Billy Graham wrote a book titled, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. He began with this paragraph: “I never thought I would live to be this old. All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die. I wish they had because I’m an old man now, and believe me, it’s not easy.” Graham is now 97.
That’s true. There are numerous ads urging us to save up financially for the retirement years. But there’s little instruction to prepare us spiritually for the final chapter.
Honest About Mortality
If a baseball game is tied in the bottom of the ninth inning and the winning run is on second base, the announcer may excitedly say, “There’s a line drive to right field. The runner is rounding third and heading for home!” That final 90 feet matters most. If the runner makes it safely, the home team is victorious.
There are a number of people in the Bible who stumbled and fell when heading for home. But Psalm 90 was written by a man who finished well. This is the only psalm written by Moses, and it teaches us some valuable lessons about heading for home victoriously. Moses penned these words somewhere between the age of 80 and 120.
Moses confronted his mortality honestly. “You turn people back to dust” (v. 3). “You sweep people away in the sleep of death” (v. 5). “All our days pass away under your wrath” (v. 9). “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away” (v. 10). “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12).
Those are somber words. But listen to Moses’ encouraging words in the next paragraph: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (v. 14). Regardless of aging, pain, and uncertainty, our security remains in God. He is “our dwelling place throughout all generations” (v. 1). Our hope is not in the passing fads of the world but in our Creator who, “from everlasting to everlasting” is God (v. 2).
Take Wing and Fly
Then Moses added this unusual prayer: “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many days as we have seen trouble” (v. 15). Why should we be glad when afflicted? That’s normally an occasion to gripe and complain.
Moses wrote elsewhere that when a mother eagle senses it’s time for her babies to learn to fly, the first thing she does is stir up the nest (Deuteronomy 32:11). She takes out the lamb wool and rabbit fur and makes the nest prickly inside. When the eaglets squirm and can’t get comfortable, they exercise their wings. The unbearable condition in the nest is an indication that it’s about time to get out of there and soar.
When our bodies become increasingly uncomfortable, it is a reminder that the earthly tent we live in is not our permanent home. In the midst of affliction, we can still rejoice and be glad, knowing we’re about to take wing and fly to the Father’s house; God will wipe away all tears and there will be no more pain, sorrow, or death. We can be glad, even when afflicted, because we’re almost home.
One reason we need to face death with a spirit of gladness is that a joyful spirit inspires others. “May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:16, 17). No one likes to be around a griper. We’re attracted to people who are upbeat and positive. A joyful, older Christian who makes the most of each day, even in the midst of pain, is a tremendous inspiration to others.
I called Doris Waddell on her 90th birthday. “Doris, congratulations. You are so healthy and alert, you’re liable to live to be 100!” She quipped, “Oh, no. Don’t do that to me. I have someplace better to go!”
When we wake up tomorrow morning, let’s rejoice and be glad and make the most of that day, satisfied with God’s unfailing love. Let’s not waste our days like bored children who long for some spectacular activity in the future. Let’s not be bitter old geezers who pine for yesterday. Let’s rejoice and be glad that we’re nearing home.
Bob Russell is the retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky. Copyright 2015 by Bob Russell. Permission to copy this column may be obtained by writing Debbie Carper, Southeast Christian Church, 920 Blankenbaker Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40243. Find Bob’s books and sermons online (www.livingword.org).