Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered September 12, 2009 by Pastor Don Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Prime Timers

Psalm 71:17-18

(RealAudio available)

I would like to speak with you this morning about Prime-timers. Are any of you prime-timers?

A senior citizen was driving down the freeway one time and his cell phone rang, and he picked it up to hear the urgent voice of his wife.  And his wife said,  "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way down Interstate 280. Please be careful!"  And he said to her, "It's not just one car.  It's hundreds of ‘em!"

Billy Graham said, “All my life people have taught me how to die, but nobody has taught me how to get old.”  It’s a privilege to get old, but we don’t have any education on how to do it.  It’s not easy.  David felt quite a bit of trepidation about it.  In Psalm 71, our scripture reading, David said “Don’t cast me away when I get old.”  Please.  So sometimes when we get older we feel that way.

There are two attitudes about old age. 

Number one.  It’s basically a very good time of life.  These years are ripe, golden years of a person who has lived life well.   You have a great reputation.  People respect you.  You have become what you always wanted to be.  Ignorance and foolishness have been left behind and you’re on the road to heaven.  You’ve basically got all the money you could use.  Probably could use a little more, but you’re well set, and these years are good and gentle.  You have time to travel.  Time to walk the greenway of life.

Or number two.  The second attitude about old age is that it’s not a good time at all.  By the time a man finds greener pastures, he can’t climb the fence to get into them. 

Wednesday, I saw a notebook lying in the middle of Gunbarrell road.  I saw this thing and there were papers strewn around, and I thought, “Somebody lost something that they value.”  So I stopped and at the risk of my life I finally found an opening in the traffic, and cars were running over it.  I managed to get it all together and rushed back to my car.  Drove to the church for my next appointment, and when I got here I opened it up and I began to thumb through it and I realized that this was probably a very valuable thing.  There were medical records in here, and social security numbers.  Ages.  Address of he and his wife.  And I thought, “This is pretty important.  I’m glad I found it and not the wrong person.”

And so, I finally found his phone number.  I called him and I said, “Did you lose a nice folder?”  He said, “Do you have it?”  I said, “Yes I do, and I’m the pastor of the McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist church, and if you want to come over, I’ll be right there.”  Well, turns out Roy was 75 years old.  He came in with his cane, and we sat down and I had prayer with him and returned the note-book to him, and he said, “It’s all there.  Thank you, thank you.  I’m so glad you are the one that found it.  I inadvertently put it on top of my car, and I wasn’t thinking.  I forgot where I put it.”  So he went on, a happy camper.  There were three whole pages in there.  I looked it over.  Three whole pages of ailments that he intended to ask doctors about.  And all of his investments were in there. 

I thought, is old age the time when almost all the names and addresses in your little black book are doctors and health care providers?  This is not a very good time at all.  It’s a time when everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.  It’s a time when our health and our energy are gone.  Some people call it the metallic age.  We have gold in our teeth, and silver in our hair and lead in our legs. 

And this attitude is in the Bible.  If you’ll look in the book of Psalms.  Psalm 90.  I’m very surprised to find this attitude in the Psalm that Moses wrote.  Look at Moses’ Psalm, Psalm 90, verses 9 and 10.  “All our days pass away under your wrath.  We finish our years with a moan.  The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength; and yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”  Shame on you Moses.  I suppose the main trouble with reaching our prime time is that there is no future to it.

H.M.S. Richards was preaching at the great stone tabernacle at the Michigan Campmeeting.  He said, “You know, I especially appreciate God giving me these long years.  For every day beyond 70, I thank the Lord.”  And I thought, “You know, that’s a great attitude.”  You just hope you make it to 70.  Many people don’t make it to that magic milestone.  Every breath beyond 70 is a special gift, extended gift of God.  So old age, is it a time of pain, or is it a time of blessing? 

I remember years ago when I got old.  I became 35, and on my 35th birthday I thought, “You know, this is bad. I’m halfway between my death and my birth.  The sunset of my life is just as close as the sunrise of my life.”  Three score and 10, you know.  35.  That’s half.  35 was bad.  Now I wish I was 35.

How do you feel about ageing?  Do you think the twilight years are a dreaded time?  Many of you senior citizens as a group that have lost their memories.  They’re on the edge of senility.  They whistle past the graveyard while squirting oil on their creaky joints.  Is that what it’s all about?  A dismal downward path.

Today I would like to protest that attitude.  I would like to honor our senior citizens in our church, especially since I am older myself.  Today I would just like to give them a tribute.  They’re good people.  They are the survivors.  They have gone through life, and have done it well. 

Let’s read a good thing in the Bible about old age in Psalm 92 and verse 12.  “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the Lord.  They will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age and they will stay fresh and green.”

That’s a positive attitude about old age.  I kind of like that.  They’re going to stay fresh.  They’re going to stay green.  They’re going to still bear fruit.  That’s wonderful.  Actually God loves those who have the blessing of many years.  In Isaiah 46, verse 4 it says,  “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you.”

Are you old?  You are old if you have stopped dreaming regardless of what your age is.  If somebody says, “What are your plans for the next year?” you say, “Well, I don’t have any plans. Trying to just get from one day to the next.”  You might be getting old.  If your ambition fires have burned out, then you’re old.

I think we need to keep our dreams alive.  We need to plan vacations.  We need to plan activities and keep on hoping.  Keep the fires burning brightly.  Instead of counting how many birthdays you have, count how many interests you have in life.  What are your hobbies?  What are you doing?

You know, one good thing that older people do that all of us really appreciate, they pray.  And you remember a lady by the name of Anna.  You can read this in Luke, chapter 2.  Luke, chapter 2, tells about Anna.  And notice what she did here in chapter 2, verse 37.  “And this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”    24 – 7 she was in there praying.  When she wasn’t asleep, she was praying and fasting.  She lived to pray.  And you need to pray.  Pray for your children and grandchildren.  Pray for your church, your pastors, the church leaders, the sick, the lost. 

I saw an old man one time.  His name is Joe.  He’s old.  Every morning he wakes up tired.  He goes off to work tired.  He returns home worn to a frazzle.  He turns on the TV to watch the news and goes to sleep.  A year from now he’ll be doing the same thing.  His face is old.  He lives a sedentary life.  His rheumatism is getting worse.  Joe is old, and he’s just barely turned 50.  He’s in a rut.  You aren’t just old because you have many birthdays.  You’re old because of your mind.

Retired people in our church often number among the most godly people that attend this church.  They have achieved saint-hood, and if I were to ask you how many saints in this church do you know, you could list several, couldn’t you.  Because there are some.  Wonderful, godly people.  Years might wrinkle your skin, but don’t let years wrinkle your soul.  Keep a positive attitude.

There was a woman in the convalescent home and she was having her 1 hundredth birthday and they were having a party for her at the nursing home, and different people came and some relatives were there, and her pastor was there.  And the pastor said, “You know, her mind was keen and alert, and when I arrived she was completely caught up in the excitement of the day.”  There was a news reporter there, and the news reporter came up and said, ‘Ma’am, do you have any children?’  And she looked right back at the reporter and said, ‘Not yet.’  A positive attitude.  Never give up.

Psalm 71 and verse 18.  “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation.” That’s what you live a long life for, is for those people that are in the next generation.  Live for them.  Show Jesus to them.  Did you know that 13% of Americans are senior citizens.  Almost a third of North American Division Seventh-day Adventists are senior citizens.  I’m so grateful for the godly influence of these faithful people.  They are wonderful.  They are towers of wisdom and spiritual faith.  And they are growing beautiful, and it’s a privilege to do that.  To mature in Christ. 

I would like for the three score and ten group, those of you that are 70 and older, and be proud of it.  If you would just stand at this time.  All those that are 70 and older please stand.  That’s quite a group.  Now stay standing because I want to have prayer with you.  I appreciate you.  You are like a towering giant sequoyah tree.  You are big in my sight.  You are noble and godly.  You have lived a good life, and we want to honor you.  I would like to have prayer with you.  And then after the prayer, still stay standing, because I have something else. 

Dear Father in heaven.  These folks have lived a long life.  They are filled with experiences and wisdom.  And they reflect Jesus in their life.  They are attending church.  They are not sitting at home.  They’re here, and I pray that you would bless them.  Give them good health and strength, and may they continue to live a godly life and show Jesus to former generations and future generations.  For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Now stay standing.

I would like for those of you that are under the age of 80 to sit down.  Now what you see is a group standing that are over the age of 80.  They have lived four score years.  That is awesome.  Four score and older, and I know that some of them are probably 90.  Those of you that are under the age of 90, would you sit down.  We have 3 still standing.  You’re great.  You may be seated. 

Proverbs 23 and verse 22 says,  “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”  I ask you senior citizens to be worthy of honor, and you are.  And you younger folks to honor those who are worthy.  If we valued our antique people as highly as we value our antique furniture this would be a better world.  I see some of you that stood are out mowing other people’s lawns.  Some of you that stood are delivering food to people that are hungry.  Some of you that stood are helping other people.  You’re still doing it.  You’re still making the world a beautiful greenway of life.

Do you know that child abuse is increasing?  You know that, don’t you?  Did you know that elder abuse is increasing twice as fast as child abuse.  Shame on us.  Let’s respect our elders. 

In Paul’s later life, Paul says in Second Corinthians chapter 4, he says,  “We are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day.”.

Kids view old age as an incurable disease that they want to avoid.  Americans spend billions of dollars to fight age.  Smearing on cream with a big putty knife.  We’ve got lotions and potions.  Don’t fight it.  Respect it.  Enjoy it.  Go with it.  I think it’s nice that I have been able to live long enough that the remaining hair that I have is beginning to turn gray.  I think we don’t need to be as old as we are in our heart.

I think people that are old today are different than the people that were old when I was a boy, because I remember in my  church when I was a kid looking at some of those older ladies.  They had their hair all tied back in a bun that looked like they had a doughnut glued to the back of their head, and they wore a mourning bonnet or shroud, and they smelled like moth balls. 

People today aren’t like that.  The girl of today who is in her 60's and 70's has preserved her peach complexion.  She is nice like a blooming flower in Christ’s garden greenway.  She has overcome the craving to try to straighten out everybody’s affairs.  Her mind is free from the recital of endless details.  She is thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.  The sweetness of the Saviour has permeated her words and actions.  She is an old person only in birthdays.

Never resent growing old.  I am proud to have my youthful smiles etched on my face by deep grooves.  Some people call them wrinkles.  I would rather be 75 years young than 50 years old.  Proverbs 16:31.  “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.”

Pray that God will help you to be like Moses.  The Bible describes this godly patriarch in Deuteronomy, chapter 34, verse 7.  It says, “Moses was a hundred and 20 years old when he died. His eyesight never became poor, and he never lost his physical strength.”  Not all of us can live to be a hundred and 20, but there’s no reason for us to lose that spark of Christ-likeness in our life.  Circumstances and heredity often grant us a different allotment than Moses had.  Ecclesiastes, chapter 12 and verse 1 says, “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.”   And then in verse 6 it says, “Before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

Each of us needs to live long enough to establish a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  And if that happens at the age of 50, then you’ve actually, honestly live long enough.  The rest is gravy, but if it doesn’t happen ever in your life, you have lost eternity.  You have lost eternal life.  You need to live long enough to give your heart to Jesus Christ.  To appreciate Him.  To follow Him.  To emulate Christ in your life. 

In Psalm 103 it says,  “The Lord shall renew your youth.”  When will He do that?  When will my youth be renewed?  And yours?  On that day when Jesus comes we’ll be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and we’ll be youthful again, and we can run the greenway from one end to the other and never get tired.  We will visit other worlds.  What a joy it will be to live eternally.  So make sure that Jesus Christ is your Saviour.  Your eyes may grow dim as you get older but make sure cataracts never form upon the eyes of your soul.  That your soul has 20-20 vision to look upon the coming King, Jesus Christ.  On that day we will know the lasting joy of never growing old, because we will live in a land where there is no more time.  Time is no more.  May God bless us as we head to that land.

It’s time for our closing hymn.  O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee.

Dear Father in heaven. As Jesus Christ moves more deeply into our hearts as we advance in years, we pray that our smiles would broaden.  That our sweetness would only get sweeter.  Help those of us who are not old to go and visit our sisters, our brothers, our mothers and fathers who are, and give of our energies to assist them.  And bless each of us on our way to heaven, and keep us faithful.  For we pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Hymn of Praise: #29, Sing Praise to God
Scripture: Psalm 71:17-18
Hymn of Response: #574, O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 9/26/09