Presumably, the Sunday sermon on Longevity was well-received. Who wouldn’t want to live long; just as suggested way back in creation –
Gen 1:4 “Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die”.
It has been a deep seated intuitive desire and longing for survival, and eternal life.
Two months ago, a dear brother and ex-church elder from a previous church died. Before he was admitted to hospital, at a church service, he told another brother sitting next to him that he was dying. Both then talked about the coming upgrade to glory. The latter told me that when he was in coma at the hospital, practically all who visited prayed for his healing, restoration to strength and health, in spite of his age (92 years); and having been in and out of hospital stay for the past few years. The other church brother wondered why believers cannot look forward to death; and refuse to accept its certainty.
One month ago, this same brother went to have a stent implanted. His doctor, in due diligence wanted to tell him the risks involved. But this brother responded “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t blame you if something happen. I am prepared to go home, if my God so wills”. The bible teaches us about salvation and living spiritually, not living successfully and satisfactorily (humanly).
I realised practically all fast growing churhes (mega churches) have a predominance to major on sermons on successful living rather than spiritual living.
Recently, a church member requested prayer for a parent who was hospitalised. All in the chat group prayed for healing. I was the black sheep as I entreated for salvation – body soul and spirit, as the parent was likely an unbeliever.
Yesterday I visited a brother (in his eighties) in hospital. His wife has been constantly by his side in the ward taking care of him; attentive and alert to render assistance and support. I told her to take care of herself; she retorted that she cannot afford to fall sick. She has to be around to take care of him. What love and dedication? Labor and loyalty!
When I returned home, I read another article about the growing numbers of elderly in Hong Kong. Over there, they are trying to recruit 150,000 foreign helpers to render care for the elderly.
Indeed, a society pursuing longevity involves much, no actually – demands much social amenities and resources. Society must have the social, political, financial, human commitment to ensure that those who live long live meaningful and relevant lives. Not counting the days, but making the days count.
What about churches which name, proclaim and claim long life; refuse to accept death and dying, pray fervently for healing and restoration? Would churches consider walking the talk? Would there be church sponsored Elderly Homes, Hospices, Retirement Homes, etc. Would churches with mainly younger members in leadership ever consider the elderly, to nurse, nourish and nurture like a mother; and to model, mentor and mature one and all. Or is the unstated policy and perception that the elderly are not as energetic, committed, gifted, wise etc as those appointed. I believe all members, including the elderly must be allowed and assisted to develop and exercise their giftings. Or would it be like the scenario as James wrote – not to ignore or to insult the poor – poor – those without youthfulness, status, standing, eloquence, popularity, etc to function meaningfully and not to marginalize? So churches which extol long and healthy life will need to introduce and implement deep and fruitful workings for long and lasting relationships and growth for all age groups, especially the elderly.
To follow through and walk through the talk.
Yesterday, at the church service, I was stirred when my pastor enthused that he would speak on how believers should expect to live a long life, based on Psalms 91:16, rather than on Psalms 90:10. The latter, written by Moses, (according to the sermon) attributed the 70 year lifespan to the Israelites being under God’s wrath, wandering in the desert :-
“The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,”. Ps 90:10
Yet, Moses lived to 120 years, and not 70 years, as Psalms 91 comes after Psalms 90 and refers to people who have been delivered from wrath. According to v16 we can believe that “God will satisfy us with long life …” as God can bless believers, who abide in God’s presence, protection and provision. Hence, Moses, though he wrote Ps 90:10, lived 120 years.
Deut 34: 7 Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished.
Why was I stirred when my pastor announced the topic? Earlier in the morning, I had read in CNN that Singaporeans have the 3rd longest lifespan in the world – at 85.2 years, with Japan coming in at 85.3years and Monaco at 89.4 years. I turned to my wife and showed her the CNN article and quipped – we are already living well already!
Two weeks ago, I had enquired of my wife whether she noticed that the pulpit has stopped declaring that we shall live till 120 years. Her response, “thank God”. (I never asked her what she meant).
DEATH IS GAIN
The sermon went on to concede that Paul who set his heart and mind on things that are eternal, death is truly gain. But Paul had chosen to live on, to continue on with his ministry. Hence, we as believers can chose to live long. Even when saints were killed for their faith, and “others were tortured, they (actually?) did not accept deliverance. (Hebrews 11:35). Implying that since “death and life are in the power of the tongue” we could name, proclaim and claim long life for ourselves! And healing from diseases and death, sine God hates death. Aaron died (Num 20:26-28) only after he stripped of the priestly garments that clothed and covered him in righteousness. Likewise, we mustn’t let the devil take away our consciousness of righteousness.
(Curiously I wondered – what about those not clothed with the priestly garments, did they die? Was I being a Berean or a bible- policeman; inquisitive or ironic?)
After the service, my wife shared her meditation – Deut 34:7 convinced her that Moses was gifted with a long life with excellent sight and stamina to pen down the books of the Torah – laboriously, and arduously written. That would indeed be credible and convincing for any who doubt whether Moses did write the first 5 books of the Old Testament! I cannot fathom the painstaking task, without the aid of paper, typewriter, or a electronic pad. Yes, long life with excellent sight and stamina. Indeed she has a very convincing point. Moreso than others who may use anecdotal narratives to establish teaching truth! E.g. explaining how the people in Hebrews 11 were tortured and died because they chose not to be delivered. My mind turns to Stephen in Acts 7, or James, whom king Herod killed. Did they choose not to be delivered?
I am both amused and appreciative that my wife is becoming more like a Berean (Acts 17:11). And Paul facing execution, told Timonthy –
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Yes indeed Paul mentioned the primacy and priority of sound doctrine and truth, not teachers. Personally, I’ve been guilty making mistakes in interpretation. In the eagerness to be clever and creative, have strayed off into exegetical fallacies which so easily creep into my meditations.