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Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a LegacyNew Assignments Late in Life

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: There’s a time for you and there’s a time for me to turn responsibility over to the next generation. Now that doesn’t come in one fell swoop, usually. It may come in stages and over a period of time.

We have to be willing to make that transition. It doesn’t mean we’re transitioning into uselessness. We’re supposed to stay fruitful. We’re supposed to stay wholehearted. We’re supposed to stay serving the Lord. But it does mean we need to be willing to hand over some of the responsibilities we have had to others.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, May 29.

The story of Joshua is practical for every season of life. We’ve seen that in a number of series on the life of Joshua throughout this year. I hope you’ll get a copy of Nancy’s complete teaching on Joshua’s life at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today we’ll look at the vibrant example Joshua gives for those contemplating retirement. We’re in the series Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m told that there are some 77 million baby boomers who are now approaching retirement. And many of those baby boomers are making an incredible effort to stay young. The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (I didn’t know there was such a thing, but there is) reports that the industry, the anti-aging industry, expects an annual income of at least 79 billion dollars by next year.

Now I’m approaching 50 myself, and by most standards that would not be considered old. But it is getting older. I was interested since I’m close to 50 to read yesterday about some perks of being over 50. Do you want to know what they are?

  1. No one expects you to run into a burning building.
  2. People call at 9:00 PM and ask, “Did I wake you?”
  3. There’s nothing left to learn the hard way.
  4. Things you buy now won’t wear out.
  5. You can eat dinner at 4:00 PM.
  6. Your eyes won’t get much worse.
  7. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
  8. Your joints are more accurate than the national weather service.
  9. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.
  10. You can’t remember who sent you this list.

Now for those of you who are young women, you probably don’t even think about aging. I know when I was in my teens and in my twenties that was the furthest thing from my mind. I guess if you’re approaching 50 that is middle aged, and most of my friends and peers are middle aged.

I find that there’s a big fear among women in my season of life, this fear of aging—fear of what that may involve, fear of physical limitations, the thoughts of being alone. I mean, you’re starting to think about things at my age that you didn’t think about when you were 20—thoughts about family and relationships and financial challenges. This thing of aging starts to create a lot of fears in the hearts of women.

Then as women get older and even old—you can’t say that today, but we do get old. I find that there are women in that season of life that I’ve met who struggle with the sense of “Why am I still here? What’s my purpose? Am I still useful? Do I have value?”

Well, in the Scripture we find many wonderful examples of older men and women who are great role models. I’m so thankful for them, the men and women who were used by God in very significant ways in their later years. I think of Moses. Just saints, men and women who made an enormous contribution and are still affecting and impacting our faith today because of their walk with God when they were older.

In the next couple sessions I want to talk about two older men, Joshua and Caleb—Joshua today and then Caleb in the next session—who fall into our study of the life of Joshua. Now when we started with Joshua weeks and weeks ago, he was a young man. The Scripture says he was young when he was Moses’ assistant.

But now we’ve come to the place in his life where he has been through his maturing years, and now he is an old man. Then we’ll take a look at Caleb, also an old man, in the next session. Both of these men when you stop to think about it were at least 20 years older than anyone else in Israel because they were the only two who survived in the wilderness through all those years.

Remember everyone who was over age 20 died in the wilderness because of unbelief. So at this season of their lives, there were no men of their generation, no men or women or anybody. There was nobody their age; they had no peers.

So they were men who were greatly looked up to and respected and set a pattern and a model to the younger generation of how to age graciously. The older I get, the more that becomes the desire of my heart, to age graciously.

Now things will happen as we age. It’s a fallen world and things don’t keep working as well. I’ve started dealing with some knee issues. And I’m thinking, “I’m not supposed to be having this yet.” But then I realize there are other people about this age who are starting to have some of these things.

Things wear down and they don’t work as well, and we try to take care of them as well as we can. But there are limitations on what we can do. So there are things that begin to break down.

But there are things that can get better and more beautiful and more rich and developed and mature as we get older, and that’s what we want to focus on.

Joshua chapter 13 is the first reference we find in the book of Joshua to his aging. And the Scripture is very—it doesn’t beat around the bush about this age thing. Today we beat around the bush.

But the Scripture just says outright in verse 1 of Joshua 13: “Now Joshua was old and advanced in years.” As we said in the last session, he was probably close to 100 at this point.

“And the Lord said to him, ‘You are old and advanced in years.’” There’s no attempt to hide the fact that Joshua was old. It was a matter of fact. Joshua acknowledged it; the Scripture acknowledged it; God acknowledged it.

You hear this thing about don’t ever ask a woman her age. I think that’s bologna. I’m not going to ask most of you how old you are because a lot of people still hold to that way of thinking. But I just want to tell you, I don’t mind you asking.

Now, when I’m 85, will I mind you asking? I don’t know. I don’t think so because I think for a believer and a child of God, getting old is not something to be embarrassed about.

Then in chapter 23 of Joshua beginning in verse 1 (you may want to turn there), we have another reference to Joshua being old. Joshua 23, this is now after the land has been divided up. And this is approximately ten years after the conquest.

A long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, "I am now old and well advanced in years. And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you (verses 1-3).

Now I want to just look at this season of Joshua’s life and talk today about some insights in relation to aging. Some who are listening to me talk today are old and some are in my age range, getting older, and then some are quite young. I want to say that whatever season of life you find yourself in right now, you need to think some about getting old.

What kind of person do you want to be? You won’t just wake up at 85 and be this godly old woman you always wanted to be. I want to look at some insights from God’s Word about how to face this whether you’re in it or you’re headed toward it or you’re maybe not even thinking about it yet.

God had a mission and an assignment for Joshua even in his old age, and Joshua accepted that. You don’t see him looking for a life of ease, a life of recreation even at 100 years of age or 90 years of age. In his latter years God was giving him new assignments.

And Joshua was saying, “Lord, whatever You want me to do in this season of life, that’s what I want to do.” Here’s a man who was not living for himself—not when he was young, not when he was old. He was living for the glory of God and the advancement of God’s kingdom.

I read a story about a woman at 120 years of age was the oldest living human whose birth date could be authenticated. When she was asked to describe her vision for the future she replied, “Very brief.”

I don’t know what your vision for the future is or how old you may be, but no matter how old you are, no matter how close to the end of your life (and by the way you may be 22 and closer to the end of your life than a person who’s 100). We don’t know how many days God has for us, so that’s why we always need to be living in light of the end of our lives and eternity.

But no matter how old you are—we have some teenagers in here, we have Miss Dorothy in her 80s and a lot of us in between—God has a plan, a purpose, and a calling for your life for this season of your life. As long as God has you here on this earth, you need a vision, and it needs to be God’s vision.

As long as God has you here on this earth, you are called to serve Him. You are called to advance His reign and His rule in this world.

There’s no concept in the Scripture of putting old people out to pasture. You just don’t find it. Now there may be different assignments at different ages, but they are still called to be fruitful and to be useful and to be God-centered, living their lives for the glory of God.

We see in these passages that God gave Joshua a new assignment, a different assignment, than he had in his earlier years. In his earlier years, Joshua served as a warrior—first as an assistant to Moses when he was quite young and then as a warrior in his younger years.

Now the battles were behind him. When he was in his 90s and into 100 years of age, God gave him a different role. God gave him a different assignment. We talked in the last session about God calling Joshua to allocate the land, to distribute the land to the people. He’d had more active duty as a soldier, as a warrior, and now God gave him more of a desk job, if you would. It was a more administrative function. It was a different calling.

The land that they had won through those battles now had to be assigned to the various tribes, and this calling was not as vigorous. It didn’t call for as much physical action and activity as his earlier role had.

So it says to me that God tailors His calling and our responsibilities to our season of life.

  • God knows our frame.
  • He knows the strength that He has given us.
  • He knows how He’s made us.
  • He knows what we can handle.
  • He equips and fits us to do whatever He calls us to do in each season of life.
  • He gives us strength to do whatever He calls us to do.

That calling may change in different seasons of life and that’s okay. The challenge is to find out what has God got for me in this season of life and to be content with that and committed to it and fruitful in it without trying to live in some different season of life that I’m not in at this point.

For example, at the age of 50, the Levites in the Old Testament were required to “withdraw from the duty of the service.” They were not to have the same functions at 50. So there’s this sense of retirement, but they were to continue serving the Lord, just in a different role.

I think again that what we need to do is make sure that we’re embracing whatever season we’re in and embracing whatever calling and responsibilities we have in that season versus what we’re tempted to do, which is to either look longingly back at an earlier seasons—“Oh, if only I was young again”—or to look longingly ahead to a seasons we’re not in and we don’t know God will ever give us.

So we have young people wanting to be old and old people wanting to be young and all of us missing out on the present moment, what God has for us here and now. Some of you are in a season of raising little ones. Those of you who’ve been there you know that, that’s a season of life where for one, you never sleep and you wonder if you will survive it at points.

But it’s important in that season of life to be all there and not to be looking back, not to be looking ahead. “If only these children were grown up,” or “If only I were single again.” Then there are those who are single wishing they could be in a different season of life.

Take where God has you, the age He has you at, the strength He’s given you for this age, and use your whole body, soul, spirit, heart, mind, everything you have, to serve the Lord. I’m of the belief that if I have only half a mind when I’m 85, then I want to use that half a mind to glorify God, to love Him, to know Him.

I want to use whatever strength He gives me today, which is not quite what it was when I was 25, but it’s probably more than I will have 30 years from now. I want to use whatever I have to the fullest capacity to serve the Lord. So we want not to resent or to resist where God has us but to trust Him for each season of life and to embrace the callings of that season

Now the change in Joshua’s assignment from warrior to administrator was not only for his sake, but it was also for the younger generation. Joshua had been the commander-in-chief, the captain, for decades. It was time to hand over the reins to the younger soldiers. They needed Joshua to step out of that role so that they could develop and learn the same things Joshua had learned as a younger man about trusting God and seeing God fight their battles.

There is a time for you and there’s a time for me to turn responsibility over to the next generation. Now that doesn’t come in one fell swoop, usually. It may come in stages and over a period of time.

We have to be willing to make that transition. It doesn’t mean we’re transitioning into uselessness. We’re supposed to stay fruitful. We’re supposed to stay wholehearted. We’re supposed to stay serving the Lord. But it does mean we need to be willing to hand over some of the responsibilities we have had to others.

Now, we’re in our ministry in some of that stage where we’re talking about younger leaders, the next generation of leaders. I used to see this in older people and it would bother me, and now I am one of these people that is looking sometimes askance at these younger leaders and thinking, “But they are so wet behind the ears. They don’t know what they’re doing. How are they going to handle this? They don’t have the maturity. They don’t have the seasoning,” like I have all knowledge now that I’m close to 50.

You know what? They will make mistakes just as we did. After Joshua’s death, the Israelites made some mistakes. Joshua had to know that they didn’t know what he knew. They hadn’t been through all the battles that he’d been through. They hadn’t had all the encounters with God that he had had.

But they needed to have their own. He needed to give them the chance to have their first-hand encounters with God, to face their challenges, to learn to trust God, to learn to obey God.

That’s why it’s so important that Joshua was willing to hand over the reins, to pass the baton. That’s the word picture we’ve been using throughout this series. Joshua had received the baton from Moses when he was a younger man. Now he’s in the season of life when a part of his responsibility is to successfully pass the baton of faith and leadership onto the next generation.

In fact, in his old age Joshua was very burdened about this exchange of the baton, to pass on the baton of truth to the next generation. We’re going to see more about how he did that when we get to chapters 23 and 24. But you’ll see throughout these chapters that he never ceased to point the next generation to the Lord.

He didn’t sit back as an old warrior and talk about his own exploits and achievements. He kept talking about what God did, about what God had done. He was seeking to instill faith in the younger generation.

He wanted them to know God so that they could be victorious in their era. He wanted to ensure that they stayed true to the Lord. He considered this a serious responsibility. It wasn’t just, “I’ve lived my life. My time’s over now; you guys work it out.” He felt a huge sense of responsibility to make sure that after he was gone this next generation would stay faithful to the Lord.

I think of what Paul said to Timothy in Titus chapter 2 where he talks about the roles of older and younger people and the responsibility that older women have first to live lives that are worthy of following and then to pass the baton on. He says,

Older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled (verses 3-5).

I’m looking into the eyes of some older women who along with me sometimes look at the younger women and say, “Why can’t they get it? How come they don’t understand? Why are they blowing up their marriages? Why are they talking to their husbands that way?”

You know, they have to fight their own battles, but I want to say you and I have a responsibility. If those women are not knowing the ways of God, is it because we have failed as older women to teach them the ways of God, to train them, to teach them what is good?

We have a responsibility. And Joshua realized this and took it seriously. That’s what makes the gospel believable. Now Joshua’s life was not free from challenges in this season. There were issues and questions that arose during the time when the land was being divvied up. There were things he had not had to deal with before. He needed wisdom, and he needed discernment.

I’m just reminded that no matter how old you get there are still more battles to be fought. There is still more territory to be conquered. I talked with a woman in her 80s not too long ago who said, “This last month has been the hardest season of my whole life.”

Now to those of us who are some decades younger that may not be real encouraging. But you know what? God doesn’t give you grace today if you’re in your 50's for what you will face in your 80's.

God’s giving me grace today for my late 40s, for what I need for that and the challenges. And when I’m facing the challenges of, Lord willing, my 80s, then there will be grace for that. But realize that it’s not going to be a downhill ride. There will still be challenges and issues to be faced.

And then just this final word that even while our physical bodies are deteriorating, our spirit and our inner man can be fresh and fruitful. That’s what I want for myself; that’s what I want for you.

I love that passage in Psalm 92 that says,

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord; they shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing (verses 12-14, NKJV).

You hear that word flourish three times in that passage. You know it’s one thing to flourish when you’re in your 20s, your 30s, your 40s. But I want to be flourishing up until the very last day that God gives me breath. Fresh, fresh, fresh and flourishing in old age. It’s still possible! Fruitful, fresh, and flourishing.

And why? To declare that the Lord is upright. He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

That’s what I want to be saying on my death bed. That’s what I want to be saying when my eyes aren’t working and my ears aren’t working and I can’t walk. I don’t know what the Lord has ahead for me physically. I’m not trying to plan for trouble but I’ve been around enough old people to know that things will be different then than they are today.

But one thing I want to be the same or even more true and that is I’m proclaiming to others, “God is great. God is good. He’s a rock you can depend on. He’s holy. He’s pure.” And by God’s grace we are still finding fruitfulness, we are fresh, and we are flourishing no matter what age. Amen? Amen.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been explaining something important: you do not have to fear. That’s a bold statement in 2009. It’s a statement that unbelievers need to hear and one that we need to be living out day by day.

Nancy, today’s message about investing in the upcoming generation comes at a unique time for Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: That’s right Leslie. Last fall Revive Our Hearts launched the first True Woman Conference and reverberations from that conference are continuing to this day. Women are calling; they’re writing; they’re emailing; they’re asking us for more conferences and more resources to show them how to live as God’s true women. I believe that we’ve seen the start of a new women’s movement in this generation.

Now when that movement was first launched last October, the world economic crisis was just starting to come into sharper focus. So day by day as we’ve seen the ministry potential growing the funds to accomplish that ministry have actually fallen off so that as we come to the end of our fiscal year this month we’ve been facing a significant budget deficit.

I’m so thankful for those listeners who’ve given generously during the month of May. They’ve said, “We believe in this ministry and we want to leave a legacy among women today.” If you haven’t had a chance to give yet, we need to hear from you today.

Would you ask the Lord what He would have you to give even as our fiscal year comes to a close this weekend? When you give a gift of any amount we want to send you a thank you gift.

We’ll send you a new Revive Our Hearts exclusive booklet called Turning the Tide that was recently written by my friend Holly Elliff. In this booklet Turning the Tide Holly leads you through a process of looking at the legacy that you’re leaving for your children.

Plus we want to send you our current series on CD. It’s part 12 from the longer series on the life of Joshua. It’s called Leaving a Legacy. When you call ask for the series on CD and the booklet Turning the Tide.

The number to call is 1-800-569-5959, or you can go to our website and donate at ReviveOurHearts.com and we’ll send these resources to you.

Let me just say thank you to each person who’s had a part in helping us to meet the need this month. We look forward to seeing what God has provided here at our fiscal year end, and we’re asking the Lord to help us be good stewards of whatever resources He entrusts to us.

Thank you for praying, for giving, for helping us call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Well, we’ve been talking about investments all this week—eternal investment of money, investments in the next generation, and next week Nancy will talk about the investment of your time and the habits you’re forming. Your activity today will have a big effect on your life in later years. Find out why next week on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Topics: Aging

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