NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–About 11,000 senior adults from Maryland to California gathered in Nashville, Tenn., for the third National Southern Baptist Senior Adult Convention, April 28-30, to sing, fellowship, get inspired and be entertained.
Meeting in four general sessions, the denomination’s older members heard messages from Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham; Bill Mitchell, author of “Building Strong Families;” Joni Eareckson Tada, author of “Heaven Your Real Home;” Baptist Sunday School Board President James T. Draper Jr., who led daily Bible study sessions; and T.W. Hunt, nationally known prayer consultant.
Country humorist George “Goober” Lindsey made them laugh and gospel entertainer Ricky Skaggs made them cry as he sang sentimental songs about the responsibilities that accompany growing older. The event was sponsored by the BSSB discipleship and family development division.
The speakers’ messages revolved around the conference theme, “Remember the Future.” Seniors were urged to celebrate the remainder of their lives, to believe in the possibility of a “triumphant long life” and to use their wisdom for guiding younger generations.
Mitchell, a former teacher, principal and coach from South Carolina who founded the nonprofit organization, Power of Positive Students, told senior adults that grandparents are the backbone of the family structure. He challenged them to serve as virtuous role models for the younger generation and to act as the spiritual guiding light for families who live daily in a secularistic world.
Mitchell, whose book on family life is a home activity resource for parents and grandparents who want to train their children and grandchildren to live strong Christian lives, outlined ways grandparents could serve as better role models for their grandchildren.
“You’ve got to stay in control of your lives by monitoring your thoughts and you have to win the numerous battles of the day,” he advised.
Mitchell, who lost his wife to cancer last September, said he learned then he would have to work at remaining positive. “The greatest battle is the battle that’s going through our minds. Our thoughts determine our emotions and feelings, and our feelings determine our behavior.”
To remain positive, people have to be excited about life, count their blessings and establish goals and purposes, he said.
Preventing negativism to build up in one’s life, Mitchell said, requires asking God for forgiveness every day.
“Every day, we have to start with a new, clean cup, and we do that by asking for forgiveness for our sins every night,” he said.
Another way to serve as positive role models, he said, is to learn to use positive reinforcement every day.
“Look for the good in people. It’s so important to use positive reinforcement at work and at home,” Mitchell said. “And at home, affection is a good way to do that. My son taught me to say ‘I love you.'”
Senior adults need to love, they need to be loved and they need to have a purpose in life, he told the crowd.
“You’re not ordinary or average. You are somebody.”
Joni Eareckson Tada’s message for senior adults was: “Your days are numbered.”
But the popular Christian author and speaker said that’s nothing to fret about, but something to celebrate.
“Friends, life is short. Time is a treasure. Our days are priceless. … Please, let’s not waste our precious days,” said Tada, who has spent more than 30 years in a wheelchair since a diving accident left her a quadriplegic at age 17. Admittedly down at times, she shared a favorite verse that always helps “rev up” her energy level. Psalm 90:12 (NIV) says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
“I’ve got this habit of numbering my days,” Tada said. “Each day when I wake up, I thank God for a brand new 24 hours that he’s given me. I pray for him to teach me that each moment, each hour has value.”
She encouraged seniors to “turn away from murmuring, grumbling and complaining” and focus instead on the needs of others. Everyone from children and grandchildren to neighbors and the “bag boy at the grocery market” can be impacted by the simplest acts of kindness, such as a smile or encouraging word, she said.
She also reminded seniors valuable lessons can be learned from suffering.
“Nothing better prepares us to meet the Lord Jesus in heaven than our own afflictions down here on earth,” she said.
If she could, Tada said she’d take her wheelchair to heaven and tell Jesus: “The weaker I was in this thing, the more I leaned on you. And the more I leaned on you, the stronger I became.”
“Yes, life is hard,” Tada said. “Yes, suffering and discomfort are with us. But it’s worth hanging on. Don’t wind down; don’t plateau out. God has given you another moment, another hour, another day. Do something with it.”
Meanwhile, Draper told the senior adults “that the Word of God promises the possibility of a triumphant long life, one that glows with the glory of God.”
He said three things the Bible teaches about a triumphant old age are “it reflects on past faithfulness; it projects the present goodness and sustaining power of God; and it reflects upon future blessedness.”