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Responsible Old Age

1 Timothy 5:5-6
The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. (NIVUK)

Growing old graciously takes a lifetime of practise!  Usually, increasing age displays more of our real character.  We will lose some of the social tricks which cover up our weaknesses and will increasingly reveal what we are really like.  The potential load of social care to widows in Ephesus was huge.  The attraction of a loving church to women who had been left impoverished through bereavement or desertion was obvious; but Paul instructed Timothy to focus on those widows who had nobody to help them (1 Timothy 5:3), and who had already practically demonstrated their faith in Jesus.
A sign of real faith for someone who is destitute, is confidence in God’s protection and provision and an absence of anxiety.  Instead of worrying, the widow will pray; instead of haranguing neighbours and complaining about her circumstances, she will keep on asking God to help her.  Such prayer is a constant habit and incessant dialogue with the One who loves her (Psalm 88:1-2).  Like Anna (Luke 2:37), such a widow looks to the Lord alone; He is her hope (Psalm 62:5).  She sees that her future is safe in God’s hands (Psalm 37:25).

Contrast that attitude with those who, while claiming poverty, only live for each day - spending what they have to please themselves; they are living spiritually moribund lives.  ‘Living for pleasure’ has become the drumbeat of many liberal cultures, but it is an empty goal.  A hunger for self-satisfaction darkens the mind and hardens the heart against the love of God (Ephesians 4:17-19), trusting self and refusing to acknowledge the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It is good for young and middle-aged people to spend time with gracious and godly people who are in the last part of their lives.  Their character shows through and they can be a wonderful example to the church.  Likewise, godly grandparents can leave a lasting legacy in the hearts of their grandchildren.  Often, the believers who have less of this world’s wealth or strength demonstrate best what is important: prayer, trust and obedience.  They have practised looking to Jesus for salvation, God’s Word for instruction, and the Holy Spirit for strength.  Although many Word@Work readers are of working age, and not elderly, this passage is a reminder to all of us to start preparing our hearts to make the most of the opportunities in the final laps of our race.

Dear Heavenly Father. Thank You for loving me, and for the example of gracious older believers who have given me a model of Christ-likeness. Please help me to practise praying in the good times so that I learn to trust You: I do not want to become embittered in old age, anxious and frustrated in seeking pleasure. May I learn well from godly examples and learn how to become a role model for younger people. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams