Sermon Jan. 12, 2014 “Aging with Grace” Part 1 – Psalm 71 “A Psalm for Older Believers”

Aging with Grace Sermon Series Sermon # 1 Psalm 71 Jan. 12, 2014
Maple Glen Church Pastor Louis Prontnicki

You may be aging with a back brace or a knee brace; you may no longer have the energy to join in the chase; there is probably aging showing on your face, but God wants you to age with grace.
Aging is when you might have trouble tying your shoe lace; and you may, in a group of young people, feel out of place, but God wants you to age with grace. Aging is when doctor’s visits become an ever-increasing part of your pace, and when your memory is fading without a trace; but when you are aging with grace, you look forward to moving to a higher place.

Let’s face it: More of us in the congregation are getting older. And it’s not just in our church. There are over 40 million Americans who are 65 and older (that’s one in eight), and 50 years from now, that number will more than double to 90 million! And so it is appropriate that we understand what God has to say to us who are “older believers.”

But what about those who are still young, who are decades away from becoming elderly?
Three quick truths: (1) God commands you to care for the elderly; (2) God commands you to learn from and to honor the elderly; and (3) one day you will be elderly yourself!

Let’s start this brief sermon series with Psalm 71.
Psalm 71 is the prayer of an older believer who pleads to God against his enemies, and asks God’s blessings for his later years. He does so in full confidence of faith, and he is strengthened in his faith by a long and remarkable experience of God’s providence and deliverance. Therefore this older believer anticipates a gracious reply from the Lord, and promises to glorify the Lord exceedingly. (Spurgeon)
Here is a psalm, a prayer, a song for all believers, but especially for those who are older, who are facing declining health, more struggles in life, and know that death is getting ever closer.

1. The Older Believer’s Cry for Help (vv. 1-4)
1 “In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;
give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men.”

Though older believers feel at times that they are fading and declining, they also know that God Himself never grows weaker, and so we can all the more go to Him in our time of need, and find that His grace is more than sufficient for our struggles. Though the Psalmist is struggling, God’s grace gives him a faith in the Lord that will not stagger nor fall. The older we get, the sweeter God’s grace should seem to us, in our weakness and need.
The psalmist seeks his help in the Lord, especially in times of struggle and need. For He is our Refuge, our Rock of refuge, our Fortress. A Mighty Fortress is our God! He is our deliverer, the One who hears us, who rescues us, and who saves us from all our foes, all our enemies!
Application: Do struggles, aches and pains, and loss cause you to complain and moan, or do they drive you to the Lord? Do you cry out to the Lord for help?
2. The Older Believer’s Remembrance of God’s Faithfulness (vv. 5-8)
5 “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you. 7 I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.”

In the midst of his struggles, the psalmist is encouraged by recalling the Lord’s faithfulness to him all the days of his life. In times of trouble and difficulty, if you are an older believer, you should be able to recall decades’ worth of God’s mercies to you. (Can you? Do you?)
Notice how the Lord has helped him from his youth (5), even from his birth, in his safe delivery from his mother’s womb (6). He reads his dairy or journal and sees examples of how the Lord has delivered him in the past. He recalls in his memory how he has cried out to the Lord for help in years and decades gone by, and the Lord has always been faithful and gracious to him. And as he remembers these things, he begins to praise the Lord and even to declare out loud God’s glory! So here is a clear advantage to being older: you have more evidence of God’s faithfulness!
Application: Write down specific ways that the Lord has demonstrated His faithfulness to you over the years and decades. Tell others about them. Make memorials to God’s faithfulness.

3. The Older Believer’s Prayer for Help (vv. 9-13)
9 “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.”
12 Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me. 13 May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.”

As the Lord has been his faithful protector and provider since his birth, even since his birth, so the psalmist believes that God will continue to remain his help and his security, as he faces new challenges, harder crises, and more things that are against him, in his old age.
You also must take the truth of how God has cared for you, from your youth and middle age, and apply that confidence to the new and perhaps harder challenges that you will face in old age.
Remember the truth of Phil. 1:6 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

v. 9 is of particular interest to us: “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” There can be a temptation to think that as you get older and weaker and you are less productive than you used to be, that God is moving away from you and not working through you anymore. You might say, “What good am I? Of what use am I to God?”
But the reality is that we can know the Lord’s presence and power even more when we are older and weaker, because we know that we cannot rely on our own strength.
Think of the opening two chapters of Luke’s gospel, where the Lord ministers his extraordinary grace upon a number of people who are quite up in years: Zechariah and Elizabeth (a special baby in their old age!); and then Simeon and Anna, who are given the gift of seeing the Messiah as a child, in their last few years of life! [By the way, Simeon’s words in Luke 2:29-30 are exemplary of the believer’s attitude toward death: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss (i.e., release from bondage) your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation (i.e., in Jesus)…” ]

You get the clear sense that the psalmist is setting his memory of God’s faithfulness against his failing strength and new challenges, and his hope in the Lord is gaining confidence and spirit-renewing power. Application: Let us pray with confidence in God’s power!

4. The Older Believer’s Rejoicing in Hope and Declaring God’s Power (vv. 14-18)
14 “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 15 My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. 17 Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. 18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

As we get older, what do we tend to talk more about? Our aches and pains, our limitations, our sufferings and losses, right? Even older Christians fall prey to the temptation to complain and to bemoan everything! But the psalmist gives us a different picture. As he has recalled God’s faithfulness over the years and claims God’s promises for the present, he is filled with hope and joy in the Lord….and he can’t help but tell others of God’s power, God’s righteousness, and God’s salvation! And it seems that as he speaks, he gets more animated and louder! Note v. 14: “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” As he gets older, his ability and desire to praise the Lord grows and increases. The believer in Christ should be able to finish spiritually strong in the last lap of his or her earthly race… and what an encouragement that is for younger believers. You see, the psalmist isn’t merely asking God not to forsake him as he gets older; he is asking the Lord to give him many years in order to declare God’s glory to the generations to come! (e.g., Dr. William Miller, Byron and Verletta Cassel, Alfred and Magdalena Piranian)

The psalmist’s desire is to live long enough to declare to the next generation how God has provided for him and delivered him, all his life! Let me ask you: Is that your desire? Are you looking for opportunities to tell your children and grandchildren all that God has done for you in Jesus Christ? Do you look forward to times with your nephews and nieces and grand-nephews and nieces to share with them how the Lord answered prayers and did marvelous deeds?
That’s my prayer for the grandchildren God has given me; that’s my desire when I meet with teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s. I want to be able to graciously and joyfully tell them what the Lord has done for me… and I have over four decades worth of stories, answered prayers and a few miracles in there.
The flip side of this is that young Christians ought to seek out older believers and ask them to tell them how the Lord has worked in their lives over decades! It would be good for both of them!

5. The Older Believer’s Confidence in the Lord and Praise to the Lord. (vv. 19-24)
19 “Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? 20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. 21 You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. 22 I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. 23 My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I, whom you have redeemed. 24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.”

Here is the grand finale of praise to God by this older saint!
Notice how in vv. 19-20 the psalmist describes the full spectrum of the ups and downs of his life” “the skies” “troubles, many and bitter” “depths of the earth” and “bring me up.” The psalmist doesn’t sugar coat the hard times, but he understands that the Lord is sovereign over the mountain tops as well as the dark valleys of his life.

Note also how this older believer puts his own troubles in the context of God’s greater deliverance in the Exodus [“Who is like you?” Ex. 15:11; “from the depths” Ex. 15:5].
In the same way the Christian should relate his or her struggles to the resurrection of Jesus Christ; see Rom. 8:11 and 1 Cor. 1:9: “who raised Jesus from the dead.”

And lastly, there is the declaration that God’s faithfulness (22) and God’s redemption (23) and God’s righteousness (24) have all met together, for the deliverance of this elderly believer. The Lord has been his vindication against his foes, and even in his old age, he can stand triumphant in His redeemer, as we can in Christ Jesus!

“The psalmist teaches the older person how to be patient in tribulation and to be joyful in hope, by contemplating that grace of God which he has already enjoyed, and how to drive away the bitterness of his pain by praising God, as he dwells with his whole soul upon the recollection of those mighty deeds, which are so many pledges of fresh deliverance.” – E. W. Hengstenberg

You know, older believers have a special privilege: we have the chance to see God’s faithfulness over a lifetime. Our troubles do not grow smaller as the years go by, but our cumulative experiences can strengthen our confidence that God will always deliver us, as He always has.
May the Spirit of God use the Word of God to encourage you to age with grace, for His glory!