How To Grow Older Gracefully

Bible Book: Selected Passages 
Subject: Senior Christians; Old Age; Christian Living

I love associating with fellow senior citizens. Even when I was young I had a deep love and respect for older folks. Some of the people who have meant the most to me and my family, and continue to, are senior citizens--and some of the people who mean the most to our communities, our nation, and our churches are senior citizens. So, I salute you for the many contributions you have made on so many fronts, and for the contributions you are still making today.

You’ve probably heard all of the one-liners on how you can tell when you’ve become a senior citizen. It’s when you finally know your way around, but you don’t feel like going. Or, another way to tell that you’ve become a senior citizen is this: when you bend down to tie your shoes, you ask yourself the question, “Is there anything else I can do while I’m down here?” Or, it’s when the gleam in your eye is the sun reflecting off your trifocals. Or, you’ve finally got it all together, but you’ve forgotten where you put it!

Someone has said that you’re as old as you feel. When the late Bob Hope was 100 years old, someone asked him how it felt to be 100. He said, “I don’t feel anything until about noon, and then I take a nap.”

So, we’re all getting older, and naturally we all want to grow older gracefully--and that’s the subject of my remarks tonight: “How to Grow Older Gracefully.” On another occasion when I announced that subject, I learned later that one man in the audience turned to the fellow next to him and said, “There ain’t no way!” But of course there is; I know many senior citizens who, in spite of their aches and pains and other burdens, are nevertheless growing older with grace and dignity. So, it can be done, and there are some well established guidelines for so doing--guidelines that have a clear Biblical basis. So, let’s look together at some of those guidelines.


That’s foundational. Proverbs 16:31 says, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, IF it be found in the way of righteousness.” That means, first of all, be sure that you’re repented of your sins and by faith have committed yourself to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That’s the only way to go to heaven instead of hell, and that’s the only way to experience your highest God-given potential in this life.

To be “in the way of righteousness” also means another thing; following conversion, we should begin every day by reaffirming our allegiance to Christ and his Lordship in our lives. Every morning we should begin the day by praying, “Lord, please guide me today in what I say, do, and even think.” That, essentially, is the point our Savior was making in Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

But being right with God not only means being saved and renewing one’s commitment daily; it also includes serving God. The author of Psalm 92:13-14 said: “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age....”

Of course, not all of us can do the same things, but we can all do something productive in the service of the Lord. Paul Powell said: “We are to be faithful not just until we’re tired, or until we retired. We are to be faithful until we are expired--until our going or his coming.”


Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, not sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

What does it mean to “sit in the seat of the scornful?” It means to be hyper-critical, overly negative, always looking at the dark side, at the cracks and crevices....and that’s an attitude we must avoid at all costs.

An old cowpoke was riding out on the range “where the deer and antelope play,” when he ran across a herd of buffalo. He rode up to one of those buffalo, looked him right in the eye, and said, “You are undoubtedly the scraggliest, ugliest, stinkin’est, most repulsive critter I’ve ever seen.” Then he rode off. That buffalo turned to the buffalo next to him and said, “You know, I think I just heard a discouraging word!”

Well, people hear enough discouraging words in today’s world; what they need is optimism and encouragement—and you and I need to radiate that kind of a spirit if we’re going to grow old gracefully.


Proverbs 17:22 says that “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine”—and the wonderful thing is that there aren‘t any side effects.

I like the spirit of that elderly gentleman whose doctor examined him and said, “We’re going to have to remove half of your colon.” With a twinkle in his eye the elderly man said, “Well, doc, I expect a semicolon is better than a period.”

It helps, in every department of life, to have a sense of humor. An elderly man had been courting an elderly lady for quite some time. One evening they were sitting together in her living room. He got off the couch, got on his knees in front of her, and said, “I have two questions. First, will you marry me?” She said, “Yes. What’s the second question?” He said, “Will you help me up?”

An elderly man and his wife went to a crowded restaurant one night and were told by the host that it would be 45 minutes before he could seat them. The man said, “Young fellow, my wife and I are both 90 years old; we may not have 45 minutes.” They were seated immediately.

A man very advanced in age was getting married. His friends said, “Tell us about her. Is she a good cook?” He said, “I don’t know.” Is she a good housekeeper?” “I don’t know.” “Well, why are you marrying her?” He said, “She drives at night.”

I agree with the late Catherine Marshall that God apparently has a sense of humor. When I look at a giraffe, or a duck-billed platypus, I’m convinced that he has a sense of humor—and sometimes when I look in the mirror, that conviction is reaffirmed.

For handsomeness I’m not a star;

There are others better looking by far;

But my face, I don’t mind it, because I’m behind it,

It’s the people out front that I jar.


Romans 14:7 says, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” John Donne, a 17th century writer, said: “No man is an island, entire of itself....”

In his famous sermon, “The Conquest of Fear,” the late Dr. George Truett was speaking about our need to be involved with other people. He said, “Occasionally the vaunting, swelling word is heard, ‘I’m independent now.’” Truett said, “Oh, You are? Independent of whom, and when, and where, and how?” He said, “We’re bound together in the bundle of life....We are dependent—utterly upon God, and to a marked degree upon one another.”

If we don’t maintain contact with, and interest in, other people, we’re liable to become self-centered—and that’s one of life’s most terrible tragedies. Someone has said, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package”—and I might add, a mighty miserable one, also.


Obviously, health conditions vary greatly from one person to another. Some people, for reasons beyond their control, have very fragile health—but God gives special grace in such situations if those concerned call on him. Indeed, some of the greatest spiritual giants I know are people with severe physical problems and limitations, but who live so close to God on a daily basis that they are a blessing and inspiration to all of us who know them.

God doesn’t hold us responsible for what we don’t have; but taking proper care of whatever health potential we do have is a sacred trust. Here’s what the Bible says about it in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you,

which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price:

therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Glorifying God in our body obviously involves doing the very best we can to take care of whatever measure of health we have, by eating properly and taking whatever exercise we are capable of.

Sometimes it’s hard to discipline ourselves in that regard. One fellow wrote the following: “I enrolled in a local health club, to tone up my body a bit; but I knew after only one visit, I was in no shape to be fit.” Carl Hurley, the Christian comedian, said that his wife tried to encourage him to exercise by buying him a rowing machine. He said, “After about a week I installed an outboard motor on it.”


1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

A. We’re to be thankful not only for those rare, once-in-a-blue-moon blessings—but we’re also to be thankful for those everyday blessings—those blessings that we tend to take for granted, because we’re so used to them.

We need to thank him for each beautiful sunset, and for all the wonders of nature. Emerson said that if the stars came out only once a year, we would all want to stay up and see them; but because they are visible so much of the time, we hardly notice them.

When you turn on the faucet and get a glass of clean water, thank God that you can do that, because a vast percentage of the world’s population drinks from contaminated water sources.

If you got up this morning with a roof over your head, with food to eat, clothes to put on, and even a small amount of money in your pocket, in the eyes of 75% of this world’s population you are wealthy.

Thousands of people on this planet didn’t see the light of this day, because they died last night of diseases that could have been easily prevented or cured had they had access to even the simplest medical treatment. In places like Sudan and Rwanda, thousands of mothers last night sat exposed to the elements and in unspeakable despair watched as their thin, emaciated little children died of starvation.

B. But there’s still another thing to be noted, as we think about what God expects of us in the area of gratitude. We are to thank him not only amidst life’s pleasantries and joys, but also amidst life’s reverses and disappointments and sorrows.

“In everything give thanks.” That doesn’t mean, of course, that everything which happens is in itself cause for gratitude--but it does mean that along with every experience, however tragic, painful, or heartbreaking, causes for gratitude can be found if only we’ll look for them.

Practically any hymn book you pick up will have at least one song by Fanny J. Crosby, but more likely several. She died in 1915, just short of her 95th birthday. She has been called “the greatest hymn writer in the history of the Christian church.” Although blind, she was a prolific writer. During her lifetime over 8,000 of her poems were set to music and over 100 million copies of her songs were printed. She also authored several books. Hymns that she wrote include “All The Way My Savior Leads Me,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet,” “To God Be The Glory”—just to mention a few. She loved the Scriptures, and memorized whole books of the Bible. She was an inspiration to millions, and was widely sought after as a speaker and a counselor.

She was permanently blinded when she was only six weeks old, as a result of absurdly incompetent treatment by a charlatan posing as a doctor. Her wise mother set about immediately to prepare her daughter for a productive, useful life in spite of her handicap. Then, another tragedy—when she was 12 months old her father died. When she was five years old, neighbors and friends contributed money to enable her mother to take Fanny to consult with the best eye specialist in the country, but he sadly informed them that nothing could be done. Fanny held no animosity or bitterness. She determined to have a positive outlook, and at eight years of age she wrote this, her first poem:

"O what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see,

I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy, that other people don’t.

To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t!"

Fanny J. Crosby was a living testimony to the fact that being thankful is not a matter of one’s circumstances, but, rather, of one’s decision. She made up her mind, while still a little child, that she would count her blessings and not her liabilities.


I love these lines by Herbert A. White, entitled “A Living Faith”:

“I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true,

I’ve seen them vanish at dawn,

But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God,


I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came

Though I waited patient and long,

But answers have come to enough of my prayers


I’ve trusted many a friend that failed

And left me to weep alone,

But I’ve found enough of my friends true blue


I’ve sown many seed that fell by the way

For the birds to feed upon,

But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hands


I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain

And gone many days without song,

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life


Jesus said, in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” There’s the “bottom line” as to how to grow older gracefully, or how to live gracefully at any stage of life: be sure that you’re trustfully and obediently anchored to Jesus, and you, too, can be an overcomer!