“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
I met the most amazing 97-year-old woman while speaking at a Laugh Out Loud with God women’s conference. She was telling me the story of when her doctor asked, “What are your secrets for longevity?” She replied in all seriousness, “Listen to plenty of good Gospel music, pray and read your Bible before breakfast each day, keep serving and giving with others in mind …” Then she paused dramatically, and with a twinkle in her eye and a sly grin, she added, “and have a bowl of ice cream every day!”
Gotta love that!
I once had dinner with J. I. Packer at his 80th birthday party, sponsored by InterVarsity Press at the International Christian Retail show. While there, I asked this literary genius and spiritual giant a similar question: “So, Dr. Packer, what is your secret? How can I be like you when I am your age?” In his very refined manner, he replied, “Well, Pamela,” — no one calls me Pamela, but when he said it, I suddenly felt more refined and maybe just a little wiser! — “eat wisely, write and read every day to keep your mind active, walk four miles a day … and marry a nurse!” (I was doing so well till the “marry a nurse” requirement was added!)
So what are God’s ideas for squeezing the most out of life no matter your age?
My favorite Bible character is Caleb. (My son is named after this brave guy). In 10 Secrets of Living Smart, Savvy and Strong, I reflect on Caleb’s attitude.
In the Bible, Caleb, when a young man, was one of the two brave men who returned with news that the Promised Land was inhabited by some tough people, but as a man of faith, he thought that, with God, Israel should go in and victory would be won. However, the fear of others dominated, and it was years and years later when Joshua came to him with a request to join the battle for the Promised Land. This is Caleb’s reply:
“Now behold, the LORD has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now …” (Joshua 14:10 – 11).
I love that attitude: “Count me in! I am as strong and robust today as I was 45 years ago!”
So how does this apply to you and I, today? Well, the Psalmist makes a case that it is wise to plan well for old age:
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, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” (Psalms 92:12 – 15).
A life of righteousness, day by day, year after year, produces terrific fruit — even in old age. (Or, that could be translated, “once you turn gray” — or, for us girls, once you start coloring your hair to cover the gray!) That phrase, bear fruit, gives a picture of yielding, increasing, and making the plant (your life) thrive! Our English rendition of flourish is to thrive, prosper, and produce at our full measure or potential. This sounds like a life you want to look forward to living! It is also a life worth nurturing now. Just as plants need water and nutrition to flourish, we need a daily intake of God’s Word to thrive — and to reach our maximum level of influence as we age.