Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Kingdom Living in Later Years

Leslie Basham: Here’s a challenge for women living in the empty nest years. Nancy Leigh DeMoss wants to know, does God have something of eternal significance for you in this time of life?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God gives us a season where there is some margin. Let’s be sure we’re asking Him how it can be used for His glory, for the advancement of His kingdom.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, July 11.

All week Nancy’s been talking with pastors’ wives Kim Wagner, Holly Elliff, and Rebecca Lutzer. She’s continuing today in this series called, "Flourishing in the Empty Nest."

Nancy: We represent, actually, a couple different decades here around this table. Children are grown, now there are grandchildren. What are some of the ways we can be investing in His kingdom, being fruitful (not just frittering our lives away and taking it easy)—really being useful for God’s kingdom as we get to be older women?

Holly: I think there’s a tendency—and we see it in our church—for women who have gone through all the stages. They’ve worked in the nursery. They’ve taught in preschool. They’ve done their stint in the youth group. Now their kids are grown, and they think, Okay, I’ve done all that, so now it’s kind of my turn to not do that anymore.

What is tragic about that is that you take all of those years of walking after Christ, and learning and experiencing things and gaining wisdom, and at the moment when God wants to impart that wisdom to somebody else, you sit down. I’m sorry—that’s just not in the Bible. There is no place where God says, “Sit down.”

Nancy’s referenced Caleb in a previous recording, and God calling him out late in his life. I just see God do that so many times.

Nancy: Tell us about that woman in your church who’s been teaching girls for years and years.

Holly: We had a precious woman in our church who died after a twenty-year battle with cancer. When she first found out she had cancer, she was teaching a class of twelve-year-old girls. She decided she would not quit. She would go have chemotherapy and then come that night and faithfully teach her class of girls.

My daughter Jessica’s class was the last class she taught before she died. To this day, Jessica can take the Bible and trace the red thread through the Bible. It was stuff that you would think twelve-year-old girls would not want to know, but she had such a commitment to that class. Her precious husband enabled her to teach that class. He would come with her, unload her from the car, put her in a wheelchair, push her in, hold the pictures up, put the charts on the wall (she could no longer do it).

The girls through that class made a notebook together. Jessica still has her notebook, showing the “scarlet thread” through the Bible. She can tell you what God was intentional about, why Jesus came, and what He was here to do.

Nancy: That reminds me of a woman I knew. I called her Mom Johnson, and I lived with her and her husband when I was in college. They were in their sixties then, and they took me in for a couple of years. Fast forward . . . she died in her nineties. She had been widowed the last couple of years after caring for her elderly husband. He got sick and died before she did.

I had lunch with her out in California while I was out there for some other meetings—she was probably ninety-two years of age. She had just had a doctor’s appointment, everything was great, she was praising the Lord for great health. She was still studying God’s Word. She was still mentoring younger women.

Right after I was out there, she received a diagnosis of leukemia, and within six weeks was with the Lord. I went out for her funeral. I had a young mom in her thirties (I think) come up to me and introduce herself. She said, “Mom Johnson was discipling me, was mentoring me.” Here was a woman in her nineties who said, “By God’s grace, I’m going to give out to other women as long as I have breath. I’m not just going to sit and take or soak or get bitter or get cranky. I’m going to be investing.”

Kim Wagner: That is the Titus 2 model. That is what our church tries to live by—the older women bringing along the younger women. And the younger women can be older, too. The twenty-year-old is older than the sixteen-year-old. She is setting an example, in her living a life of faithfulness, for younger women.

We were traveling down to one of your Revive Our Hearts conferences in Denton, I believe, several years ago. We loaded up our church vans and our cars and had a caravan headed down to Denton. We stopped and went into a convenience store where we were getting our snacks for the trip.

We had girls from seven years old up to ladies in their seventies. We were laughing and talking and visiting in the convenience store, and then we all filed out. It is so unusual for the world to see this kind of interaction going on, and so the lady that was checking us all out, since I was the last one going out, looked at me and said, “What are y’all?”

I said, “What do you mean?”

She said, “I’m sorry, but some of you are old, and I’ve never seen young people and old people laughing and having such fun together.”

I said, “We’re believers.” I explained to her what we were doing. I said, “We’re a church family, and this is how we operate. We’re involved in each others’ lives; we care for each other. We know what each other is going through.”

That’s the way Scripture set it up. Older women have such a well of information—like you said, Holly—and life experience to pass on to younger women. If older women sit down or go off on their motor home trip for the next nine months, the Body of Christ is missing out if the older generation does not pour out into these younger women.

Holly: Sometimes it’s even through your mistakes. I lead a mom’s group in our church. I had an older woman come to me and say, “I can’t speak into the lives of these young moms because I didn’t do it right. I didn’t spend the time I should have with my kids. I didn’t lead them toward Christ. I’m divorced. I don’t think I have anything to say.”

I said, “Yes, you do. You can say, ‘I didn’t do it right. But you pick up your Bible and learn from the Lord.’” Even through our mistakes we can still teach and point others toward Christ.

Rebecca Lutzer: Elisabeth Elliot used to say, “It’s never too late to obey,” and that speaks to that. I think I have another verse here that speaks to what we’re talking about, Nancy. In l Corinthians 15, the last verse: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (v. 58 KJV).

Sometimes it seems like our labor is in vain. We’re weary, we’re worn out, we want somebody else to do it, we want a break . . . but, I’m going to bring up a new idea here. I think the ministry of hospitality has gone by the wayside. We’re rushing out of our houses, we rush back in, put something in the microwave, feed everybody, and then rush them back out the door to a game or whatever.

I know life is busy. I see my grandkids involved in a lot of things, but I think we older women need to minister to some of the younger women. A lot don’t know how to cook. A lot don’t know how to have a home prepared so you can have people come in. Maybe, just one family at a time, or one older person at a time who needs to be loved on . . . Have that evening to bring a family in and feed them, play games and talk, ask them questions, listen to them, and say, “How can we help you and minister to you?”

You don’t have to break your back cooking or cleaning. You want to have something nice and presentable . . . but I think that is a great way we older ladies can minister to the younger ones. Especially we empty nesters, because you don’t have the little kids around and everything.

What do you think about that?

Nancy: I’m thinking about so many ways older women can minister. I'm thinking of the passage in Luke 2 about Anna in the temple. She had been married for seven years, and then she was a widow until she was eighty-four years old, so she had many more years as a widow than she had years married.

Scripture says, “She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day” (v. 37). She was there when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple to be dedicated—she was one of the first to see Him. She was one of the only ones (she and Simeon were the two that day) who recognized who He was.

There was all kinds of coming and going that day in the temple, but they were ones who’d been waiting in the presence of the Lord and identified Jesus when He showed up. And then, "coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38).

So she had this network of relationships. She had earned the right to be heard. She was sensitive to what God was doing. She was a grateful woman, a praying woman—not living those years in self-indulgence, frittering her life away. She was living purposefully, living intentionally. And then, she has this ministry as an evangelist at eighty-four years of age, talking about Jesus!

Then, I think about other women who, as they get older, become more narrow, more critical, self-centered. In fact, I had two elderly great aunts who were sisters who lived together and with family members over many years. They were both Greek aunts and never spoke English really well.

One of them was so sweet, so gracious, had such a kind and gentle heart. The other was, shall I just say, difficult. You wonder how two sisters could be so different. The the way we shape the environment by our priorities, by our spirit, by what matters to us, how we talk, how we respond . . .

The two sisters were so different! I remember seeing them as I was growing up and thinking, Alright, I’m going to be one of those two kinds of women. Which one do I want to be? Well, I want to be the sweet one, the gracious one, the one whose presence is a fragrance. It was helpful. I saw this as a teenage girl and young adult, realizing, I’m not going to be that kind of sweet, gracious, fragrant woman someday, if I’m not becoming that now.

This is why I’ve really encouraged younger woman to be thinking about what kind of older woman they want to be . . . to realize, “I’m not just going to wake up and be that." One thing I’ve always wanted to be—besides old—Holly, is sweet. And I was not born that way.

Let me say a word to single women—I’ve noticed a lot of single women, as we get older, who become, not so gracious, not so sweet, but more critical, more narrow, more censorious. That’s been a caution to me—seeing this in other people. I say to myself, “Alright, I want to be more gracious, more loving, more kind, more sensitive to the needs of others.” It’s painting this picture: “The path of the righteous is like the light of the day—it shines brighter and brighter until the fullness of day.”

What does that look like? Lord, what do you want my life to look like? How can I put people around me and how can I be intentional about people around me who will help me become more of that kind of woman? I’m in my mid-fifties . . . Holly, I really don’t think I’m old. But I think about getting old, and I want to be setting myself on a trajectory to be a fruitful, faithful, fragrant, gracious woman of God then.

Kim: You’re trying to prepare for that by knowing, “Okay, there are certain tendencies I have,” and asking God to change you, grow you up as you’re growing old, mature you in Christ. I think it is so necessary to continue to have a teachable spirit all the way through to our last breath.

Rebecca: As long as you’re breathing.

Holly: We had a little woman in our church in Oklahoma, Naomi Davis. She was a widow, and she was what my husband called “feisty,” but she had a tremendous heart for the Lord. She would go with us on mission trips. We would be exhausted at the end of the day, and she would walk in and say, “Why are you all sitting here? Are y’all tired?” And we’re saying, “Yes!”

So we had said to Miss Davis (she was eighty-seven at that point, I think), “It would be good if you would just stay in the hotel today and rest up a little bit.” We had had some really long days. We left, and we were doing ministry stuff. She waited about fifteen minutes after we left, and then, sneaking out of her room, she came down to the lobby and witnessed to people all afternoon long while we were gone.

She was a phenomenal woman. I remember when she told me about her mission trip to India—I think she was about seventy-seven at that point. She said, “I walked into our hotel in India. I pulled back the covers, and my linens were filthy and covered with spiders. There were spiders all over the corners of the room. I looked at that and I thought, There are people in this town who don’t know Jesus, and a few spiders are not going to keep me from telling them about Him. I swept the spiders off my pillow, and I slept like a baby.

She was seventy-seven years old, and she was a warrior for the Lord. She was so anxious for others to know about Him and not to waste one day.

Nancy: Let me share with you as we close a burden that’s been on my heart a lot through the years we’ve been doing Revive Our Hearts. That is this whole demographic of the baby-boomers . . . which many of us are in. There are seventy-seven million baby-boomers in this country. The first wave of those has now hit retirement age, with a lot to follow.

It’s the largest generation our country’s ever had, and probably the largest we ever will have—due to declining birth rates. That generation is living longer, is healthier. In spite of financial challenges, it’s actually better off than most previous generations. What if millions of those baby-boomers are women who call themselves Christians—followers of Christ—and whose children are grown.

There’s a several-year window there, when your children are grown and before you have a lot of grandchildren. For many women, they’ve still got a lot of energy, they’ve got time, some resources. What’s happening is, women’s ministry leaders, pastors’ wives have said to me, “So many of those women at that season are going back to work outside the home because they want some kind of significance, something interesting to them, to keep them from being bored."

Women are telling us, “There’s no one to lead the women’s ministries in our local church.” So who’s doing it? The younger women are doing it, the ones who are still raising their kids and don’t have the life experience. They need the older woman input. So the younger women are saying, “Where are the older women?” A lot of the older women are saying, “We’ve done our part.”

I just keep envisioning, what if millions of these boomer women, who are followers of Jesus—or claim to be—would say, “God has given me a gift of a season here.” I’m not saying whether or not you go out to work—that’s not really the point. The point is, are you investing your life and making it count in a way that is thinking beyond this life . . . thinking about eternity?

I think of Elisabeth Elliot starting Gateway to Joy radio program when she was sixty-three years old!

Kim: You’re not near there yet . . . you’ve got quite a few years to go!

Holly: I asked Susan Hunt, “How old were you when you wrote your first book?”

And she said, “Oh . . . sixty-something.” That was when she started writing books!

Nancy: This is not to say that every woman is going to write books or start a radio program. It’s not how visible it is, but it’s . . . are you investing your life?

You may say, “I don’t know any younger women; they’re not interested in what I have to offer.” You’d be surprised. If you make yourself available and look around and ask God, “What do you have for me in this season?” I love that story of Caleb saying at age eighty-five—having already served the Lord faithfully for many years—“Give me one more mountain for Jehovah.”

“I want to do it for Him.” He says, “You’ve given me the strength; you’ve given me the desire to do this.” And do you know what he does? He does. He takes the city that belonged to the Anakim. Do you know who the Anakim were? They were the ones who, forty years earlier, when he was one of the spies who went into Israel (The ten came back and said, “They’re too big for us.” And Joshua and Caleb said, “By God’s grace we can take them.”) it was the Anakim of which they said, “They’re as big as giants.”

That kept the Children of Israel from going into the Promised Land. Forty-five years later Caleb was eight-five, he said, “I want to take the Anakim. I want to take them for God’s glory.” I just think, at eighty-five, you could be forgiven for not wanting to take down giants and mountains, right? But what if God has something for me, for you, in terms of investing in other lives?

Can you imagine if in this country there was a host of Christian women—and single women—who would say, “I have the freedom . . . I can move to another country to share Jesus. I can learn another language," or "I can move into this urban neighborhood and get involved in helping this community and sharing Jesus Christ,” or “I can get involved in a crisis pregnancy center," or "I can get involved in this prison ministry, "I can get involved in discipling twelve-year-olds in a class in my church.”

The opportunities are endless. Why should we leave it to the moms who have four kids or more, in a season of life where they’re so stretched, when God gives us a season where there’s some margin. Let’s be sure we’re asking Him how it can be used for His glory, for the advancement of His kingdom.

This is part of the vision of Revive Our Hearts—that there’d be this whole swath of that boomer demographic who would say, “We’re not going to sleep.” Ask the Lord, “Is there something of eternal significance that you have for my life?” It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be grandiose.

What if millions of us Christian women would say, when God puts us in a season with some time and resources on our hands, “Here am I, Lord. I’m available. Who can I talk to about Jesus? Who can I mentor? Who can I nurture and nourish? How can I serve? Who can I cook meals for? Where do you want me to plug in?”

God will put a passion in your heart; He will put opportunities there. I just pray that we will be available, and we will say “yes.” I believe that in a quiet sort of counter-revolution, we could have huge influence on the selfishness, the worldliness, the lack of interest in the gospel among so many of those who are coming behind us.

I believe God could send revival if we had praying women, serving women, going women, giving women. I’m not saying fill every spare minute of your life with busyness. You might be like Anna, that God calls you to hours a day of prayer. Maybe that’s the calling He’ll have for you. I don’t know what it is, but find out what it is, and let God use you for His glory and for His kingdom. Then it will be said of you, as is said in Proverbs 4, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”

The full day . . . that’s when we see Jesus. So, I just want to challenge you, let His light in you shine brighter and brighter. Don’t let tiredness—or anything—be an excuse for what God may want to do in and through your life in this season.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been casting a vision for older women. It’s time to engage, invest, and embrace all God has for you. One way to start is to get a CD copy of this series, "Flourishing in the Empty Nest." It just so happens that we’ll send you your own copy as a thank you, when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size.

It’s your donation that will help us speak to women in all seasons of life, encouraging them to whole-heartedly embrace all God has for them. Ask for the series "Flourishing in the Empty Nest" when you call with your donation of any amount. The number to call is 1-800-569-5959, or you can always visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

So . . . parents want to teach their kids to be good, right? Elyse Fitzpatrick will join us tomorrow with something even better to teach kids—the gospel. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

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