Zeal for the Lord at 70 plus?
On a grey Saturday morning in December last year, I woke up to the depressing reality that the previous day I had reached the age of 70 - possibly the first septuagenarian in Malvern Hills church.
James has reached the grand old age of 70
I took a railway journey of about two hours from Malvern on that Saturday reflecting on the journey of a Christian life spanning 57 years. There had been too many downs and detours I thought but at least I had persevered and reached the grand old age of seventy.
God spoke to James during a train journey near Malvern
During the last decade or so I had witnessed a number of London Marathons while waiting on the kerbside to offer my daughter - a keen long distance runner- every encouragement. I observed at the latter stages of the race dog tired competitors determined not to do anything spectacular but just reach the finishing post - a bit like me as a Christian of 57 years in the “race set before me“. Perseverance is without question a vital ingredient for the Christian journey but I wondered whether a Christian of my age and length of experience should settle for perseverance alone until the race was complete. But I felt uncomfortable with that idea.
'The race set before me...'
Life followed its usual pattern until about a week or so later - quite out of the blue - a verse popped into my mind: “zeal for your house consumes me” Upon investigation I found in Psalm 69 King David in a desperate position! - he felt “wounded” by God for his sins and attacked for his devotion to God by those who “hated him without reason” The psalmist likened himself to being up to his neck in water with no firm footing and without space to swim! Quite separate from his anguish David came up with a statement about “zeal”.
My Thesaurus showed seventeen words associated with zeal:- ardour, love, fervour, fire, avidity, devotion, enthusiasm, eagerness, keenness, appetite, relish, gusto, vigour, energy, intensity, and fanaticism.
In our Life Group are a number of mature Christians who although not as advanced in years as I am but in the process of catching me up! I valued their opinions. My question to them:- were the seventeen (youthful) qualities of zeal a realistic proposition for those like me less physically able than days of yore and perhaps even with an accumulation of some painful memories? I thought the discussion that followed was very beneficial.
James checked out his thinking with friends in a Life Group evening
The considered opinion was that I was wrong just to think in terms of “perseverance” for my remaining days. The qualities of zeal were a special spiritual gift from God who alone could provide the necessary ingredients of desire and motivation. Zeal also represented a strong desire to know God more and to be in tune with His purposes. No opting out through age then! “We are all in this together” I recall a quote from a present day politician.
James Hall, 70
Zeal is a spiritual, not physical or emotional, quality...
Editor's note: James and his wife Jean are excellent exemplars of zeal for the Lord in Malvern Life, in all sorts of ways. James leads our transition to charity status arrangements. Jean leads our important prayer focus through the week.