Can Seniors Really Make a Difference? :: by Gene Lawley

This article is written for old folks, like me. I have just marked off my 81stbirthday, yet people give me a fifteen-year break on appearance. I attribute that to lack of mileage and some might say that means, experience. Perhaps so, but I also have just checked my 59th year as a believer. That is to say, I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck as it came through town, with a gospel tract in my hand and a message for the natives of the city.

So what are old-timers good for?

Years ago, in 1964, I attended a Bible conference in Columbus, Ohio, where the main speaker had been reading a book by Guy de Maupassant. He quoted from that book something I have never forgotten: “…And when these old folks died, it was as if they had never been!” The speaker’s challenge, no doubt, was about making a difference as a Christian disciple. Are we doing that?

I can think of at least five possible areas where those of us in the senior status can make a difference:

· Knowledge and command of the Word.

· Praying with confidence and conviction.

· Possession of a true concept of God.

· Living a life with a positive testimony.

· Sharing our faith in simple confidence.

Before he died on June 18, 1956, I had the opportunity to hear Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators mission organization. He told of a time that he was asked by a group of elderly women, “What can we do?” He gave them a simple Bible study booklet, saying, “Do this Bible study, and you’ll have something to share with others.”

Dawson came to know the Lord in the early 1930s when he took the challenge from a youth group Bible class leader to memorize a verse of Scripture by the next week’s study time. It was John 5:24, and the next week Dawson showed up with the verse memorized—and now he was a saved young man! None of the others in the group had bothered to memorize the verse.

He had much to share, then, and it started him on a 30-year-plus journey of winning people to Christ and discipling them to follow the Lord. Arising out of that Bible memory experience came the Topical Memory System and other multiple basic Bible helps for growing in Christ and helping others. He was only fifty years old when he died. It is said that his daily habit was to review a thousand verses a day, which he had memorized, as well as learning additional verses. It surely was a life-changing moment when he learned that first verse.

Once in the mid-1960s a lady spoke at a prayer meeting, sharing her convictions and commitment to a life of prayer. This lady, Pearl Goode, was in her late 60s, I think, and lived in Pasadena, California. Her home was near the Fuller Theological Seminary location, and she had developed a habit of praying for those young and aspiring preacher-students studying there.

However, as the Billy Graham Crusades began to grow in effectiveness andfrequency, she thought of the idea to go to the city of each crusade, rent a motel room, and spend her time during the crusade in prayer for its success. She told us that her motivation to do this came from Psalm 92:13-15:

“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there isno unrighteousness in Him.”

Yet, the interesting thing is that it is unlikely that she saw much of the fruit of her efforts (until she entered the presence of the Lord).

These two personalities illustrate two of the five areas for making a difference—the life-changing Word of God and a commitment to prayer. But let’s go a bit further with them, in regard to a couple of difficulties I have observed over the years.

If your life during the week, between Sundays, is caught-up in uncertainty and worry that you might not really be saved, there are probably a couple of things that are causing you to think that:

· You are relying on your feelings for assurance and not on what God has said, the promises He has made to you; [1]

· And, you have not overcome the indulgence of your old nature in self-condemnation. [2]

The endnote references are for links to two articles that deal with those two issues, in detail. But for now, and briefly, look at 1 John 5:11-13:

“And this is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue tobelieve in the name of the Son of God.”

Only believers in Jesus Christ can know that they have eternal life. No other religion can make that claim, and their consciences will not give them the peace of God that comes with the certainty of knowing for sure.

If you have invited Him into your life, in sincerity and honest repentance, He will not fail to enter your life and live in you. The other point to master is believing God has forgiven you for your sins, past, present and future, because He says so in 1 John 1:9 (and other places), even though you may not feel like they are forgiven. Self-condemnation cannot refute the promises of God!

Now, a continuation of that context in 1 John, above, bears upon that second point of the five listed earlier. Read again 1 John 5:11-13, then go on to these next verses, 1 John 5:14-15:

“Now, this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

If we know that we have eternal life because we believe that God said so, then our confidence is emboldened to know He will answer our prayers that are according to His will. The two principles are inseparable—to know that you know that you know; that He is true to His Word which automatically carries over to your prayer life. It is not a principle that becomes a part of our lives “right out of the box,” however. And that is where that third principle comes in.

Having a true concept of God is foundational. We have to discard all false concepts that are rooted in our sub-conscience minds from non-biblical theories we have heard or what we have concluded because of those “impossible” laws of God — things we think we have to do or we will go to hell. That is exactly why Jesus came into the world, to be our Savior! Here is another verse that may clarify the issue:

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

That little two-letter word, “is” has a double meaning—that God exists, and that God is everything we would ever need. At the burning bush episode in Exodus 3, God told Moses to tell the Israelites His name is “I AM.” Ever-present and all that anyone would ever need, the source of all things—that is the God who IS!

Add to that, then, the latter part of the verse—He rewards those who follow Him in His righteousness and fellowship. God is a good God, and even the self-improvement gurus, who do not necessarily proclaim Jesus Christ as God, make that the first principle of maintaining a positive attitude.

At a weekend retreat back in those days, an Air Force Academy cadet asked me for some tips on witnessing the gospel to others. For some strange reason, I began to share what a relationship with the Lord had to do with witnessing to others, how, like the vine and branches relationship Jesus spoke of in John 15 was important, for “without Him we can do nothing.” And I talked about how our fellowship with the Lord can overflow to others, as 1 John 1:3 indicates:

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Afterward, he thanked me for telling him how to have a quiet time with the Lord! As I thought about it later, it seemed that the Lord was giving me the main ingredient for effective witnessing, and he was looking for a three or four point strategy of key verses to use for introducing the Good News to someone.

Obviously those are needed at some point, but witnessing effectively cannot involve giving a military-like command and expecting the listener to salute it—in most cases. (But then, how would I know how God chooses to work?)

It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback the games of life, but the process of growing in Christ is an ongoing matter, and each of us has his own place in the body that generally differs from others. As Lorne Sanny, the successor to Mr. Trotman, has said, “You never get too old for the basics.” Realizing that may well be the key to that positive testimony we must have to make a difference!




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