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Secret Of Old Age
Joshua 14:6-13; 15: 14-19
Caleb's biography is condensed into a few sentences.
It illustrates two exhilarating truths.
Caleb's life divides into three clearly defined periods.
- One, that it is possible for life's greatest achievements to take place in old age.
- The other truth is that there is no retiring age in the service of God.
Until the age of 40 he was a slave in Egypt.
Then, as a leader in his tribe, he was selected as one of twelve to spy out the land of Canaan.
And after that he spent a second 40 years in the desert.
It was in the third period of his life that he accomplished his greatest achievements.
A crisis always reveals the man.
The crisis for Caleb came with his selection to spy out the land of Canaan.
For Caleb there was no going back -- only forward.
- His character and native gifts won for him a place of leadership with his tribe and nation.
- He was never numbered among the murmurers, nor did he hanker for the lost delicacies of Egypt.
- His goal was the Promised Land and he allowed nothing to deflect him.
He countered their fear and unbelief with his confident, "We should go up and take possession of the land."
Caleb was consistent in midlife.
In a news report some years ago there was an item with the caption, "Middle Age -- The Best of Times?"
The writer pointed out that the apparent security of middle-aged Americans is being shaken on several fronts -- divorce,
financial, worries, job loss -- and these are making them feel betrayed by the American economy.
The American dream has turned sour.
Midlife has its own peculiar testings in both physical and spiritual realms.
They may not be so volcanic as those of youth, but what they lose in intensity they gain in subtlety.
Many who soared like rockets in their youth have descended like burned-out sticks in middle age.
There are usually obvious advantages when we attain this stage of life.
Our powers are at their zenith.
Important life decisions -- career, friends, marriage, family -- have been made.
Ideally, status and influence have been attained, and financial circumstances are somewhat easier.
We now know many of the answers to the problems we face, and can be more objective in our views.
But there are also some dangers to this stage of life.
It is often at this stage of life that there develops a loss of fervor and a waning of personal devotion.
Of lukewarm sense of duty replaces ardent love.
Instead of transmuting the vanishing enthusiasms of youth into a worthy and absorbing purpose, life becomes
insipid and anemic.
Often unrealized ideals of marriage and home life are condoned and accepted as inevitable.
With the fixing of life's tendencies and habits, disillusionment and even cynicism become the pattern of life.
All unconsciously a supple deterioration sets in.
As the Lord said of Ephraim, "His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice." (Hosea 7:9)
It is very easy to stop growing and striving after greater spiritual maturity and feel we have earned the right to indulge ourselves.
Few have faced so hard and embittering a lot as Caleb.
The sin and unbelief of his contemporaries doomed him to a life of frustration and disappointment for the 40 years
that should have been the best years of his life.
The apparent reward of his faith and courage was aimless wondering for 40 years in a barren desert
when his powers were at their peak.
There were funerals every day.
By human and worldly standards Caleb would have been justified in being petulant and resentful,
but he maintained his spiritual integrity and survived the long sustained test without losing stature.
He was one of those rare souls who was not offended with God in His inscrutable dealings with him.
Then when Moses died it was Joshua, not Caleb, who was chosen by God to be Israel's leader.
But in this great man's heart there was neither jealousy of Joshua nor resentment against God.
He was willing to serve in an inferior office.
Someone has written that "the hardest part of the journey is the middle mile."
There is the enthusiasm of the new undertaking which buoys at the start, and the thrill of reaching a goal at the finish.
But it is the middle mile when you are a long way from the start and home is still at a distant.
On the middle of life's pilgrimage, the believer needs most the grace of patient continuance.
Caleb soared with wings as an eagle in his youth.
Now he has mastered the art of running without being weary.
But can he walk without fainting in old age?
No other Bible character presents such an inspiring and optimistic conception of old age.
The supreme challenge of his life came when he was 85 years old.
This is an age when most would have been inactive for 20 years.
Caleb was a hero at 40 and also at 85.
He turned old age into a glorious achievement.
At every stage of life he towered above his contemporaries.
- To Caleb old age was not a time of phasing out, but a time to press on to grandeur achievements.
- For him it was not a time to slowly descend the mountain, but it was time to scale another peak.
- For him it was not a time of senility, but of adventure and achievement.
- His life moved steadily forward, not to termination, but to consummation.
"For age is opportunity no less
- In youth he stood alone.
- In midlife he walked alone.
- In old age he climbed alone.
Than youth itself though in another dress.
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day."
-- Henry W. Longfellow
For 45 years Caleb had patiently waited for the fulfillment of God's promise to him through Moses. (Joshua 14: 9)
In his interview with Joshua at the petitioning of the land, five times he made reference to the promise
that though the weary desert years had buoyed him as the guarantee of the possession of his inheritance in Canaan.
The passing years had done nothing to quench his faith in God or to dampen his ardent spirit.
Here is this old man, who should have been sitting in his lazy boy chair, talking of binding on shoes of iron
so that he could ascend the mountain and rout the Giants which the timid ten had feared to face.
Caleb was spiritually audacious, "Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day" was his request.
This is quite a different attitude from a young prospective missionary who requested that he not be sent anywhere
- It was not a request for fertile river flats or easy places.
- He asked for the mountain where the fearsome giants lived.
- He asked for the most difficult assignment in the nation!
- His request revealed the caliber of the man.
where enemy soldiers might come.
The flame of Caleb's courage had not died down even in old age.
Caleb's ambitious request, "Give me this mountain," is a wonderful watchword for the aging Christian.
- He made his request fully understanding the difficulties.
- He was not content just get by.
- He was prepared to pay the price for that mountain.
As we near old age, we must not lose the spirit of adventure and aggression.
"Make me Thy happy mountaineer, O God most high;
- We must not become hesitant to risk another step of faith for God.
- We must not shrink from the rigors of battle.
Maybe we should remove our house slippers and attack some menacing mountain in which the enemies of God are entrenched.
My climbing soul would welcome the austere: Lord, crucify
On rock or sea, ice-cliff or field of snow
The softness that would sink to things below.
Make us Thy mountaineers:
We would not linger on the lower slope,
Fill us a fresh with hope Thou God of hope
That undefeated we may climb the hill
As seeing Him who is invisible."
-- Amy Wilson Carmichael
Caleb is an endless source of encouragement and inspiration.
The message of his life is "the best is yet to be."
"... There are still very large areas of land to be taken."
Caleb had a genius for encouragement, and our discouraged world stands in dire need of such optimistic warriors.
We must not let age dull our hopefulness.
The secret that enabled Caleb to succeed while younger Israelites failed is found in Joshua 14:8:
"I followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly."
The conclusion is clear and the lesson is obvious.
Caleb completely subdued and disposed of his enemies -- giants and everything else, because he followed
the Lord wholeheartedly.
He had no divided loyalties.
There are lessons of permanent value that we can learn from Caleb.
The person who follows the Lord wholeheartedly will grow increasingly like Him in character and outlook.
Following the Lord wholly involves a call to sacrificial service.
Consistent obedience, though often costly, increases his moral strength for further conflict and obedience.
We also learn from Caleb that faith is contagious.
If we have failed, it could be that we have not appropriated our inheritance.
- We still have enemies in our lives that refuse to give up.
- We have giants who laugh at our puny efforts to defeat them.
- We have mountains to climb.
Or we might have some inner reservation that short-circuits our spiritual power and saps our vitality.
We can learn from Caleb's secret.
Complete victory comes from restful confidence in God and unreserved obedience to our heavenly Father.
"It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate...
What then? Shall we sit idly down and say
The night hath come; it is no longer day?
For age is opportunity, no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress.
And as the evening twilight fades away
The night is filled with stars, invisible by day."
-- From Longfellow's Morituri Salutamus
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org