< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Looking Forward to the Rest of Your Life

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Looking Forward to the Rest of Your Life

John and I just returned from a 3 day seminar at The Cove in Asheville, NC led by Bible teachers and authors: Stuart and Jill Briscoe called ‘Looking Forward to the Rest of Your Life.’

First of all, if you’ve never been to The Cove, it was created by Billy Graham and it’s gorgeous. 1500 acres of Holy Ground!

Everyone who works there from the bus drivers to the maids to the bookstore attendants, along with the many volunteers is over the top friendly and if you are signed up for a seminar they begin praying for you before you get there!

We’ve been to several things there in the past: another 3 day ‘Worship Leader’s’ seminar, a Mark Shultz concert, an ‘Asheville Worships’ evening and a couple open houses. This may have been the most meaningful for me though.

Guests were from 31 states plus Canada and India! All people wanting to get to know God better. Each session started with worship music and prayer led by Stephanie Seefeldt, who was amazing.

And the sessions! Well, here’s some of what we learned:

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Stuart said to understand this we have to start with Psalm 90:1. We have to start with God. And you immediately have a sense of awe and wonder and insignificance!

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.
We are consumed by your anger
    and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.
10 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.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.
17 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.

We are nothing compared to God’s awesomeness! He has been here since before time began! A thousand years to Him is like a day! He created us from dust! And according to these verses we have 70 or 80 years before we become dust again. So the psalmist prays, “Teach me to number my days that I may have a heart of wisdom.”

What does God want us to do in our “golden years”?

Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:7 kind of describes life:

You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
    and cast off the troubles of your body,
    for youth and vigor are meaningless.
12 Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.
Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

That last verse says “the spirit returns to God who gave it”.

That’s the secret! Our bodies might be decaying. Our eye sight, our hearing and energy may all be diminishing, but we are not just physical beings! We are spiritual! The body is heading toward dust, but the spirit is heading toward God!

“Teach us to number our days that we may gain the heart of wisdom.”

Knowledge is the accumulation of data. Wisdom is the ability to use all that for its correct purpose.  In this season of life we are to learn more and apply more. We are to be blessed more so that we can be more of a blessing.

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Jill took over the next session starting with her life verse Psalm 71:18

Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Even in old age Christians have a job to do. They are to declare God’s power and mighty acts to the next generation. And Jill said, “spiritual gifts don’t age.” Don’t segregate yourself in the church. Get involved. If you had a spiritual gift in the past you still have it! If you loved little children or teen-agers, or mission work – get involved in those areas. 

God has been preparing you your whole life for certain events or circumstances. Look back over your life and see how often you say, “So that’s why!” Even and maybe especially the trials. Don’t waste the pain! Don’t stop the tears – let them cleanse you.

God permits us to have choices and the consequences of our actions, and it depends on our relationship with Him whether we say “Why, God?” or learn from it. And whatever we have learned from God, we need to put it into practice.

Sometimes pain will drive you to God. And we can know God in a way we never could have if we hadn’t gone through the pain. Look back and see what He’s done for you in the past and praise Him for what you learned. There’s a line in a song that goes, “I cannot remember a trial or pain He did not recycle to bring me gain.”

David looked back on his life in Psalm 71 and realized that God was preparing him by giving him a job as a shepherd so that he was alone with God a lot. Where he was outside at night under God’s magnificent sky filled with stars. And it humbled him. And he learned how to listen to God. And later in middle-age he asked for more time so he could explain to the generation what they need to hear! 

So it’s ok and even great (!) to pray for more time, more strength, to praise God’s name and bear more fruit.”

We have the obligation to share the love of Christ with everyone in our sphere of influence. Our children! Our grandchildren! They are our mission field! We need to tell them over and over that we love them. And let them know we are praying for them and that prayers work!

Renew your commitment to keep serving Christ. Improve with age!

We must speak up and live out God’s Word. Younger people are watching to see what faith has done in your life. They are watching to see if we are becoming bitter….or better!

Paul wrote the letter Philemon while in prison. He was probably about 60 years old at this time, but he wrote that he was OLD! (And he’d had a pretty rough life – so he probably DID feel old!) He had always been a man of action: traveling, speaking, starting churches. Now he was in forced quietness. But he said he had learned to be content in any circumstance. 

Older people need to learn a whole new way of doing life. When you retire you have extra time on your hands. What are you going to do with it?

Stuart said, “First, embrace the wonderful opportunity. Embrace solitude. Aging gives you the opportunity to enjoy leisure. You really can stop and smell the roses. Now you have time to build friendships. To go deep into relationships you didn’t have time for before.”

And he suggested “Really learn to pray!” That takes time too.

When you can’t do everything you used to, when you can’t be as active as you once were, you can be more contemplative. You can meditate on God’s Word. You can listen to Him. Talk to Him. If all the old people in the world prayed more, think of the force that would be released!

A few more of Stuart’s suggestions:

Be informed on what’s going on in the world in the name of Christ.  

Be active in sharing your faith. Tell people how to know Jesus!

Make yourself available to share life with others. (Active participation)

Listen to godly Bible teachers

And live in a costly way. Get out of your comfort zone.

Jill ended with these verses:

Psalm 92:12-15
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

Keep bearing fruit!

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