By Ray D. Stites
Woe is me, for I am a card-carrying member of the Geezerdom nation. For years I noted that I was the youngest person in most meetings I attended (at least I looked the youngest!). Now, I rarely see someone “more mature” than I am.
Most of the people I looked to as experienced leaders to be followed have gone the way of all the living. The current experienced leaders are my peer group, and perhaps a decade or two younger.
Aging can be confusing. Though I would not suggest Paul was confused, his verbs in today’s Scripture lead to opportunities to collapse in a heap. “Press on,” he writes. “Take hold,” he says. “Stand firm!” If we do not try to do everything at the same time, we should be able to do as he instructs.
“Keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” Christian living is demonstrated through the history of the church. You can read about men and women of faith. They teach us how to live in a hundred stories in the Bible, and in the centuries since Paul wrote. Missionaries have gone to dozens of countries and thousands of people groups. Reflective minds have produced literature, devotional thought, and great worship materials generation after generation. Fearless leaders have led reforms of the church. One of the joys of history is to find mature models to see and follow.
It takes only a moment to recall a Sunday school teacher, a preacher, a professor, and others who have been—and still are—models for me. I can hear voices singing hymns of faith in a church that no longer meets. I remember the generosity of spirit and resources of saints long dead. A book about their lives and acts of service would require hundreds of pages. What a privilege to have known them.
Pitcher Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look back! Something might be gaining on you.” Paul says we ought to be aware that we are part of a great line of faithful people. We look to those in front of us as models and mentors. If we look back, we will find new generations of Christians watching us. And through us they may see Paul—and ultimately Christ.
Ray D. Stites is the CEO of the Christian Churches Pension Plan. He and his wife, Merelyn, live in Tonganoxie, Kansas.