Saturday, September 10, 2011

R.S. Beal: "Radiant In Old Age"

Not many pastors serve effectively for fifty-one years in one pastorate!


Dr. Richard S. Beal was pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Tucson, Arizona, [now sadly re-located from its mammoth facilities at 5th and 5th in the downtown Old Pueblo] from 1918-1969. Under his leadership this church grew from 200 members to more than 3,000 members. Also, twelve churches in the community are the fruits of the church's local outreach. During that busy half century, over 200 young people entered the ministry and mission fields.  



Dr. Beal was a leader in the formation of the Conservative Baptist Association.  He was among the pastor who originially left the old Northern Baptist Convention to form the CBA in 1947. As a boy growing up in a small AZ CBA church [Sonoita Bible Church] I would often hear him spoken of the way celebrities are spoken of today. He was a true denominational legend.  

He authored several books including his annual volumes of his collected Tucson pulpit entitled Rivers in the Desert (ten volumes total with 52 sermons in each).



And get this: Dr. Beal died in 1989 at 102 years of age!! So his advice about growing old is probably well worth hearing. He and Mrs. Beal had five children who are all active in Christian work.


Radiant In Old Age

 
  By R. S. Beal

    Judging by the enthusiasm with which Paul writes concerning Timothy and his loved ones, I am constrained to feel that his mother and grandmother were radiant Christians, full of faith and devotion: "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also" (2 Tim. 1:5).
    While this is the only passage in the Bible containing the word "grandmother," nevertheless it stands connected with a testimony that is striking concerning the life and labors of this elderly woman. She has found the Saviour precious to her own heart and in faithfulness taught her daughter who in turn instructed her son in the things of God. It is apparent that this grandmother’s faith was bright and virile to the end of her days. Instead of the years causing a dimming of lights, hers shone even more brightly at eventide. This grandmother is an illustration of what I believe God wants in all of us as we face the advancing years.
    God’s respect for old age is expressed in these beautiful words, "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old" (Prov. 23:22). We praise God for the faithfulness of the elderly whose labors continue until this good hour. Their hearts are alive to the needs of others; they are alive to the bubbling joys of little children; they are ever ready to offer words of encouragement to our youth who would do well to take their advice and thus save themselves the experimental pain and loss of time of the trial-and-failure method.
    These patriarchal saints have kept themselves abreast of the needs of this old world and have inspired all to press on in the cause of evangelism. The flame of youth has been transformed into the radiance of age just as seemed to be the case with grandmother Lois.

The Fear of Old Age

    As men travel along with seemingly increasing speed on the downward slope of life’s trail, some seem to gather fears which become an awful burden. That peace of mind, the abiding rest of soul, and the measure of wisdom gleaned from the sweet, the bitter and the perplexing experiences of life are not theirs. There are fears of physical helplessness, of mental lapses, of poverty and of disease. Some have expressed to me the fear that in the end their family will not want to be burdened with them in their infirmity.
    We may not have come to the place of the Apostle Paul where he said, "For I am in a strait (literally, dilemma) betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" (Phil. 1:23). Whether or not we have a desire to depart, we as Christians should have the fortitude to face old age and death with the full assurance of faith knowing that God our Father will care for us to the very end.
    "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19), and we can praise God there is no age limit to this glorious promise. The failure is always in ourselves and not with Him who has made the promise.
    Of all the seasons, I believe autumn is most beautiful. Instead of it being a time of decline, does not autumn mean golden harvest and the gathering of luscious fruit? Surely the year comes to its own in the autumn. We have sown in the spring, cultivated and worked through the summer, all for the glory of autumn.

The Faith of Old Age
    Instead of faith growing weaker as we grow older, it ought to grow stronger because supporting it is not only the plain statements of the Word of God but also the confirmation of experience. When we were young we might have wondered if God were as good as His Word, but now that we have come near to the end of the journey the genuineness of Christianity should be very real to each of us.
    It is blessed to read, "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18). This being true, none of us need waste time and fritter away faith by living in the past. Mourning over the failures of yesterday and the mistakes and errors of long ago will not help matters. Paul wrote, "…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).
    We must be on our guard lest we repose faith in ourselves and confidently boast of our accomplishments. The warning has been sounded in these words, "Behold, Thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before Thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Psa. 39:5).
    Do we believe our Bibles sufficiently concerning God’s daily care for us that we can live free from worry? Do we accept in simple faith what is revealed about the life to come so that we actually find ourselves homesick for heaven? Nothing is so inspiring to me as to find elderly people full of faith and hope and love, never sounding a sour note, but always singing God’s praises and looking forward with sweet anticipation to the time when they shall see Him face to face.
The Firmness of Old Age
    Instead of feebleness, God decrees there shall be strength. While it is true that our steps may falter and we find ourselves limited in many ways, yet there is not indication that weakness need prevail within. "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).
    I often fall back upon that wonderful little statement embedded deep in the first Psalm: "…his leaf also shall not wither…" [literally, fade] (Psa. 1:3). And I take it to mean that God is providing perpetual springtime for His children so far as the inner man is concerned. "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing" (Psa. 92:13-14).
    No matter how old we are, we can keep a heart full of love toward everybody. We can learn to be patient with those who may try our patience. If we cannot love them with complacency, we can love them with compassion and pity. God gives definite instruction to the elderly. Because the years have increased is not reason that any of us should grow to be indifferent, or to feel that we have reached that station in life where certain laxities may be enjoyed which are denied to those who are younger.
    We read, "That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things" (Titus 2:2-3).
    Paul spoke of himself as "Paul the aged" (Phm. v. 9), yet he was firm and true to the day of his martyrdom. He accepted the bitter with the sweet and rejoiced in both. He knew that the bitter may be better for God’s children than the sweet. No matter how old we get, there can be no letup in our Christian development.
    There is something better than growing old gracefully and that is growing old graciously. We are not to spend our time talking about failures, and we are not to boast about our success. Let us be careful to maintain a strong testimony for our Savior until the day He calls us to be with Himself.
    Let us also be faithful to the work the Lord continues to entrust to us. Have you ever stopped to think of what God said to Joshua? He was an old man a year past being a hundred, when we read of him, "Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the Lord said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed" (Josh. 13:1). God did not put His servant on the shelf but reminded him that even though he was old, there was still much to be accomplished.
Joy in Old Age
    We usually connect pleasure with youth and think they are the only ones who have a good time, but the child of God knows that "in Thy presence is fulness of joy…" (Psa. 16:11). And "these things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11).
    The happiest people in the world should be the Christian aged. It is to be expected that their type of entertainment would be different than it was when they were young. Nevertheless, none need go about with a long face. When the Holy Spirit led Paul to write, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord…" (Phil. 3:1), He did not intend that this should belong to youth alone, or to those who were well and hardy, but to all those who were the recipients of God’s grace.
    Nothing ever happens to a child of God without it being under the supervision of his heavenly Father. He brings things about so that we can say, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
    Often the happiest and most contented folk are those who are nearest Home. The hope of the Christian makes light the heavy burdens of life.
    Thank God, there is a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother and it is in Him that we find salvation and satisfaction. This Friend makes life worth living down to the last breath and in the end takes us Home to be with Himself.
    – Christian Victory


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was a wonderfully presented piece of Bible teaching and well timed as I watch my parents maintain attitudes that reflect inner happiness in spite of failing bodies. They are literally growing old with gratitude in their hearts to a gracious God and savior Jesus Christ.

Bruce Beal said...

As a grandson of Dr Beal at age 62 who grew up in "Granddad's church" I find these words minister to me and I find renewed strength in serving the Lord. I recently (the last few weeks) came across articles about people who had done great work after they were 60, one being Michaelangelo who painted the Last Judgement scene in the Sistine Chapel in his 60's. I am printing up the article and passing it along to other Seniors in our church. Thank you for posting this.

Bruce Beal