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aging death Judgment Day mortality Uncategorized

Mbah Gotho, Methusaleh, And Mortality

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Neal Pollard

Incredibly, his residency card and his nation’s official documents, state his birthday as December 31, 1870 (The Guardian). For clarification, that was almost three weeks before Germany became an official nation, only five years after the end of the Civil War (reconstruction was just underway and Ulysses Grant was president), 28 years before the Spanish-American war, 33 years before the airplane was invented, 44 years before the start of World War I, and America was less than 100 years old. Mbah Gotho died in 2017, making him 146 years old at the time. The only reason it is questioned is because his native Indonesia did not begin recording births until 1900. Officials stand firm that it is accurate. Can you imagine? What was it like to live almost a century and a half? To see almost all of 15 decades? 

To put it in perspective, the ancient Methuselah lived almost seven times longer than Mbah. He died at almost 1,000 years old.  Genesis 5:27 faithfully records, “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.” Methuselah was contemporary with Adam and Shem, a gap of over 1,600 years. In a day of pristine gene pools and a water canopy-covered atmosphere, everyone and every thing lived much longer. But God determined a general rule of thumb to which humanity has almost universally submitted, saying, “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3). Thus, an Mbah Gotho is an almost singular oddity. The official oldest age in modern times was reached by Jeanne Calment, who was 122 when she succumbed in 1997. 

Average life expectancy throughout much of recorded time falls more closely in line with what Moses states, in Psalm 90:10, somewhere between 70-80 years of age. War, disease, famine, poverty, and the like sometimes curtail those numbers, but what is true of those who die at birth or who make it 122, 146, or even 969 years is that they do die. Hebrews 9:27 affirms the inevitability of it barring only the second coming of Christ in one’s lifetime (1 Cor. 15:52).

Most people make decisions as though they will live forever. People who know better put off obedience to the gospel, put other things before Christ in their priorities, serve sin, and neglect their reason for existence. While too many do this in ignorance, how tragic for the untold number who know how they ought to spend their lives but either deny or delay doing it. The moment of surrender will come. The body and spirit separate (Jas. 2:26). The body returns to dust and the spirit returns to God (Ecc. 12:7). At death, one’s eternal existence begins (Mat. 25:46). God gives one only the moments between birth and death to prepare for that existence, but He does not tell any of us how long that is. He simply tells us to be ready (Mat. 24:42,44). May we all get ready and stay ready for that day!

Categories
aging attitude elderly experience influence joy kindness wisdom

A SWEET OLD PERSON

Neal Pollard

Today, I talked with some godly, sweet, and loving elderly people.  They are people I respect and admire.  They are full of rich memories, have vast experience, and profound wisdom.  You are drawn to them.  The people I’m referring to are neither superhuman nor necessarily those whose lives have been easier. Their sweetness is a product of their good attitudes.  Not every elderly person I talk to are those I’d consider godly, sweet, or loving.  They are bitter, rude, mean-spirited, selfish, and even, at times, belligerent. While dementia might transform the occasional person’s personality, there is a simpler explanation for how some old people get to be unpleasant. They were that way when they were younger.

Life is about the sum total of the choices we make, the way we bend our will, and our reaction to the adversities of our lives.  We are building character, one day at a time, one reaction at a time.  As I think about it, I know some godly, sweet, and loving children, teens, young adults, and middle-agers. I also know too many who are none of these things. If they live long enough, they’ll grow into more hardened, exaggerated forms of themselves.  Gossips can become worse gossips in the golden years because they may have more time and have had more practice. Grouches seem to grow worse with time and opportunity.  The impure of heart, after years of harboring filth, allow it to spill over far more often in words and deeds (how many of us have encountered a “dirty old man”—a more elderly form of the “dirty young man”).  Worriers in youth make fretful worriers in the twilight time of life. So many traits of character and attitude in the old have been in the making in the young.

In Psalm 119:9, David asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Solomon saw among the youths a young man lacking sense (Prov. 7:7). He also counseled one to remember his creator in days of youth (Ecc. 12:1). God can be our confidence from our youth (Psa. 71:5). These and so many other admonitions aimed at those in days of youth will also protect and preserve those who reach old age.  What can I do to make sure I am a sweet old person?

  • Be intentional.  Take steps to be sweet.  It’s not many people’s natural mode of operational.  Spending much time with God and learning to imitate Him helps with this.
  • Be introspective. Take time and effort to examine yourself. Are you ill-tempered, impatient, easily irritated, easily put out, and the like?  Warning!  You’re well on your way to being a crotchety curmudgeonly coot!
  • Be interested. Selfishness is behind those traits that lead one to be unpleasant in the winter of life. Be genuinely, actively interested in the welfare, needs, and interests of others.  Taking the focus off self will aim you toward sweetness.

We could probably think of more suggestions, but here’s a good start.  Surely, we’d all like to be sweet old people when the day comes.  But, don’t wait! Start now!

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aging elderly

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE!

 

Neal Pollard

Ask George Dawson!  This Texas grandson of a slave, born in 1898, worked from the age of twelve on a ranch tending livestock.  He married at the age of twenty-eight, becoming a father the next year.  What is so noteworthy about this man?  Well, for 98 years he did not know how to read.  In 1996, ten years after the death of his spouse, a young man working for an organization designed to teach adults how to read knocked on Dawson’s door.  He was able to achieve a fourth-grade reading level and even read the Bible aloud at church services.  He summed up his remarkable story by saying, “I just figured if everybody else can learn to read, I could too” (Bingham, Reader’s Digest, June 1998, p. 156).

Ask Medzhid Agayev, who was the oldest resident in Azerbaijan in 1976.   He decided to retire—after 120 years as a shepherd at the age of 139!  The Russian press agency in Novosti said, “He is in good health.  He is thin, active and has excellent eyesight.”  Perhaps he quit his job to enjoy as many of his 150 children and generations of grandchildren as he could.  He was a tribute not only to longevity, but also to changing one’s life even after such a period of time as Agayev had lived.  Yet, he was a baby compared to a 165-year-old man named Shirali Muslimov and a 195-year-old woman named Ashura Omarova, both reported by the Novosti press agency in 1970 as living in the Soviet Union republics of Caucasus (what today is Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia)( The Centenarian Question: Old-Age Mortality in the Soviet Union, 1897 to 1970, Lea Keil Garson,Population Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Jul., 1991), p. 265).

Many Bible characters, Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:11-15), Barzillai (2 Sam. 17:27ff), Jacob (Heb. 11:21), Anna (Lk. 2:36), and others teach by their lives that it is nevertoo late to be servant of God.  The foolish may set aside the counsel of the “gray heads” (cf. 1 Kgs. 12:6ff), but the Lord’s church today will carefully consider the wisdom of her senior saints!  Age may bring limitations, but the aged are among the most precious resources we have for spiritual strength and progress!  It is never too late for an elderly Christian to be a viable contributor to the life and work of the church.  In fact, Paul puts such on a high pedestal (Ti. 2:1-10).

It is also never too late to become a Christian!  This is true, whether one is eighteen, eighty, or any time before, between, or after.  Almost is after (Acts 26:28), later is a lie (Acts 24:25), and waiting is a wager few win (Prov. 27:1).

In youth we anticipate the stability of adult life as the time when becoming a Christian will be easier.  With adulthood comes, marriage, children, and job concerns, and retirement becomes a more appealing time to obey the gospel.

Three potential tragedies await those who bank on the elusive capital of tomorrow.  First, old age may find one too distracted with golden year goals to make the commitment to Christ.  Second, death may stand between one and the time he or she hoped to be a baptized believer.  Third, Christ may come before one submits to the Lord’s plan.

However, now—being the accepted time (2 Cor. 6:2)—is not too late!  Are you still breathing in and out?  Is there still within you a heart soft enough to be touched by the power of the gospel?  If so, it is not too late!  As long as there is time and opportunity, it is never too late to do all the will of God!

Your eyes may be cloudy, a halt may slow your gait.
But as long as your soul is within you, it is never, no never too late.
The years you may have wasted, and in shame you might hesitate,
But though it be the eleventh hour, it is never, no never too late.
–NP