He was as rugged as the land he travelled. While not what they would call a spring chicken, he was as tough as any fighting cock out there. Fear had left a long time ago and no weather from the sky, beast from the woods, or robber on the road could produce it in him any more. He’d faced it all before and the Lord saw him through every time. His strength wasn’t like the strength of his youth. It was more like that strength gained from a weathered, hardened life of survival.
He had a past, and, he wondered about his future. There were many nights under the starry sky he would spend reflecting over the many years of his career. Sometimes he wondered what might have been, if he hadn’t left that other life to start this one. But it didn’t bother him. Some pleasures and luxuries aren’t worth the sacrifice, especially when the sacrifice is your own soul. So even after 40 years of parading a herd around the countryside he still wouldn’t trade the smell of his sheep for all the perfume in Egypt. Of course, there probably wasn’t enough soap in Egypt to get 40 years of sheep smell out his skin anyway.
And then there was retirement. He knew that at some point he had to start thinking about what every other aged shepherd thought about: life after sheep. As the dry rocky ground crunched under his sandal and the sheep were noisily bleating behind him, he was jolted out of his thoughts when he saw it. He froze and just stared. He couldn’t take his eyes off of it. In his career out here he’d seen everything– everything from the wild and dangerous to the delicate and beautiful. But, this was bizarre in a not from this world kind of way. It wasn’t so much the fact that it was on fire – although how it was the only one on fire was strange. And how the fire started he was at a loss to answer. But that wasn’t the strangest part. The fire was fierce, and it burned all around it, but, it wasn’t burning up! Just then a powerful voice from within the large bush said to him, “Moses!”
This is the scene of Exodus 3 where Moses encounters God at the famous burning bush scene. It’s the pivotal moment in Israel’s history when God calls Moses to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt. What I tried to do is pull out for us the reality that at 80 years old Moses was more likely thinking about retirement, not leading the rescue mission of a nation. At the point where Moses had the finish line on his mind is when in reality God had him at a starting gate. Yes, it was in the years of arthritis, catarax, hip replacements and pill boxes that God planned for him to trade in his herd of sheep in exchange for a nation of people.
If you think you’re too old to make much of a difference anymore you’re wrong. If you think your best years of serving the Lord are in your yesterdays, you are wrong. Many of God’s greatest works in history were accomplished through those who had seen many years but whose eyes probably weren’t seeing much anymore. Abraham, Moses, Caleb, Daniel, and more were very old when God used them in tremendous ways to shape the course of Biblical history.
Do You think your age is a disadvantage? Maybe in the job market that works against you but not in the Church of Jesus Christ. Where you are weak God’s power is made perfect. And the mantra that God can use anybody isn’t only for young, inexperienced Christians. It means older people, who are still being sanctified, still being formed into Christ’s image, still being pruned, still unfinished (though much nearer completion), are useful and effective in the Lord’s hand. And I may even make a strong argument today that they are more useful than younger believers.
Many think the future of a church is in the youth and that we need more young people. I say the future of the Church is in those who have lived out most of their future. They have the treasures of a long-distance, long-term walk with the Lord. They know what it is to trust the Lord through the ups and downs and dark alleys of life.
I wanted to start this way because today we are studying Titus to learn what makes a good church. Moving into chapter 2 we see Paul focus on the membership in a good local church. How does a membership make a local church good? It starts with its older generations. Verses 2-6 provide details of these honorable saints tested by years of experience serving the Lord.
#1: Reverence for the Aged
It’s not explicitly stated in this passage, but, it is very much in the feel of it, that the aged are treated with reverence and respect. How do I ‘feel’ that? 1) They are spoken of first on the list which makes them eminent. 2) The context sets them on a pedestal where they are examples to other believers. 3) Furthermore, reverence for the elderly is a theme of human ethic set forth in Scripture. Just for Men would disagree with Proverbs 20:29 when it says, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” Of course, why is gray hair the splendor of the aged? Proverbs 16:31 declares, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” It is the symbol of a long-lived life of righteousness. So yeah, the young guys have biceps, but, the old have something better: righteousness. And for that they are to be deeply respected, and treated with great dignity.
With this in mind, consider the dignity owed to the elderly commanded in Leviticus 19:32: “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” Rise. Respect. Revere. The reverence of God commanded here is not a separate command from how we treat the aged. We show reverence for God when we show respect to the elderly. Wherever God is revered the elderly will be respected.
Can I suggest a reason for this command? There is a theological point that underpins this respect for elderly. God is eternal. He comes before everything. Everything comes after Him. And He who comes before all things is to be revered. So by respecting those who come before us, we acknowledge a pattern of authority, order, and respect tied ultimately to the Pre-existence of God.
But age is to be respected also for the accumulated wisdom that accompanies many years. Job 12:12 says, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” It does, and so that is why the most profitable years serving the Lord are not in youth, but in old age. Psalm 92:14 speaks of the righteous when it says, “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”
Rather than putting you on a shelf in your later years God still will still use you. Think of the great Old Timers of Old: Moses (80 years), Caleb (80 years), Zechariah the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:18), Simeon the Prophet (Luke 2:25), Paul (Phil. 9). Ric Escobar thought he was going to retire and get a puppy, but, the Lord has opened another ministry up for him to do. The Lord is not finishing with you when you get old, but, very easily can be just getting started with you!
The respect for older people is seen even in how they are treated when they need correction. First Timothy 5:1 says, “Do not rebuke an older man sharply, but appeal to him as a father.” An older man is not to be rebuked the same way a younger man is. Respect for his many years must be maintained even when something in his life needs attention.
The Younger Need the Older
A second point that comes out much more clearly in this passage is the fact that the younger need the older believers. Notice verse 3-4a, “Teach the older women to be…but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to….” Then notice verse 6-7, “encourage younger men to be self-controlled. In everything set them [younger men] an example by doing what is good…”
The younger believers need the older believers for two reasons. First as role models and second as instructors. As role models, younger believers learn the ways of godliness by seeing it done in you – the experienced and mature believers. Paul said, “Imitate me because I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). In Philippians 3:17 he says “join with others in following my example…” Put your life on display for younger generations to see. They need to see it because it proves that living for Christ isn’t theoretical and academic but a real everyday life.
Younger Christians, look for your role models in this church. They are here. Be intentional about watching our older Christians and learn from them. Illustration: Lysippus was a Greek sculptor who would put a coin away in a box everytime he finished a piece. He sculpted until his strength ran out. He never retired. And after his death his box was opened up and over 1500 coins were found inside! These great older saints among us have been sculpted by the Lord for many years. In them we will find a treasure-trove of wisdom, experience help when it comes to living for Jesus Christ.
Secondly, young believers need training. This goes beyond just observing, but, having an interactive, interpersonal relationship with older believers. They need someone to ask questions to about life, to talk to about their walk with the Lord; they need those who are willing to impart wisdom and even challenge them and hold them to some accountability.
Older believers I want you to pray this prayer from now until I do your funeral: “Lord, use me in someone’s life who is younger than me. You have proven yourself to me all these years and do not let me die until I have told them all about my walk with you.” You’re kidding, right, Pastor? No. That is what David prayed in Psalm 78:1-4. Turn there and read it with me.
There is no greater reward than the reward of seeing someone else’s desire for the Lord increase because of their relationship with you. When stones were used to build buildings they needed to be smoothed and shaped to fit just right. Each of us are living stones, being built into a holy temple. Older believers, leave some stones more fit for the temple after you’re gone. If you are going to leave a legacy behind leave the legacy of Christians more faithful to Jesus Christ.
Godly Virtues in Age
First of all, be self-controlled. This is the chief virtue in this entire book. It is required of pastors in 1:8. It is required of old men in 2:2, of older women in 2:3, and they are to teach younger women to be self-controlled as 2:5 says, and finally the young men are to be self-controlled in 2:6. Later in 2:12 we learn that self-control is something that we learn from God’s grace. Galatians 5:22 says self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Self-control means someone who wisely controls themselves and maintains a mature dignity. They are someone who is not overtaken by emotions, by instincts or by passions. Proverbs.They don’t let their tongue get out of control (“slanderers” v3). They don’t get out of control with alcohol (v3).
A picture of self control is seen in…
Secondly be sound. Sound literally means healthy. This past week a giant tree in our neighborhood fell over and tore up a bunch of sidewalk. It was such a large tree, an old and mature tree. How could it fall over? Because it was not healthy. It was rotting inside and so it was weak.
According to Paul, the most spiritually healthy in the church are to be the ones who may not be the most physically healthy – the older saints. Their years are to have brought about the virtues of a Christian that should be the aspiration of every believer. Paul says to be sound, to be healthy “In faith, love, and endurance (v2). But also in marriage (v 4-5). Sound judgment (“temperate”), making healthy decisions in life.
Thirdly, be serious. Old men be worthy of respect (v2), meaning venerable, reverent, dignified. Older women be reverent (v3). There is a time for fun and joking, but, when it comes to the things of God we’re serious. We don’t let holy things become entertainment, we don’t jest about what is sacred. We are serious about the Lord and the work He has assigned us.
Do you think you are approaching the finish line in your life? Maybe the Lord is bringing you to a starting gate. Consider that now more than ever, with all your accumulated experience, wisdom, and years of walking by faith, that you are more useful to the Lord than ever before. Perhaps it is a starting Gate the Lord is bringing you to, not a finish line.