Switching to Facebook, I was surprised to find my profile picture filling the page, congratulations abounding.
It was taken on the occasion of my eightieth birthday, but how it got onto my page at this time I have no idea. Sometimes I think my computer has a mind of its own, while at other times I know that God is in charge, yes, even of computers.
But this reminder of a big ‘O’ that was almost five years ago, brings me to my hero, Caleb, who said, ‘I am eighty five years old, yet……… my natural health has not abated.’ I was always hoping to be like him. He was begging Joshua to let him be involved in the fight against their enemies. ‘Give me this mountain,’ he cried, and Joshua did give it to him, but he had to wage war against their enemies and claim it.
Some people, turning eighty, or even seventy, think it is time to give up, or at least retire and enjoy a leisurely life, and I’ve had loving friends who told me I am doing too much, but thank God, he doesn’t tell me this but reminds me of his calling and assures me of his strength and blessing. But sadly, with a ‘shooggily’ shoulder and a rickety knee, in these nearly five years since my ‘big O’, my natural health seems to have been abating. Caleb, are you letting me down?
Gently, the Lord reminds me that I have never had too much natural health. A bonny baby until, at two years old I only just survived whooping cough, after that I was a concern to my mother. ’Pauline, you are not strong enough to be a missionary,’ I was told, while when I arrived in New Guinea some of my colleagues gave me a year at the most to last the rigorous conditions.
Before I went overseas, I was struggling against the wind and the rain to get to a convention service, and asked, ‘Lord, why do you give me so little strength?’ I did not have to wait for his answer. ‘I am sending you to a task that is beyond your strength and I want you to learn to rely on me.’
So today, when I set out for one of our local schools to take an assembly or teach Bible Explorer, wondering how I can find the strength, God reminds me of these words and I claim his promise, ‘The Lord is my strength and my song.’ Yes, he gives, not only strength, but joy too.
Still my hero, Caleb has inspired me, not just for his courage in old age, or his strategic skills in warfare, but by his endurance in hard times.
Remember – they were just ten days out of Egypt; the Promised Land within sight. Young and fit, he and Joshua knew they were well able to possess it, but because the rest of the spies refused to trust God and to lead the people in they too were condemned to wander for forty years in the wilderness.
God had said, ‘Except for Joshua and Caleb, none of you will enter in. You will all die in the wilderness. But your children –‘
Imagine living with a people without hope. And yet, a generation did arise at Joshua’s call and went in and possessed the land. Yes, it was the children who had grown up with a different spirit. I’m sure it was the teaching and example of Joshua and Caleb which had made the difference.
We know Caleb had a special portion of health and strength. When all around him found old age to be ‘labour and sorrow,’ God made it up to him, and in his old age gave him strength to claim that mountain.
But we don’t read that he went on to fight another battle.
No, he had set the example, but now he challenged the young men, maybe bribing them with the promise of marrying his daughter. ( I guess he had a good idea who would accept the challenge, and we read how it was Othniel who married Achsah and together they went on to possess their possessions.)
Maybe this is why Caleb is still my hero. He helped me to hold on and trust God when our fellowship seemed to be at a low ebb. Now, widowed and in my eighties, when I am feeling weary and think maybe it would be good if God called me home, he reminds me of the ministry he has given me over the years and which still burns brightly in my heart. And he reminds me too of how he taught me to climb mountains when I was in New Guinea. Feeling I could go no further, he asked me, ‘Can you take one step?’ I can always take one step, and that one leads on to another.
So today, with the spirit of Caleb, may we Senior Citizens ask him for strength to take one step. And if our natural strength is abating, we can still reach out to the younger ones who have so many burdens to bear, and take what we can off their loads and, like Caleb, help to raise a generation who will shake off the unbelief and rejection of their fathers and arise and do exploits for God.
P.S. I have just realised: Caleb had been robbed of forty of the best years of his life while they marched round and round in the wilderness. Now God was restoring the years the locusts had eaten. Yes, we can emulate, but not envy. God will give each one of us his best, if we will trust him.