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Sermon - Psalm 71:18
The Weakening Process

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The Weakening Process

Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation” (Psalm 71:18)

The aging process is so interesting.  For a time, we were little children and longed to grow up.  Then came a time of strength for most people, and for many, it’s also a time when we enter into denial about the future, for so quickly that strength will be gone.  Age sets in, and a process of physical and mental weakening occurs, continuing until ultimately nothing is left of the physical man or woman, and we thought we were so strong - just a short time ago.

I have visited many in nursing and convalescent homes, noting that some accept these events with a sigh and a small smile, whereas others complain and become mean in spirit.  The difference for many is the Presence of the Holy Spirit.  Without God, life not only seems meaningless, it really is.  “What was life all about?” some wonder, and it's common for many to become angry about it.

It hurts to get old.  And much like it’s difficult for a person of any age to accept lowered income or lessened abilities, it’s tough to give up the vigor of youth.  To accept the process that is occurring is important, for to refuse to accept that you’re growing old is to risk a broken hip or other injuries.  It’s a time to think because you’re not only in physical danger, but if you don’t know the Lord, you’re also facing a Christ-less eternity, which is far worse than any physical problem we might think we have.  There is a time when we have to do LESS physically and MORE spiritually, because denial of who you are (and who He is) is dangerous. We need the Lord.

Actually, there is a time to simply give up, though not in the way we would expect.  We give up trying to do everything our way.  One thing for sure: aging is no accident, and the God who invented the process is not shy about admitting it.  He was clear to our original ancestor, that if he sinned, then death would follow (Genesis 2:17).  And it did.

Adam and his wife-to-be Eve, had no idea what “death” was all about.  Can you imagine that?  They had no idea what it was.  It turned out to be a two-part phenomenon.  Sin was followed by instantaneous spiritual death – the intimate, personal contact they had known with God and probably took for granted, was severed.  Suddenly, they were alone inside, in a way that had not even occurred to them as possible.  David’s cry, many centuries later, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11), was an echo of the grief that was personally known by our earliest ancestors.

The other part was physical death, which involves a process, a gradual physical and mental weakening; continuing until finally the organism no longer functions.  Adam lived for a long time and he observed this dreadful process of death in the generations that followed.  More than anything else, he was horrified by the effects of sin in his children and children’s children.  The concept expressed in the phrase, “It’s all my fault!” would have been very real and personal to him.

Millennia had now passed and another descendant of the original Adam experienced a physical problem.  The Apostle Paul was not to die of old age, for the Lord would allow him what the military calls an "early out".  He was to be beheaded on the Appian Way, in Rome, in 66 AD.  He mercifully avoided some of the aging process and best of all, in his death he glorified the Risen Lord.  Paul did understand physical pain intimately though, and personally knew the process of weakening in his life.

Long before his death, a "thorn in the flesh" was given to him (2 Corinthians 12:7), and reasonably enough, he repeatedly asked that it be taken away (2 Corinthians 12:7).  The Lord answered "No" to his request, stating, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Most of us don't want that kind of answer to prayer, insisting to the Lord and to anybody else who might listen, that somehow, pain, suffering, weakness and eventual death, have no place in the lives of people like you and me.

Paul, who LISTENED to the Holy Spirit, received God's "No", and he responded this way: "Most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me, therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

He came to understand something that most people miss altogether: It's not all about me.  It's not about you. God has PURPOSES in what goes “wrong” in our lives and we may NEVER in this life comprehend His reasons.  Further, it's not my strength the world needs.  It's His! - And often we have to be weakened so that we will open the gates of our resistance and allow His strength to flow through us.  I have good news for you: Your weakness, your suffering, your pain can make you become a very useful tool in the Hands of a capable, loving God.

The aging process shows us our need of Him.  Our weakness FORCES us to reach out for His strength.  Often we would not even reach out to Him at all, except for our need.  As the Psalmist related to us in our Scripture for today:  "Now also when I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation" (Psalm 71:18).  He saw his need of God and was drawn to tell others: We need Him, too.

And that is our prayer.  Father, thank You for the weakness, the limitations in my life.  Let my weakness be an opportunity for Your strength to be expressed through me, to the people of this generation.  I commit myself to You now, Lord, and pray that others will see Your strength in my life and want You, too.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
P.O. Box 92131
Long Beach, CA  90809-2131

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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