See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)
As I age, I have noticed something. Not only is my body becoming less flexible; but so is my mind. On the one hand, it makes me more stable. But on the other, I have become less daring. I am becoming increasingly risk averse. I know that if I fall, it will take longer to heal, and could permanently limit my range of motion.
Now those who do physical training tell me that it does not have to be this way. If you continue to exercise and do stretching exercises, you can slow the pace of decay and retain much of your formal flexibility and strength. This is also true of the mind. Recent research has found that those who stay actively engaged in relationships and continue to learn new things retain much of their mental capacity and clarity into old age.
Because these things are true about the body and mind, shouldn't the same be true with regard to our spiritual capacities? Isn't it possible to stay active and daring in one’s faith, even though the body and mind are not as responsive as they once were?
I believe it is possible, if we are willing. For what is true about the body and mind is also true about the soul. We have to stay engaged, earnest, invested, and active… or even our faith will begin to atrophy with age.
This was certainly true of Moses, of whom we are told, “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.” (Deuteronomy 34:7) Clearly, Moses was spiritually active and energetic in his last days, just as he had been in his first.
What God wants is evidenced by how God works in this world. The Creator told Isaiah, “Behold, I do a new thing (KJV). Of course He does! He is not the Re-Creator, but the Creator. He constantly does new things in new ways. And He wants to do new things even when we are old. He has no age preferences. He is not, as the King James version puts it, a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). As we can see from our study of the Gospel of Luke, God works through the old (Zechariah & Elizabeth), as well as through the young (Mary).
But sadly, the old are often unwilling to do something new. They become like those Jesus spoke of in Luke 5:39: “…no-one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.'” Sometimes that is true; but many times it is not. Old cars may be nostalgic and have a certain appeal, but they aren’t better. Old healthcare may have been cheaper, but it wasn’t better.
This also applies to the way God worked through His church in the past. I say this as someone who came to faith through a genuine revival, the Jesus People Movement. It was good, and it was glorious. Millions came to Christ and probably saved our nation from the moral and social collapse that was threatened because of the Hippie Movement.
But that was then and this is now! The challenges facing the church and the nation are not identical, nor are the solutions. Of course the message should not change; nor should the methods, if that means dependence upon the Holy Spirit and prayer. But the challenges are different, darker, and more pervasive. Our culture is no longer a churched culture – nor could we merely call it an un-churched culture. We are a de-churched culture. People no longer see the value or the relevance of the Church.
That’s the bad news; but here’s the good. They do see the value of Christ, and they are interested in what the Bible has to say about their lives.
But we cannot simply rest on the laurels of our sacred past, refusing to allow God to move through us in new and less familiar ways. We need to engage the world around us; to challenge its assumptions and present the Gospel message of Christ. Many people have heard about Christianity, but they have not heard about Christ. They know about the rules, but no one has ever spoken to them about the relationship. They have heard of God’s hatred for sin, but not about His love for sinners. They know all about broken lives, but almost nothing of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. They know all about going to church, but have never seen Christians living in holy community.
I urge you to invite God to begin moving in your life in a new way. The past does not have to be your best. You are still here for a reason. Look to the future! As Jeremiah noted in the darkest moment of his life, Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22,23)