I hate to tell you, but evil days are on the way for most of us. I am not talking about the ever-increasing evil days predicted before our Lord’s return. I am referring to “days” (plural) of great evil which are right around the corner.
Imagine waking up one morning and suddenly you don’t feel well. As a matter of fact, you can hardly crawl out of bed. You don’t seem to be able to shake it off, so you decide to go to the doctor. After an examination, your doctor gives you his bleak report. His prognosis is that you are going to gradually get weaker and weaker. Your eyesight and hearing will likely begin to fail. You ask, “Doctor, isn’t there something you can do?” Sadly, he informs you there is no cure. What was his diagnosis? Was it cancer or heart disease? No, his diagnosis is you are growing older. You’ve had too many birthdays. Perhaps we shouldn’t even celebrate birthdays since each one brings us closer to this depressing visit with our physician and our own personal encounter with Ecclesiastes chapter twelve.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Ben was right. Perhaps first we might define what old age really is. For many years, your final days began just after puberty. In the Middle Ages, reaching age 21 was somewhat of a real accomplishment. Then around the turn of the last century, life spans started steadily rising, from around 46 years to over 80 years now. The modern generation will likely have a longer and healthier life than their parents. Since they will be young “longer” it is important for us to help them not waste their youth, because they will have so much more youth to waste. Furthermore, we need to warn them that no matter how long they may live, old age will always come quicker than they could ever imagine.
It is very easy to waste your youth, to use up your time without doing anything important. Young people see their advantages increase from year to year as they move out of childhood towards becoming an adult. Every year they get smarter, and maybe even a little wiser. With each passing year, they will get physically stronger and will likely earn more money and become less dependent on others. Then they make the mistake of thinking the future will only get better. Not so fast, here is the newsflash they will not want to hear; it’s all going to end, and it is going to end sooner than they think. One day it will stop getting better and then it will start to get worse, and worse. The Bible explains it this way:
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.”
The Word of God says our future will contain not just one, but a lot of “evil days” as we grow older. What does this mean? It means that soon, time which has been our friend for many years, will suddenly turn against us like a vengeful enemy seeking payback for all the good times we have had. As we grow older the evil days will come, and we will see many of the pleasures, opportunities, and freedoms we now enjoy begin to slip away.
The human body will begin to run down physically. Perhaps today your body is in good shape. But very soon, you won’t be able to do all the things you can do now. You’ll have more aches and pains, and you’ll be weaker, until you become sick, and one day you will die. Thanks for the encouraging words, right?
We all know that even the best athletes usually must stop playing professional baseball, football, or basketball by the age of 40. Their bodies just can’t handle the stress. Just like them, you will not get stronger and stronger every year until you die, no matter how much you pay for a professional trainer. The “evil days” will soon come for you, and they will come more quickly than you can imagine!
We should warn our young people that the rest of their life will not be like the life they are living now. Their life will change from a life of freedom to a life of obligations. Now they are thinking about how to enjoy life and what to do with their free time and extra money. But one day they will come into a life of limits, demands, and obligations. We must teach our young people to wisely start training themselves so they can stand up and bravely face those evil days.
People get set in their ways as they get older. People form many habits of life when they are young, and when they are older it is very hard for them to change their ways. People who learn how to manage their time when they are young will do the same when they are grown up. People who learn how to take care of their money when they are young will likely do the same when they are older. On the other hand, people who are sloppy and lazy when they are young will usually be the same, or worse, as they get older. People who make a mess of their life when they are young will keep on making a mess of their life when they get older, and the messes will just get bigger.
Most importantly, you will lose the freedom to change your relationship with God. Humanly speaking, it will become harder and harder for you to get on fire for the Lord, or to be converted as you get older. But there’s another reason why it will be harder. The time may come when you are so hardened by sin that you will find it extremely difficult (or even impossible) to get right with God.
“My spirit shall not always strive with man.”
“God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”
Old age comes so quickly. One day you are working, having children, cleaning house, and then you wake up one morning and poof – you are old, have Alzheimer’s and need someone to change your diaper.
During the final days of Alexander the Great, he gave specific details regarding his funeral. First, he wanted the very best doctors to carry his coffin. This would demonstrate to others that though we may be able to pay for and obtain the finest of medical care, we cannot buy health nor life when death comes calling.
His second request was to have the road covered with his coins, precious stones, and gold so that others could see that what we acquire on earth will stay on earth.
His third request was for his hands to be left free to swing outside of his coffin. He wanted to demonstrate that the most precious treasure is time. Older folks understand that! Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and it is running out!
Now, if time is our most precious treasure, then it is also the most treasured gift we can give to one another. Time is the gift we can give and never take back. Time is treasured because although we cannot buy it, we can choose to use it wisely or wastefully. Sadly, most old people, who have so much to offer, would rather spend their time and money on pets than on people. If we directed the same effort toward others, and expected no more in return than we receive from an animal, we might actually make an eternal difference in someone’s life, but I digress.
Young People Need Our Time…and Wisdom!
The point is young people need our time. Why? It gives me great joy to say this; because we are smarter than they are, that’s why! The one advantage that being old has is that we usually get wiser. Two studies recently showed us that older people were far better at making choices that led to long-term gain than young people. While younger participants were good at making choices, which led to an immediate reward, older folks aged 60 to 80 were much more adept at making strategic decisions which looked long range and took future stages into account. Perhaps that is why many young people still don’t understand that college loans must be paid back. So, if you need someone to prioritize your project, your day, or your life; find an old geezer!
Previous studies had indicated that our ability to make decisions declines as we get older, but these had focused on people’s capacity to make single dimensional choices one at a time. Life usually isn’t that way. Most of the time dozens of factors must be considered when making a decision. So, this test required participants to weigh each decision while considering how it would affect future choices, much like we must do in the real world.
The results indicated older people’s wisdom helped them outperform younger participants at taking the bigger picture into account. Older folks were better at evaluating the immediate and delayed benefits and liabilities of each option they had to choose from. Young people need to understand that when an old person dies it is like a library filled with books burning to the ground.
Now, since younger people were better when only the immediate rewards needed to be considered or when only one isolated, stand-alone decision was required, older folks need to understand what this says about the limitations of our mental abilities. It says we don’t do well with spontaneous decisions. Much like our reflex time diminishes as we age, apparently, we are also more prone to make more hasty, foolish, and emotional decisions. Telemarketers know this. Sometimes family members can also prey upon this weakness.
Sherry and I have decided that perhaps the smartest thing we might do for ourselves in our old age is to pray for wise kids, pray that we will know which child is the wisest regarding a specific issue and then pray that we will have enough sense to listen to their wise counsel. Sadly, many older folks don’t have any wise kids they can go to; and perhaps even sadder is a parent with a wise child who will not listen to them.
Marching Time and
One day, when this life ends and we stand on the border of eternity, perhaps we will look back and properly evaluate all of our pettiness and wasted time. At that moment, only the worthwhile things, the constructive things, the things we have done for the good of mankind and the glory of God will matter. As our day comes to an end the shadows we cast grow longer. Our influence, positive or negative, can touch more people. I know I will live eternally with my Lord; however, it is only through my lasting positive influence upon others that my life will continue on earth.
We have all heard the adage that, “time flies when you are having fun.” But as we age, we know that time flies whether we are having fun or not. So, my advice to the young is; “don’t waste your youth, because old age comes quickly.” My advice to the elderly is; “don’t waste your old age, because wisdom comes slowly and young people desperately need what you have to offer.”
Dr. Worthington has been in the ministry over forty years and serves
as President of Pathway Ministries