I’m sure you’ve seen the difference. On one hand, there’s the senior saint who glows with life, even though weak, disabled or struggling physically; on the other hand, there’s the believer who faces each “senior challenge” with a scowl or complaint.
The difference might be perspective and vision. We can either choose to live for ourselves in our senior years, thinking we are entitled to relax our standards; or we can choose to answer God’s every-season calling, enabled by the Holy Spirit—which is what He expects of us.
Let’s explore what it means to be set apart for the Lord, and how being Spirit-led can assist us in faithful, fruitful living for Him in our senior years.
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1. “Set-Apart Senior”—Define the Term
For something or someone to be set apart means it is saved or kept for a particular purpose. The believer has new life with purpose—chosen and set apart by Christ to be His disciples and bear fruit. We are set apart for God Himself (Psalm 4:3). Abraham was set apart for God’s use, and Paul was set apart to preach the gospel of God.
We must also choose to be set apart. Just as Abraham and God’s chosen people had to accept God’s call, we also need to present our bodies to God, which is not unreasonable because they belong to Him anyway (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
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2. “Set-Apart Senior”—Know the Reason
God has His hand on senior Christ-followers for His specific purpose. But believers of all ages are chosen to be a holy people for His possession, proclaiming the excellencies of God who called them out of darkness (1 Peter 2:9-10).
We’re never to “retire” spiritually. Until the day we die, we are called to good works in Christ—works ordained for us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). An elderly Christian might think there is no more work to do, but some of the most powerful prayer warriors are those who are incapacitated for other works.
The church is called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Corinthians 7:1). Becoming older is not a license to give in to worldly passions or sinful habits. It’s a time to buckle down and become even more consecrated to Christ, knowing there will not be many more years to serve Him on earth. Jesus spoke differently to the world than He did to those whom He set apart. To the world He spoke in parables, but with His disciples He shared special truths. Secrets of the Kingdom are for those who are set apart.
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3. “Set-Apart Senior”—Capture the Vision
Christian seniors are to be set apart from the thoughts, attitudes, and behavior of the world’s systems—not molded by the culture (Romans 12:1-2). Again, Christians of any age are called to be holy and separate from sin. God calls all believers to “purify” themselves for Him because of their holy calling (2 Corinthians 7:1). I like to think of the elderly as beautiful vessels fit for God’s use—honorable and useful for the Master, and ready to do more and more good works in His name (2 Timothy 2:21).
Christians are in the world but not of it. The world’s moral compass is changing; evil is called good and good is called evil. Because too many Christians are a part of this shift, the world has a blurred picture of God, a distorted concept of who Jesus is. Jesus prayed we’d be kept from the evil one and sanctified by the truth of the Word as we complete our mission from God. Seniors can model this for younger believers.
Because we are set apart, we will likely be persecuted or mocked: Satan is our enemy, and the world hates Jesus and all His disciples. But sometimes Christians are mocked because they fail to live by biblical truths and standards. We don’t belong to this world, and we shouldn’t love or try to imitate the wicked culture. Be watchful, purified by God’s Word, and receive His blessings.
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4. “Spirit-Led Senior”—Focus on God’s Purpose
Not only are we set apart as Christian seniors, we’re also to be Spirit-led. This is the very heart of our walk with God. How we relate to the Spirit of God will affect how we are transformed.
If we allow God’s Spirit to lead us, our spiritual lives will flourish and we will grow to be more like Christ. But if we choose our own way and refuse His gracious leading, we will grow weak and lose our spiritual vitality. When we’re led by the works of our flesh, it’s a self-centered life rather than a God-centered life.
The purpose of God in the believer’s life while on earth is transformation. He wants us to reflect His character to a watching world. We are to be “Exhibit A” of the work of Christ in our lives and bring Him glory in the process.
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5. “Spirit-Led Senior”—Grasp the Importance
“The power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56), but God gives us victory in Christ. What the law cannot do, God did!
Although surrender is involved in being led by the Spirit, it’s not passive surrender. It’s constant combat against the desires of the flesh that seek to tempt, seduce, and conquer us. If a person says, “I’m following the Spirit,” but there’s no obvious evidence of actively resisting evil and seeking to do good, how is this being a “good soldier” in the battle (2 Timothy 2:2-4)? This becomes a real issue when some senior saints excuse themselves from fighting against their fleshly pursuits with “Don’t bother me; I’ve done my time.”
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6. “Spirit-Led Senior”—Acknowledge Your Adoption
Spirit-led seniors are the children of God, adopted into His family. We cry out to Him as our “Abba, Father.” We can know when we are adopted, because the Spirit testifies that we belong to God (Romans 8:13-17). We are accepted and blessed in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The adopted child of God will be led by His Spirit. There’s no need to ask repeatedly for the Spirit’s leading; He’s already there and He’s already leading (Romans 8:9). We simply must surrender our hearts and follow Him—trust and obey.
John Piper wrote much about this aspect of being led by the Spirit. “The reason the leading of the Spirit proves we are children of God is that it is ‘the Spirit of adoption,’” Piper said. “It is the Spirit given to us to confirm a legal transaction carried out by the Father, namely, adoption…The Spirit does not lead by stirring up slavish fear. He leads by stirring up family affection.” The Spirit leads us by bringing Father God’s love to us!
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7. “Spirit-Led Senior”—Admit Who’s in Charge
Though we are deeply loved, we need to admit we are not God and we need leading. We’re not in charge. A Spirit-led senior yields to the Spirit’s control—never dictating when, how, or where He should work.
Rather than telling the Spirit what to do, we need to be willing to obey what He says and follow where He leads, even if it is uncomfortable or challenging. We might not ever choose what the Spirit chooses for us, but God knows what is best to mature us spiritually in ways that will ultimately bring Him praise.
Admitting who is in charge should be our daily mindset. We need to set our minds on what the Spirit desires if we want our lives to be filled with peace (Romans 8:5-6). As we do, we will learn to say no to sin by the Spirit’s empowering. We may have the desire to do right, but without the Spirit, we won’t have the ability to carry out that righteous desire (Romans 8:13; Romans 7:18).
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8. “Spirit-Led Senior”—Keep in Step
As I’ve grown older, I sometimes find it hard to keep in step with others much younger than me. I grow weary quickly and it’s easy to give up. I see this pattern spiritually as well. If I don’t continue to grow in Christ, enabled by the Spirit, I might fall behind. A Spirit-led senior keeps in step with the Spirit.
Walking by the Spirit means we continuously yield to the will of the Holy Spirit. He wants to direct and empower us, and He typically leads through the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:20-21). He leads by teaching us biblical truth.
He also leads by directing our thoughts and bringing understanding—such as He did with the early church leadership and the apostle Paul. At times, the Spirit shares a specific command from God for us to obey, such as when He led Jesus into the wilderness (Luke 4:1). Others in Scripture receiving direct, sometimes detailed commands were Philip (Acts 8:26-29), members at a prayer meeting before a commissioning service (Acts 13:2-4), and Paul during his mission trip preparations (Acts 16:6-7). Always, we are to be led by faith and not by sight.
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9. “Spirit-Led Senior”—Check Your Sensitivity
With all the distractions in the world and the seducing voice of our enemy, we must tune in to the Spirit. We do this by being so filled with the Spirit there’s no room for anything else. The truth is, we have all of the Spirit, but He does not always have all of us.
Our sensitivity toward the Spirit can be affected by our choices in entertainment and literature, and also by our companions. Especially in our closest relationships, we need to seek out those who are set apart and Spirit-led, and do our best not to be yoked to unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). Most people think in terms of the marriage relationship, but I think it also applies to business partnerships and other relationships that have the potential to take us down an ungodly path.
Why aren’t we sensitive and following the Spirit’s lead? Maybe we’re afraid, doubting, stubborn, angry, or proud. It could be many reasons. But know this—the Spirit will intercede for us when we struggle to follow. He prays on our behalf to the Father, working with Him to accomplish His will in our lives (Romans 8:26-28).
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10. “Spirit-Led Senior”—Look for Fruit
One of the first scriptures I learned as a believer was Galatians 5:22-23 about the fruitfulness I should expect as the Spirit works in my life. When a person becomes a Christian and the Holy Spirit immediately enters, there are a number of other evidences of His presence.
There is freedom instead of a yoke of slavery to sin. There is a new desire for holiness and living according to the truth. Christians live in assurance of their salvation and witness with power to the truth of the gospel through their words and actions. There is sweet access to the Father in prayer and joy in doing His will.
It is right to look for fruit in your life, no matter your physical or spiritual age. We will all stand before the Lord to give an account of ourselves. In light of the Lord’s return and eternity, what sort of people ought we to be?
The senior years are not the time to “wind down,” but rather to “gear up” and tackle our unfinished business with the Lord. It’s time to put off and put on (Ephesians 4:22-24); to be sensitive to the Spirit and not stop growing or changing. The one who called and set us apart will complete His work in us through the Spirit’s enabling (Philippians 1:6).
Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes Upgrade with Dawn, and writes for Crosswalk.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach.
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