All of us prefer food that is fresh. In much the same way, God enjoys people who are “fresh,” Christians who still have the joy of the Lord and a passion to know Him more, no matter what age they are. These are the ones who represent Him best because they demonstrate the fresh life He is inside them.
The pressures of ministry, family and life in general can wear us down and tire us out. How can we remain fresh from week to week and year to year? How can we maintain our joy and passion for serving God? Psalm 92:12-15 gives us the answer: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the Lord; they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’” Here, the godly life is compared to healthy, growing trees in God’s court.
There are three important ingredients in this passage that are absolutely necessary for us as followers of Christ, if we too are to flourish like new and stay green and growing even in our “old age.”
1. Stay planted in God’s Word.
Strong trees must be firmly rooted in good soil. Psalm 1:2-3 says those who continually delight and meditate on “the law of the Lord” will be “like a tree planted by the rivers of water. He will bring forth his fruit in due season and his leaf will not wither. Whatever he does will prosper” (NKJ). Someone asked Billy Graham once how he felt when he missed his daily Bible reading. Dr. Graham thought for moment, and then said, “I’ve never missed my daily Bible reading.”
2. Stay prayerful in God’s presence.
We must cultivate a life of continual prayer, praise and dependence on our Father. Indeed, we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We should never “get used” to coming before Him. We should never lose that childlike wonder and awe. German theologian, Rudolf Otto, contends that the end of true worship is a sense of “mystical awe” in the presence of God.1 When we feel we no longer need to bow to His holiness and power, then our hearts have already become old, cold and crusty.
3. Stay pure in God’s holiness.
Finally, we must stay free from outside pollutants. There can be “no wickedness” in us. If God does not dabble in sin then neither should we. Sin slowly but effectively poisons our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and steals our joy and innocence.
Choosing to live in “the courts of the Lord” is incredibly freeing and downright fun at times! “A happy heart is like good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22 NCV). When we have His peace and joy in our hearts, laughter comes rather easily! My mom managed to stay “young at heart” right on into her seventies. In fact, she was a youth minister at age seventy-one! She built a large youth group on nothing but the grace of God, her contagious spirit and her hot biscuits which she served them every Sunday night!
The apostle Paul managed to stay fresh and on fire for the Lord even in his older years. Those of us who feel we are too far “over the hill” to be greatly used of God should listen to what Chuck Swindoll says: “God’s patriarchs are among God’s choicest possessions. Abraham was far more effective once he grew old and mellow. Moses wasn’t used with any measure of success until he turned eighty. Caleb was eighty-five when he began to enjoy God’s best goals.”2
When I was only twelve an evangelist named Clayton Shaw came to our church. He was in his sixties at the time. I was mesmerized by his passion and excitement. One night during the revival the men invited me to come and pray with them. Right in the middle of our prayer time, Bro. Clayton started singing, “Amazing Grace.” I snuck a peak and saw this “old man” lifting his hands in praise while tears flowed down his cheeks. Over the years I had several privileges to work with this great saint, and every time without exception he was full of joy and love for His Savior and for the lost. Bro. Clayton kept fresh right up to his homecoming day, and many lives were touched and changed because of it — including mine!
Ben Franklin once quipped: “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Perhaps God has shown His Light on our soul and exposed it as old and stale. Perhaps He’s not as precious and awesome to us today as He was last year or ten years ago. Wisdom says we need to repent and ask Him to make us fresh and green in His presence once again…
1 Banister, Doug, The Word & Power Church , (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999) 149.
2 Swindoll, Charles Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, (Multnomah Press, 1983) 348-349.
NOTE: This article is an excerpt from Pure Praise: A Heart-focused Bible Study on Worship by Dwayne Moore (Group, 2009), Week 9, Day 4.
photo credit: Tekke