Revive Our Hearts Podcast

All the Way to the Finish Line

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the power of habit.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It’s unlikely that I will have greater character and convictions and faith forty years from now than I am developing and exercising today. If I don’t follow the Lord wholeheartedly in my forties, I’m not likely to do so in my 80s. If I’m not diligent and vigorous in warfare today, I’m not likely to be winning major battles or making significant spiritual conquests in the evening of my life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 31, 2014.

Through several series this fall, we’ve been learning from the life of Joshua. Early in his life, the Lord began calling him to fight great battles. And later in life, he faced other kinds of battles: staying faithful during the challenges of old age; leaving a legacy; running all the way to the finish line. Nancy will explore those today.

Nancy: Some time ago I was asked to join others in writing a letter of congratulations to a friend of mine who was turning eighty. His name is Al Sanders, and many of you know the voice of Al Sanders. I think he was the original announcer on Chuck Swindoll’s Insight for Living program. He’s been for many years the announcer on Joni Eareckson Tada’s program. He's been actively involved in Christian radio for many years. He and his wife Margaret are a precious couple, great servants of the Lord, so I was more than happy to write a letter to Al for his eightieth birthday.

I want to read to you a portion of what I said in that letter:

Dear Al:

In anticipation of your birthday, I did a little research on octogenarians and discovered they have quite a list of accomplishments to their credit. For example:

“Bob Flink of Grand Rapids gathered with area skiers to celebrate his eighty-fifth birthday and his over eight decades of downhill skiing. Not only does he regularly hit the slopes for pleasure, he serves Cannonsburg Ski Area on ski patrol or as a first-responder when fellow skiers need help—at eighty-five.

And then "at age eighty, Bill Waumbach of Madison, Wisconsin, broke the high jump record for an octogenarian, clearing the bar at 4’ 1.6"."

Then there is "eighty-three-year-old Edward Rappaport who recently completed the L.A. Marathon and is finishing his thesis at CAL State—Northridge to earn his Master's degree in Health Sciences with an emphasis in gerontology."

And this one: "Swiss octogenarian Mark Hoddler has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1963; headed the International Skiing Federation for an astonishing forty-seven years, retiring in 1998, and was president of the Swiss Bridge Federation for thirty years. Recently in Bermuda he was named 'Bridge Personality of the Year' by the International Bridge Press Association."

“Then in February incumbent president Abduli Wade of Senegal, now in his eighties, ran against fourteen other candidates. He won the election in the first round with almost 56% of the vote.”

Well, I listed several others, and then I went on to say to my friend Al:

As impressive as these feats are, it strikes me that they are temporal and few will long be able to recall these men’s names or what occasioned their fleeting moments in the spotlight. Further, when it comes to true success and impact, from my perspective, none of these high achievers holds a candle to the impact your life has made and will continue to make for generations to come, should the Lord tarry.

I’m grateful for the health and vigor the Lord has given you and Margaret and have no doubt that you will continue to make a mark in even more significant ways in these achievements as you invest your life in serving the Lord and others [which is exactly what Al and Margaret to this date are still doing so faithfully].

In this series on the life of Joshua, we’ve come to Joshua chapters 14 and 15, and here we have the story of two individuals who are old men—Joshua and Caleb. I’m going to insert the story about Caleb here even though he’s not really the object of our study because I want to continue to talk a bit more about this subject of aging and doing it from God’s perspective.

The name “Caleb” actually means “dog.” One dictionary of Bible names says that the implications of his name are “bold, impetuous, and wholehearted.” I think that those terms would describe Caleb. We looked at Joshua as an old man in the last session, now we’re looking at Caleb in Joshua 14. He was a bold man, a wholehearted man at every season and age of his life.

Look with me if you would at chapter 14 of Joshua, beginning in verse 6:

Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal [which was the base camp, the base of operations there]. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.”

By the way, it is such an important principle of Bible study to notice words or phrases that are repeated, and one phrase you’ll find repeated in one way or another five times in verses 6 through 12 is “what the Lord has said, what the Lord said,” and Caleb knows specific things that God has said regarding his situation. He believes them; he applies them; he claims them, and they all come true.

So he says,

You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.

I was forty years old [Caleb says] when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, [now, Joshua knows this story well because Joshua was one of those twelve spies who, along with Caleb, was sent to spy out the land] and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me [the other ten spies] made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God (vv. 7–8).

Again, Joshua remembers this scene well. Most of the other people living in that day do not remember it because they were all under age twenty at the time—they were teenagers or children—but Joshua and Caleb remember that God sent twelve of them into the land and said, “Tell us what you see.”

The next step was supposed to be the whole nation of Israel would go in and take possession of the land. But when the twelve spies came back, ten of them said, “There are giants in the land.” Well, they all said there were giants in the land, but ten of them said, “The giants are too big for us. We cannot take over this land.” The two, Joshua and Caleb, said, “The giants are no match for God. God is bigger than the giants. We can go into the land.”

The nation chose to believe the ten who brought back the message of fear rather than the two who came back with the message of faith, and as a result, the Children of Israel were not able to go into the land. They spent the next thirty-eight years wandering in the wilderness.

Just a little background here, and this is what Caleb is remembering and talking to Joshua about now that it’s years later.

I came across two quotes that I want to share with you that I thought were terrific, reflecting on that season and how Joshua and Caleb had been men of faith rather than fear.

Jim Boyce, in his commentary on the book of Joshua says:

Compared to the giants, the Jews seemed like grasshoppers. Caleb and Joshua looked at God rather than circumstances, and when compared to God, the giants were as grasshoppers.

Isn’t that good? It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Then Allen Redpath, who also has written an excellent book on Joshua, says:

The majority—that’s the majority of the spies—measured the giants against their own strength. Caleb and Joshua measured the giants against God. The majority trembled; the two triumphed. The majority had great giants but a little God. Caleb and Joshua had a great God and little giants.

Really, people fall into those two categories today, don’t they? I find some days I’m in the place of Caleb and Joshua—big God, little giants—and some days I’m in the place of the ten spies—big giants, little God. It’s a matter of faith and perspective.

The big take-away, by the way, for me, from the life of Joshua over all these months has been along these lines, just realizing how prone I have been to focus on the giants rather than focusing on God. I’ve had a huge adjustment in my perspective over these last months as I’ve been living with the life of Joshua and coming to see giants from a whole different perspective because I’ve lifted up my eyes, and I’m seeing God, but sometimes it’s not nine o’clock in the morning before I’m focused on the giants again. That’s where we have to keep going back and keep fixing our eyes on the Lord and keep remembering that the giants are no match for God—whatever they may be in your life.

Caleb goes on to say in verse 9:

And Moses swore on that day, saying, "Surely the land on which your foot has trodden" [he said this to Joshua and Caleb—because you believed God], surely this land shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.”

Now here it is, forty-five years later, and Caleb still remembers the promise that God made to him when he was a much younger man. He remembers the promises of God. He remembers the Word of God, and he claims it. He applies the Word to his situation.

I’m struck as I read this how important it is for us to get to know the Word and the promises of God, and then to bank our life on them. “Lord, You said . . . now I’m claiming that.”

Not every promise in the Bible is ours to claim, but find the ones that are and bank your life on them, whether you’re forty or eighty-five, and whether God gave them years ago, or He’s given them recently. Center your life on the promises and the Word of God and claim that it’s true.

By the same token, I see that Caleb had to wait forty-five years to receive the answer to this promise. Forty-five years earlier God had promised him this inheritance, and all those years, he didn’t experience the fulfillment of that promise. You wonder if some time during those years, as they were wandering in the wilderness, he didn’t say—to himself at least—“Did God really mean that? Am I ever going to get to live in that land? Am I going to live to see Canaan, much less put down roots there and have an inheritance there? But God said . . . ” And he kept taking his heart back to the counsel of God, the promises of God, the Word of God.

I want to remind you that rewards for faithfulness don’t always come now. They may come later in life. It may seem that God’s promises to you will never be fulfilled, but I want to challenge you: Stay faithful now. Cling to God. Cling to His promises. Be faithful, and in due season, you will reap the reward.

I think of older couples I’ve met—old couples—people who’ve been married fifty, sixty years or more. All of those couples would testify that there were seasons in their marriage, years earlier, where it would have been real easy to throw in the towel. Some of them almost did, but now they’re so thankful that they hung in there, so thankful that they were faithful to those marriage vows.

Almost without exception I have seen that when they get to that last season of their lives, they’re experiencing a richness and a sweetness and a beauty in their relationship that maybe thirty years ago they never dreamed that they would have.

Maybe thirty years ago they were thinking, “I don’t know that I can stand to live with you for another thirty years.” But now they look at each other, and their lives have been blended together, and they love each other, and they’re committed to each other, and they always will say, “I’m so thankful that God gave us grace to stay faithful.” They’re reaping now the rewards—long term—of decisions that they made twenty, thirty, forty years ago to be faithful when it was hard.

Caleb goes on to say, verse 10:

And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.

I love those verses. Over many years I have said, “Lord, if it would please You, would You let me have to eighty-five to serve You with strength, with a whole heart.” God may not give me eighty-five years. He may not give me eighty-five more days. God may give me more than eighty-five years, but I just asked Him if it would please Him, would He let me be a modern-day Caleb, to be faithful and wholehearted and still living as a woman of faith when I’m eighty-five years of age.

Caleb had seen the hand of God in his life. He said, “The Lord has kept me alive.” He realizes it’s for a purpose that God has done this.

Old age is an opportunity to showcase God’s sustaining power and grace. Whether you’re strong, as Caleb was, or whether you’re weak, as many more are—there are not many at the age of eighty-five who can say, “I’m as strong today as I was at age forty.” That was supernatural strength. It’s like what we read about in Deuteronomy 34 about Moses. He was 120 years old when he died. “His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.” That’s supernatural. That’s unusual, and God doesn’t normally do it that way.

But let me say this: Faith will give you strength. And, on the other hand, unbelief and rebellion will sap your strength. I have seen that in my own life over and over again. Worry, anxiety, fear, unbelief—they make me weak—but faith makes me strong—faith in the Lord, not faith in myself. Faith in God gives us courage; whereas, when we give in to unbelief and fear, it makes us cowardly and fearful.

So here’s Caleb exercising faith and courage. He says in verse 12, eighty-five years of age: “So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities.” I don’t know if you remember reading about the Anakim earlier in our study, but they were the giants and the descendants of the giants, and Caleb remembers that they were there, and he says: “It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.”

The older I get, the more I face the temptation to want to take it easy, to want to stay out of the battle, to want just to relax, but not so with Caleb. At age eighty-five, he is still looking for more battles to fight for the Lord, and he’s not looking for the easy ones. He chooses the hill country where the giants are living in large fortified cities. But he’s learned long ago that the Lord is his strength. He says, “It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”

So at the age of eighty-five, as he had done at the age of forty, he trusts in God. He trusts in the presence of God, in the power of God, and the promises of God.

It reminds me of what the psalmist says in Psalm 18:29, “For by You [Lord] I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.”

At this age, I’m not leaping over many walls, physically, but by God’s grace I want to be spiritually living, not in the realm of the explainable or the natural, but in the realm of the supernatural, by faith.

Verse 13: “Then Joshua blessed him [blessed Caleb], and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.”

I love that verse. Joshua, who is a type of Christ, remember, our heavenly Joshua. Jesus is the Greek word for the Old Testament word Joshua. “Joshua blessed Caleb.”

One commentator said that word blessed here means "to make potent, to reproduce and prevail."

So here is Joshua blessing this eighty-five-year-old man. Joshua himself is in his nineties, and he’s an old man blessing an old man to make him potent, to reproduce, and prevail.

“And he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.”

Joshua is infusing strength—the strength of the Lord—into Caleb, as the Lord does to us when we are willing to move forward for Him.

I think that’s a picture of what our relationship with Christ is supposed to be about, where we say, “Lord, I want more for You. It’s not for me. It’s for You. It’s so people can know how great You are.” And our heavenly Joshua says, “I bless you. I make you potent to reproduce and to prevail. It’s not your strength. It’s Mine.” And then He gives that which we have asked from Him for His glory.

So don’t lose heart, but live for the ultimate blessing of your heavenly Joshua. It’s worth waiting for. Caleb waited all these years, and he finally got it.

We see in Caleb’s life the lifelong impact of choices that he made as a younger man. Earlier in his life he had walked by faith. He had acted according to what God had put in his heart even when to do so meant being politically incorrect. He had followed the Lord wholeheartedly in a day when he and Joshua were the only two who did. But those choices, that character, those convictions that characterized Caleb’s life as a young man stayed with him throughout his whole life, and that became the basis, the foundation for his life for when he was an older man.

That’s a good reminder for me. I’m not eighty-five, or close to it yet, but I have to realize that it’s unlikely that I will have greater character and convictions and faith forty years from now than I am developing and exercising today. If I don’t follow the Lord wholeheartedly in my forties, I’m not likely to do so in my eighties. If I’m not diligent and vigorous in warfare today, I’m not likely to be winning major battles or making significant spiritual conquests in the evening of my life.

Now is the time, whatever age you are, to exercise faith, to be faithful and fervent in spirit, if we desire to be vigorous and vital in our faith and our service at the end of our lives.

So here’s a man of faith, a man of vision. Caleb doesn’t have a retirement mindset. He’s willing to embrace the challenges and stay in the battle. He’s saying, as we need to: “How can my life demonstrate the power and the greatness of God at this age and at this season of life? What will bring Him the greatest glory?”

Let me share with you in closing here how I ended the letter that I sent to my friend, Al Sanders, as he was celebrating his eightieth birthday. I said to him:

I love that verse in Proverbs chapter 4, verse 18, that says "The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day." In my mind, you and Margaret exemplify that verse as your lives have radiated the life of Christ in ever-increasing measure over the decades that you have known and served Him.

Indelibly imprinted in my mind are the words you shared upon receiving the William Ward Ayer Award at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention a few years ago as you expressed your desire to finish well.

Thank you for demonstrating that it really is possible to keep running well in the race that is set before us. Often when I get tired or I’m tempted to go AWOL in the ministry, I think of fellow servants like you and Margaret, and I’m inspired to be faithful and to keep running by His grace.

May the Lord grant you a full and rich measure of His grace in this season of your life, and may He keep you faithful in the race all the way to the finish line.

With affection and appreciation and admiration,

Nancy DeMoss

I feel that same affection, appreciation, and admiration for those of you who are older women and have been faithful in the race and are still faithful. Thank you.

  • Thank you for staying faithful.
  • Thank you for setting the pace.
  • Thank you for setting the course.
  • Thank you for being there and for the challenge and blessing that your life is to other women, younger women, like myself.

And to those of you who are younger women, or young women, may I just say: “Press on. Don’t try to figure out how you’re going to do it when you’re eighty-five. Do it now. It’s God’s grace.”

I was thinking this morning about that hymn, “'Tis grace has brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us safely home.”

So, Lord, how I pray that You would calibrate our hearts at whatever age or season we may be, that we may follow You wholeheartedly now and develop the kind of character and convictions and faith that will go with us through all of our lives. There are still a lot of battles to be fought. There is still a lot of land to be taken. May our lives continue to exercise faith. May we, like Caleb, be saying, “I want that mountain. Not for my sake. But, oh Lord, for Your glory and for the sake of Your great name.”

Keep us faithful, Lord, in the race all the way to the finish line. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Aging is a reality for all of us, no matter where we are in the journey. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is helping us face the future wisely.

That message you just heard is part of the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 12): Leaving a Legacy." 

We’re exploring the life of Joshua from start to finish through several series this fall. To get an individual series, or all the series, on CD, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

All this month, we’ve been letting you know about the Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. Our team has been producing a calendar each year for a long time and a lot of listeners look forward to it every fall. Why a calendar? You need reminders of the truth all the time. We like to point you to biblical truth in this tangible way. As you look at this year’s calendar, you’ll be reminded to look to the Lord for "Peace in the Storm." We’ll all face storms this coming year. It’s a fact of life. This calendar will help you set your heart on the truth through quotes from Nancy and her friends and through original artwork from Timothy Botts.

When you donate any amount to support Revive Our Hearts, we’ll say thanks by sending the calendar—one per household. Today’s the final day we’ll be letting you know about this offer. So call us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Think about someone you know who is truly joyful. You could choose to be just like that person no matter what problems threaten your joy. We’ll explore that tomorrow 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.

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