Message 3: Don't Give Up on That Modeling Career

Sept. 29, 2017 Susan Hunt

Session Transcript

Susan Hunt: Susie, our granddaughter, was three or four years old when she slid down her stairs on her pillow just as her mother came around the corner and said, “Susie, don’t ever do that again.”

Susie asked, “Did you do this when you were a little girl?”

And her mother answered, “No. My mother wouldn’t let me.”

And Susie asked, “Who is your mother?”

And Catherine responded, “Susie, Mee-Mawmee is my mother.”

And Susie’s response was, “Uh uh. She’s an old lady.” (laughter)

There’s more. Susie is now the beautiful twenty-two-year old sitting over here with her mother, which makes me a very old lady. (laughter)

But here’s the thing: Every birthday is a gift from the Lord, and I’ve had seventy-seven of them, plus I’ve been happily married for fifty-three years. (applause and cheering) Girls, you have to be an old lady to be able to say that.

I love the quote from Elizabeth Prentiss, the nineteenth century author of Stepping Heavenward, when she wrote to a friend:

I’m ever so glad that I’m growing old every day and so becoming better fitted to be the dear and loving friend to young people that I want to be.

This is the antithesis of the world’s message that aging is our enemy. The Bible says that it’s our friend.

Job 12: “Wisdom is with the aged and understanding and length of days” (v. 12).

Proverbs 16: “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (v. 31).

And, yes, my gray hair is covered with blonde highlights, but it’s there, so I think it counts. (laughter)

Elisabeth Prentiss’ statement is radical because it is not self-centered. The world tells me that it’s time for me. The Bible tells me that it’s time to double-down in investing in the next generation.

Psalm 145: “One generation shall commend your works to the [next generation] and declare your mighty acts” (v. 4).

This generational principle is repeated throughout the Old Testament and is echoed in Paul’s letter when he says that older women are to teach the younger women.

Fifty years ago when my husband graduated from seminary, we served a short time in a small church in a rural community. I was just becoming aware of the Titus mandate, but it made no sense to me because what I’d observed was a division between the older and younger women. And from my twenty-five-year-old perspective, I concluded that the older women were resentful and critical of the younger women because they were fearful of losing control. But the result was, I was fearful of them.

Now, that little church was a part of a denomination that was increasingly questioning the authority of God’s Word. And, looking back, I wonder if those women understood the power and the joy of the gospel of grace. Did they understand the sweetness of being a part of God’s family where there are no generation gaps because of our union with Christ? Did they have the deep assurance of eternal life that comes with hearing sound doctrine taught Sunday after Sunday?

My point: We cannot overstate the importance of Paul’s instruction to the young pastor to teach sound doctrine. We’re products of our theology, whether it’s sound or unsound. What we believe or don’t believe about God shows up every day in every way.

Our passage for this session shows us what sound doctrine produces in those who are saved from our sin through grace by faith in the finished work of Christ. Titus 2:2–3, “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith and love and steadfastness. Older women likewise.”

The characteristics that are the qualities that characterize older men, likewise, should characterize older women.

Now, this is epic, as we begin to consider the virtues that we are to adorn, there’s a sense of wonder and a gratitude that because of the gospel we can become sober-minded. My natural tendency is to be so intoxicated with myself and with the world that I become self-indulgent.

Peter also warns us: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him” (1 Peter 5:7–9).

As we become intoxicated with the majesty of Christ, we become watchful. And we have the desire and the strength to resist our adversary.

We can become dignified. My natural inclination is to become so overwhelmed with life that I freak out and act in inappropriate ways. But we can be still. We can be still in our hearts because we know that He is God. And so there’s an inner peace and a poise, a dignity that, even if our circumstances are chaotic, we’re not.

Instead of being out-of-control, the gospel produces self-control. This comes from a Greek word meaning "to have a saved or a sound mind." And it’s also related to a Greek work that’s used for car brakes.

So the self-controlled woman’s mind is so informed by God’s Word that she knows the biblical boundaries. She knows when to put on the brakes and to say, “No.”

We can become sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Sound doctrine produces sound living. These qualities are not produced by self-effort. They are an outward expression of an inner transformation.

Here’s the headline: 2 Corinthians 3: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (v. 18).

We become what we behold. When we behold the fake promises and priorities of the world, we become out-of-control. We become chaotic, self-centered, and overwhelmed. When we behold the glory of God, we become like Christ.

In our second church, there were older women who loved me. They loved my husband, and they loved our children. I began to feel safe with older women.

One of them taught me her simplified explanation of transformation. Over and over I heard her say, “I did what I wanted to before what I was saved. I do what I want to now, but God has changed my want-to’s. And I’m reminded to pray, “Lord, change my want-to’s so that I want Your will and not my will for my life.”

And so, just like that, I’m the older woman. So let me share four observations of things I wish I had known as a younger woman half a century ago.

Number one: I’m here on planet earth to glorify God, to put His glory on display. This is stated with profound simplicity in the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I’ll ask the question, and if you’ll read the answer with me.

What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

There are many things I cannot do because of my age. I don’t move as fast. I don’t think as fast. But those things do not have to keep me from fulfilling my purpose: to glorify and to enjoy God. So, right here, right now, whether I’m on a stage in Indianapolis or one day confined to a bed: Show up. Be present. Shine His glory as we adorn the character of Christ.

Secondly, I don’t have to be able to solve all of a young woman’s problems to encourage and equip her to live for God’s glory.

In our late forties we went on staff of a church with godly older women who had been taught sound doctrine. They loved the younger women. They were our cheerleaders. Titus 2 came alive for me. I had begun working outside the home, so I was trying to juggle a job outside the home and home responsibilities. I was making some big decisions in ministry. I was discouraged. I was fearful. And I was weary.

So I visited Evelyn, a woman in her eighties. I cluttered the air with my words and my woes, and finally I wailed, “Evelyn, what should I do?”

Evelyn looked at me with compelling dignity and tenderness, and she said, “As I listened to you, I kept thinking of one thing: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Girls, that is sound doctrine. The clutter seemed to go away. I could see beyond it to God’s sovereign love for me. Now, there was tremendous weight behind Evelyn’s words because I knew her story.

Her mother had died when she was a little girl, and Evelyn and her brother Ralph, who had Down Syndrome, were raised by their grandmother who died when Evelyn was a very young woman. But before she died, she repeatedly said, "Take care of Ralph."

Evelyn was widowed at a young age. She never had children of her own. But out of a heart of faith, she took care of Ralph. She also taught Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, women’s Bible study. She had a host of spiritual children.

Until she was bedridden in her mid-nineties, she always showed up for church, and she always looked so pretty. She was so cheerful. And her gray hair was a crown of glory gained in a righteous life.

And this leads to my third observation: Living out the beauty of the gospel together is not just a clever tagline; it’s a gospel imperative.

The local church is where we know each other’s stories. It’s where we hear sound doctrine, so we learn how to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. It’s where are knit together in love.

Church is the place where we make disciples. Evelyn lived to be 100, and she continued to disciple me from her bed in an assisted living home, not by her words, because the time came when she could no longer speak, but by her sweet submission to God’s Word and to His plan for her on this earth.

My fourth observation is for young women, and all of us are younger than someone. You have a responsibility to reach out to older women.

Circle back to those older women in our first church. How would that experience have been different if I had reached out to them?

  • What if I had taken time to get to know their stories?
  • What if I had asked about the history of that church and of that community?
  • What if I had invited groups of older and younger women into our home and asked the older women to tell us things that they had learned about the Lord that they wished they had known at our age?
  • What if I had asked them to share their prayer requests with us and if I had asked the young women to share their prayer requests with the older women and if we had prayed for one another

In my arrogant immaturity, I robbed myself, and I delayed my growth in grace. I did not have a teachable spirit. But as always, our faithful God makes all things work together for our good and His glory. I don’t get a do-over with those women, but my failure in that experience has been used by the Lord to make me passionate to encourage and equip older and younger women to live out the beauty of the gospel together.

My sisters, wherever you are on life’s timeline, begin now to pray for grace to finish strong. The older I get, the more I understand that finishing strong means finishing weak. Jesus said in 2 Corinthians, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (12:9). May our response be that of Paul, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. When I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 9–10).

This verse is very real, very precious, very personal to me. I always knew it at some level, but a few years ago, I had a sudden and severe attack of vertigo that was eventually diagnosed as being the result of a virus in my inner ear, which left me with very little balance. So my body has had to learn to compensate for me to stand upright. It also left me deaf in one ear. My eyes sort of dance around and don’t always focus well.

But what I have learned through this is the power of God in my weakness. For me to stand here with lights glaring in my eyes, to not topple over and to put two or three sentences together is a testimony to the power of God. So I boast in my weakness. (applause)

But the truth is, that was always the case, not just when I had that episode of vertigo. And the sooner we acknowledge our utter dependence upon Him, the sooner we know the power of His strength upon us.

No wonder I used to get tired, because I was trying to operate too much on self-effort. I knew I should depend on the Lord, and I said I did, but I did not know it to the depths that I know now.

So let me encourage you: The world tells us to develop self-confidence. But the Bible says to put no confidence in the flesh. What we need is not self-confidence. We need Christ confidence. So don’t fight against your weakness, and don’t deny your weakness. Let it bring a child-like dependence upon our strong Savior.

I love the prayer in the hymn “Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded.” It goes like this: “O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.”

That’s my prayer, but my comfort and my confidence is even if I outlive my love for Jesus, I will never outlive His love for me. (applause)

He tells us in Isaiah 46: “Listen to me, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived and have carried since your birth, even to old age, and gray hairs, I am He. I am He who will sustain you. I have made you, and I will carry you. I will sustain you, and I will rescue you” (see vv. 3–5).

So how does it feel to be an old lady? It feels like a tired, very dependent, very happy little girl being carried in the arms of her Father, and she’s calling to her friends, “Look how good and strong my Daddy is!” And she knows that when she falls asleep in His arms, she’ll wake up at home. (applause)

Father, we give You all praise and glory, but even if our love for You fails, we will never outlive Your love for us. In the name and to the glory of Jesus, amen.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Some of you have heard me say that, from the time I was a little girl—you’ve got some Kleenex in our totes there. Hope you’ve found them (laughter)—it was always my goal to be a godly, old lady, and we just heard one. (applause)

But the point of this text and the point of this conference is that God has given us the means to become that godly, old lady. How amazing is that? Out of fear, out of weakness, out of failure, we teach, as Susan just did, out of our life’s message, and never shining the light on ourselves, but always on His character, His faithfulness, His lovingkindness.

And that’s what this transfer of the baton is all about.

Thank you, Susan. I love you so much.

Susan: I love you, too, Nancy.