On the Shelf

By Roger Reeds

Did you know that people are trying to live longer? People have always searched for longevity. Most of us know the story of Ponce de Leon. He probably drank more water than anyone in history.

Ponce de Leon came to America with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. He returned to the new world in 1508 and conquered Puerto Rico. Inhabitants there told him about an island that supposedly had a magical fountain. Anyone who drank from this fountain would have his youth restored.

Ponce de Leon set forth to find this fountain. He discovered a long strip of land and called it Florida. He went across Florida drinking from every spring. He never found the magical fountain of youth. Mankind has been looking for the fountain of youth ever since.

Not much troubles the human heart more than aging. Our heavenly Father can help us drink from the fountain of youth if we allow Him.

Life of Purity

First, we must have a clean heart. The psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.” Most of us know about David’s involvement with Bathsheba. Psalm 51 tells us that David took steps to make things right with God. John said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The next step is to have a clean mind. Isaiah wrote, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”

One characteristic about the computer is if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. The same thing can be said of the mind.

The third step is to have clean hands. The psalmist said, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul into vanity nor sworn deceitfully.” These three factors help us stay young—clean hearts, clean minds, clean hands.

Life of Pursuit

If we are to remain young in our hearts and bodies, we must be invigorated. Our bones may be arthritic, our eyesight dim and our walk slower, but if we keep our enthusiasm for life, we can be young at 90.

Luke 2:25–38 tells of two elderly people who retained their enthusiasm for the Lord and their health. One was Simeon who, tradition states, was 113 years old. The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. He came to the temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple. Simeon took the child in his arms and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant die in peace, according to thy word.”

The other elderly person was Anna. She came upon the scene just as Simeon was leaving. She was 84 years old and spent her life in fasting and prayer. When she saw the baby Jesus, she gave thanks to the Lord. She recognized Him as her Redeemer and told all Jerusalem about Him.

If we are to remain young in our hearts and bodies, we must be involved. One man past his 70th birthday decided to plant an apple tree in his back yard. His pessimistic neighbor the same age asked, “Why are you planting that tree? As old as you are, you will never live long enough to eat any apples from it.”

The enthusiastic neighbor looked up and said, “You may be right. I may never eat any apples from this tree. Tomorrow is coming and someone else who likes apples is going to eat the apples from this tree I am planting.”

A Southern Baptist evangelist preached beyond the age of 100. When he was 105 years old, he planned a crusade in Japan. Asked how he had lived so long, he said, “I honored my father and my mother. I try to take care of my body. I get proper rest. I try to put my Lord first.” The key is one must stay involved. It will help keep us young.

Life of Purpose

One day as the president of Stanford University drove down a long, hot California highway he passed a transient. He stopped the car and asked, “Say, friend, would you like a ride?”

The vagrant replied, “No thanks. Since I ain’t going nowhere, I ain’t in much hurry to get there.”

Did you know that Moses was 80 when he found his purpose in life? He fled from Egypt at age 40. He lived in Midian 40 years. When Moses was 80, God called him for special service. The man made excuses explaining why he was not qualified for service. Not once did he mention old age. He spent the next 40 years fulfilling God’s purpose. Many people have succeeded in their later years:

Noah Webster wrote his monumental dictionary after age 70.

Benjamin Franklin went to France in the service of his country when he was 78.

Johann Strauss composed some of his more serious music at 80.

Tennyson wrote “Crossing the Bar” when he was 80.

George Bernard Shaw wrote some of his more famous plays after he was 80.

Thomas Edison still worked on new inventions well into his 80s.

Michelangelo wrote poetry and designed buildings at 89. He painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling when he was nearly 90.

Several key factors should accompany our pursuit. One is to spend time in prayer. Tennyson said, “More things are wrought by prayer than this whole world dreams of.”

Fanny Crosby wrote thousands of hymns. She never attempted to write one without first kneeling in prayer. She must have spent considerable time in prayer in order to pen than many hymns.

One pastor served his church 30 years. At 60 he thought he should resign and turn the church over to a younger man. He went to his knees to determine the Lord’s will in the matter and became convinced God would have him stay. He stayed another 30 years, well past his 90th birthday.

Another primary factor is to make Heaven our final goal. Abraham served God faithfully and lived 175 years. He was called to leave his hometown of Ur of Chaldees. Hebrews 11:10 speaks of Abraham’s ultimate goal. “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

The title of this article is “On the Shelf.” Some preachers put themselves on the shelf too early in life. They retire when they should serve for many years. Many churches put preachers on the shelf. The demand today is for young men. As a result, churches do not contact older preachers and reject their resumes.

No preacher should retire when so many churches need pastors. The call to preach is a call for life. Churches ought to look in the direction of older men because they can bring so much experience to congregational life. When more churches call older men to their pulpits, we will see fewer churches without pastors.

The next time your church needs a pastor, look on the shelf to see who is there. You may be surprised to find a capable pastor ready to serve.

Adapted from Contact Magazine, October 2003.

About the Writer:Dr. Roger C. Reeds retired in December 1993 after 32 years as general director of the Sunday School and Church Training Department. He died May 2, 2007, after a bout with cancer. At the time of his death, Reeds pastored Trinity Free Will Baptist Church in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, the final pastorate of a nearly 60 year ministry.