by the death, burial, resurrection, exaltation, and pouring out of the Spirit by the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:16-21).

So when is the last time you've heard anyone talk about the idealism, vision, and dreams of the older folks in Jesus' family? We sure see a lot of advertisements about the luxuries of retirement. We've seen commercials of "mature" couples sitting in bathtubs in the middle of fields of flowers at sunset celebrating the new potentialities for intimacy through a special little pill. Where are the expectations of doing great things for the Kingdom?

If you listen to the talk of most folks — whether it is about themselves or about others who are aging — the focus is rarely on much more than finishing a bucket list before waiting for the decline of aging to set in. So few live to expect the best of their life to happen in the second half of their life. Too few live to make a Kingdom impact in the fourth quarter of life and most who are young seem reluctant to believe it is possible, much less to be expected!

At first glance, the Bible seems to even suggest this pessimism about the second half of life is true... but that's only at first glance. Yes, Ecclesiastes ends with the depressing portrayal of aging with the lights going out in the eyes, the sounds fading out to the ears, and the body basically falling apart (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7). Add to this the parade of great Bible heroes who blow it in the last few years of their lives and leadership, and you are left with a pretty dismal view of living for the Kingdom of heaven in the last half of life.

Contrast this with the promise of Joel (in Acts 2) and the beginning of its fulfillment even before Jesus is born with Simeon and Anna as Jesus is presented in the Temple on his eighth day of life:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:25-32 NIV).

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38 NIV).

Let's notice three things in particular about these two precious aging servants who experience the greatest moments of their lives near the end of their journey.

First, Simeon knew God intimately after his long years as God's "righteous and devout" servant. The Holy Spirit was the fire that lit the way for this great soul. Luke emphasizes that "the Holy Spirit was upon" Simeon, that God had revealed through "the Holy Spirit" that Simeon would not die until he had seen Yahweh's Messiah, and that Simeon was "moved by the Spirit" to go to the Temple that very day. Rather than the years dimming Simeon's passion for seeing God's great work done, the Holy Spirit had made him more passionately full of expectation in his waiting and more in tune with the Holy Spirit.

Now before you wash away the applicability of this powerful example, remember what Paul said:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV).

Shouldn't we expect more spiritually as life draws us closer to being in the very presence of God? Shouldn't the ways and leading and voice of the Holy Spirit be more familiar to us? Isn't that something to value as we grow older — being able to discern the ways of the Spirit in the middle of all the distraction and fluff and challenge of our temporal world?

Second, Simeon expected to see the face of the Savior as his time on earth grew more and more short. Luke tells us that Simeon lived with the conviction that "he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ." While our experience can't match Simeon's in exactly the same way, as we realize that our time to go home and be with God grows closer, shouldn't we live with the conviction that we are going to see our Father face-to-face! John says it beautifully:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-2 NIV).

How about that for a reason for us to be passionate as we grow older! We are God's children and we are drawing ever closer to the time we are going to see our Father face-to-face, fully able to see him in all his glory because we are going to be like him! As the old hymn says it, "Each step I take just leads me closer home." Shouldn't that fuel the servant of God with passion and fire?

Third, notice that Anna joins the angels who proclaimed the good news to the shepherds and is one of the very first evangelists to proclaim the birth of Jesus and its importance to those looking for real hope in a broken world. Sharing Jesus has no age boundaries or gender specifics. Many of the greatest evangelists I know are seasoned women of faith, who use Bible correspondence, who teach English through reading the Bible on mission trips, and who serve on mission trips in an endless variety of ways. Others are the Kingdom's most powerful prayer warriors as they pray and fast for the health of the church, the vitality of our missions, and the needs of God's people.

So why do we dream of the retirement of God's saints when God longs us to yearn for the "on-firement" that comes from the Holy Spirit alive in us, equipping us and empowering us to serve in ways we couldn't when we were younger and busy with kids and too unseasoned to always know what is most important?

So, how about we finish with where we began, but this time, let's do more than read the words, let's expect them to become true... in us... among us... and because of we believe the power of God's Spirit does not choose to be limited by age or gender:

In the last days, God said, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams (Acts 2:17 NLT).

About the Author

Phil Ware
Phil Ware works with churches in transition with Interim Ministry Partners" and For the past 17+ years, he has also been editor of HEARTLIGHT Magazine, author of VerseoftheDay.com and aYearwithJesus.com. For more details, click here.

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