One of my favourite Bible characters is Caleb. He was one of the twelve spies sent out by Moses to reconnoitre the Promised Land. (Numbers chapter 13) He saw the wonderful potential of the land, not least its amazing produce, and he had faith that it could easily by conquered with God’s help. Joshua agreed with him, but the other ten spies allowed their fear to blind them to the benefits and advised against going forward. That decision was carried and the Israelites instead spent 40 years going round in circles until they were ready to trust God and conquer the land.
My main reason for admiring Caleb, however, is not that. It is rather the fact that at eighty years of age, he was still up for a challenge and asked for a mountain to conquer! (Joshua chapter 14) His faith had never grown dim and his disappointments had not taken away his desire to go forward with God. True to his word, he went on to conquer the hills of Hebron and claim it as his territory. Later, Caleb’s daughter showed the same determination that her father had done in asking for the springs of water she needed for the land she had inherited. (Joshua chapter 15) They were quite a family!
In the Autumn of 2019, I was at a conference (my last time to date away from the local area!) where the speaker reminded us that “God is not ageist.” I realised that I had forgotten that truth. As I was approaching my seventies, I was wondering what life would hold. Would there be any more opportunities to serve God in new ways, or was I almost past my ‘sell-by date’? I had only to remember Caleb to see how silly that notion was. God uses us all the years we live on this earth, as long as we are willing to be used.
I have met so many inspiring Christians in St Luke’s who are far older than me and who have taught me so much about God and how to deepen my relationship with him. They are nowhere near their ‘sell-by date’ – indeed, there is no such thing in God’s Kingdom. All God looks for is our willingness to continue doing his will, trusting in his strength. God uses all generations in his service. You have only to think of the faithfulness of two sisters in their eighties, Peggy and Christine Smith, who prayed fervently in their home day after day, a faithfulness which led to the Hebridean Revival of 1949-1952.
The restrictions we have all lived with over the past 18 months have, in some ways, affected the elderly more than the young ones. Many people have commented to me about how hard it is to ‘lose’ a year or more of your life when you have so few left because of your age, and I can empathise with that point of view – until I think about Caleb! He showed us that we are never too old to do great exploits for God. Whether we are eighteen or eighty, God still has a plan for us. Where would we be without the elderly saints who pray faithfully for the church and whose very presence exudes Jesus? Church is the family of God and a family comprises all generations. We must learn to value each stage of life, just as God does.