Today’s Bible readings.
I used to have the attitude that it is wrong for any Christian to want to live a long life. After all, as Paul says, My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better (Philippians 1:23).
But at the same time, Paul was torn, because he wanted to be there for the sake of the Philippian Christians. So, that’s one valid reason to want to stay, Lord willing: the building up of other believers.
Psalm 71 gives another reason:
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. – Psalm 71:17-18
This psalm is a mix of praise for God’s having preserved the psalmist and request that He would continue to do so. At this point in the psalm, he acknowledges that from his youth God has taught him, and he still proclaims His wondrous deeds. What a beautiful picture this is of a life in Christ. Even if you were saved as an adult, you can look back and see the care that God has had for you, teaching you. Oh, what is man that He is mindful of him? May we proclaim His wondrous works.
He goes on to request that just as God had done that for him since he was a child, that He would, even to old age and gray hairs, not forsake him, in other words, continue to preserve him. It is right for us to acknowledge that every breath we take is a result of God’s preserving us and not forsaking us.
For the psalmist, this request was not to get old for the sake of getting old. He wanted the Lord to uphold him until he proclaimed His might to another generation and His power to all those who come.
This is a good reason to hope to get old, God willing. It’s not about doing a worldly bucket list, but about passing down what we know about the glories of God to the next generation. It is a right desire for us to want to proclaim the glories of Christ to as many people as we can, and it’s okay for us to want to live longer for that end.
We don’t have to throw out our hope in the sovereignty of God, thinking that He couldn’t work without us, or that we could presume to dictate our lifespan. But God could use our prayers for old age and our proclamation of Christ as means to do His mighty work.
So, I’ve changed my mind. I’d be glad to go be with the Savior now. But it would also be wonderful to get old, sharing Christ the whole way.