The older population is growing at a rate of three times the rest of the U.S. population. If you think Grumpy Old Men was a movie about deacons, keep reading. I want to tell you about old age.
With a positive attitude there is no reason why you can't live to be 100, and once you've done that, you have it made because very few people die after the age of 100. Now since age is in your mind, the key is to keep it from seeping down into your body.
I call it the Caleb Factor. We know Caleb as one of the twelve spies. Character, confidence, and courage determine the Caleb Factor. Character may be defined by what it takes to stop or detour a man. Caleb would not be stopped. He lived a life of overcoming the obstacles and taking advantage of the opportunities. He decided it was better to die for something than to stand for nothing. Caleb also had confidence. Caleb understood the principles of God and believed the promises of God which gave him the confidence to be what God wanted him to be.
Eight of the spies said that they couldn't conquer Canaan land because of the giants. Caleb saw the giants but also saw the grapes, and he wanted the grapes! He wanted the good stuff, the land flowing with milk and honey. He wanted what God had in store for him rather than being bogged down by naysayers. He had the confidence to follow God's lead when the world seemed in the lead. The spies were emotionally old, just as some people or churches are old at a young age. Wanting safety and comfort can lead to complacency in the desert wasteland of no giants. We settle for God's second or third best because we are unwilling to risk.
John Mason said, "Mediocrity is a region bound on the North by compromise, on the South by indecision, on the East by passive thinking, and on the West by lack of vision." Caleb set his heart on what God wanted and had the character and confidence to continue. The majority measured the giants by themselves. Caleb measured the giants by God. He looked at them from God's point of view.
Dallas is a giant city of millions, but when flying over it at 30,000 feet, it could be mistaken for Waco. It looks small from a high perspective. Caleb knew that from God's view giants are pretty small. He used the expression "They are bread for us." He is saying that this is a piece of cake — we can do it. There's a book entitled Eating Problems for Breakfast. That was Caleb's attitude. We can eat this problem for breakfast.
The Caleb Factor also involves courage. The majority committee says we can't do this because the giants will kill us. Caleb says yes we can. The Bible says "All the congregation said, 'Let's stone them with stones.'" Joshua and Caleb would be easier to kill than those giants. The crowd turned against their leaders. Times haven't changed. If you have a "can do" attitude, the people with the "can't do" attitude will be after you. They won't stone you; they are much too spiritual for that. They throw words. They say things like "We are concerned about the pastor. We need to pray for him. He wants to build that giant building, and we don't have the money." They nibble at you. They nibble here, and they nibble there. I would rather be swallowed up by a whale than nibbled to death by ducks. It is like being stoned to death with popcorn.
Caleb put up with their abuse and had to wander around with them for a generation. He had to eat dust with the losers and walk in circles with whiners. It sounds a lot like church work, doesn't it? Many of us have known a church that will never progress until they have a couple of funerals. Caleb knew that he would not make it to the Promised Land until the whole congregation died. It gives new meaning to serving in a dead church.
Now the good news: character, confidence, and courage lead to conquest. Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. I know it's tough, and sometimes we start listening to the critics more than Christ. As we get older we are tempted think it might be better to give up on our dreams, but when you do that you start to die. You die on the inside which shows up on the outside. You start thinking about IRAs and annuities, and dreaming about not going to meetings and just sitting in a recliner and watching As My Stomach Turns or something like that.
Remember Caleb. Don't think old — think bold. Paying the price is largely a matter of holding on after others have let go. Caleb was eighty-five when he received his inheritance. You may be old when you receive your inheritance … but you will receive it.
Editor's Note: Look for, Comic Belief, the recently released book by Charles Lowery that includes many of his most popular SBC LIFE articles.