Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

08 July 2011

When I grow old...

Paul says,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Don Carson, in A Call to Spiritual Reformation (chapter 11...I've nearly finished the book) says,

Sometimes we can see in elderly folk something of the process that Paul has in mind.  We all know senior saints who, as their physical strength is reduced, nevertheless become more and more steadfast and radiant.  Their memories may be fading; their arthritis may be nearly unbearable; their ventures beyond their small rooms or apartments may be severely curtailed.  But somehow they live as if they already have one foot in heaven.  As their outer being weakens, their inner being runs from strength to strength.  Conversely, we know elderly folk who, so far as we can tell, are not suffering from any serious organic decay, yet as old age weighs down on them they nevertheless become more and more bitter, caustic, demanding, spiteful , and introverted.  It is almost as if the civilising restraints imposed on them by cultural expectation are no longer adequate.  In their youth, they had sufficient physical stamina to keep their inner being somewhat capped.  Now, with reserves of energy diminishing, what they really are in their inner being is coming out.

Since spending time reading A Call to Spiritual Reformation I have been thinking a lot about storing up treasure in heaven...

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 
Matthew 6:19,20

...and where my true citizenship is...

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Philippians 3:20

But before heaven there is the rest of life on this earth.  That will include old age, unless Jesus comes again in the next decade or few.  And to that end, when I grow old I so want to be like the dear folk in the first category that Carson describes, and not in that second group. 

Prayer seems to be important in all of this.  Other things too, but prayer is certainly high on the list.   It's not about duty bound, legalistic, fearful, I'd-better-pray-or-else-I'll-end-up-like-a-cranky-old-person type prayer.  It's about growing a vital prayer life over time, founded upon a deep love of God and a joyful, longing desire to see Him glorified in all of our life.

Do we bring our petitions before God both with a proximate goal (that we might receive what we ask for) and with an ultimate goal - that God might be glorified?  For that, surely, is the deepest test: Has God become so central to all our thoughts and pursuits, and thus to our praying, that we cannot easily imagine asking for anything without consciously longing that the answer bring glory to God?
(From right at the end of chapter 11...there's one more chapter and an afterword to go!)

Vital prayer is definitely a long term project.  Good to be thinking about it now.