Paul died with dreams of future ministry still burning in his heart. Old age had not aged his spirit at all. As we read this letter to the Romans we know something Paul didnt when he wrote it. We know he would be arrested when he traveled to Jerusalem (Ro 15:30-32; Ac 21). He would arrive in Rome not as a missionary on his way west to Spain (Ro 15:24, 25), but in chains. He would be released after some years, but then re-arrested and executed. He was certainly no younger than 55 when he wrote this letter to Rome, and no younger than 64 when he was executed (67 A.D.), but to the very end he writes like a young man, full of zeal and interest in life, full of big plans and dreams for the future. Nothing is dying inside of Paul, its just getting stronger. Undoubtedly, he too had to cope with declining energy and, frankly, the effects from years of physical abuse (2Co 11:23-33). He himself provides a perfect illustration of a truth he taught to the Corinthian church,
though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (2Co 4:16). Aging is a physical process that cant be halted, but old is an attitude.
Today as we return to Pauls opening statement about himself, we will again hear him tell us hes a slave of Christ, called as an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. But in this study were going to look at a particular gift God gives those who, like Paul, embrace these three attitudes. And the gift is this: a heart full of dreams.
Years ago I read this cynical comment: life is a process of diminishing dreams. The person was saying the older we grow, the smaller our dreams become. People may start out with big dreams and hopes when theyre young, but life proves to be a series of disappointments. Reality turns out to be much smaller and less fulfilling than we had hoped. And this is true
if we live for self. If our dreams focus on self-fulfillment life either denies us achieving those dreams, or disappoints us when we arrive. We discover that the goals weve achieved are far less fulfilling than wed expected and were still powerless to stop the relentless approach of death. So in one sense it is true that life is a process of diminishing dreams, but it is not necessarily so. There are people who escape the grip of this cynicism and fully embrace life right to the end.
1) Joseph (Ge 50:24-26)
Song of Moses (Dt 31:19-22; 32:1-44)
Die on the mountain (Dt 32:48-52)
Blessing the tribes (Dt 33:1-29)
Even to your old age I shall be the same, and even to your graying years I shall bear you (I bore you on eagles wings, Ex 19:4), I have done
and I shall carry
and I shall bear
and I shall deliver (Is 46:4)
As you know Timothy has been released from jail there in Rome and hes written to tell me the churches need me to come and teach there. Since I am so old, he offered to come to Cyprus and escort me back there, and of course Im glad to come. Hell arrive soon and Ill be there as quickly as I can. (my paraphrase)
Brought out on a cot and placed before the church: little children, love one another.
6) Paul (just before he was beheaded)
2Ti 4:1-5 he gave Timothy a solemn charge about this world.
2Ti 4:6-8 crossing the finish line still running as fast as he can go.
2Ti 4:9-13, 20 still engaging strategy and leading.
Lloyd Post: he was feeling so good I was concerned hed want to go out and plant another church
1) Live for self (comfort, safety, prosperity, recognition, pleasure...)
2) Live for the gospel of God
Living for self sours the human personality. Unpleasant qualities grow worse as the years go by. Somehow selfish qualities are distilled by time into a stronger and stronger flavor. This is why God mercifully gave the human race the gift of death. He puts a limit on that process. Dying would prevent selfishness from growing worse forever and making us even more miserable (Ge 3:22).
But there is another path that doesnt lead to diminishing dreams, and thats the path chosen by Paul and these other dreamers. Paul surrendered the pursuit of his own goals and chose to live as a slave of Christ. He stopped clinging to this world and chose to live for something worth dying for. He stopped living for himself and chose to live for someone greater than himself. And this kind of total surrender brings with it a remarkable gift: it fills the heart with purpose and passion.
Purpose and passion
1) Empowers us to say no to temptation. I dont let the devil sidetrack me, because what Im doing is too important. (Note: how important this is for young people).
2) Lifts a major cause of depression. Many are depressed by a sense of failure and the shame of what others must think of them. Life is a competition which they have lost. This is what lifted in my life when God asked me, Why dont you give me whats left of your life....
3) Re-energizes our physical disciplines. It becomes a race against time to accomplish as much as you can while your body still functions. You re-engage in exercise, vitamins, sleep, sabbath. Each day becomes a gift in which you can make a difference in someones life. You finally slow down only because your body wont let you keep pace. Yet, youre seeing more fruit, not less, so you learn to lean on God more and more even as age forces you to do less and less.
4) Removes the fear of death (Heb 2:14, 15). You know whats waiting for you (2Ti 4:8), but youre not anxious to go there as long as you can still reach one more for Jesus.
Something in the human heart knows we were intended for greatness. Its not arrogant to think this because its true, and it quickly becomes arrogant when we try to make ourselves great. The greatness God has destined for us is to partner with Him in His work of redemption. He invites us to join Him in bringing others to eternal life. And when we say yes we discover a priceless gift has been given to us: a life full of purpose and passion.
1Co 9:24-27 Run in such a way as to get the prize
Php 3:13, 14 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal...
Heb 12:1 ... let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...
1) Would you describe your dreams as shrinking or growing?
2) Describe the youngest old person you know.