Each stage of adult life presents its own unique challenges. Young adults worry about finding work and getting married. Older folks have increasing health problems and the loss of independent living. And those in their middle age years, with their own set of struggles, often find themselves "caught in the middle" trying to help aging parents while guiding their children into adulthood.
In the midst of these challenges, it might be helpful to be aware that there are also unique temptations to sin that are more age-specific. Without denying any sin can tempt any believer at any age, can we not identify one sin in particular that is perhaps most common in the church to each of these ages?
For young people, is not worldliness often the big issue? One of my mentors regularly told me that for covenant children growing up in a Christian home, their biggest struggle was often not whether they would express faith in Christ, but rather would they submit to his Lordship. The tug of the world with its passing pleasures and prominent positions causes many a young believer to wrestle, and some do fall away into these offerings of the evil one.
For the aged, perhaps _inflexibility _is the prevalent matter. What becomes of their bodies is often true of their souls - they have difficulty stretching and bending. Having grown up and matured in a previous generation, the elderly can look at those in the following one and become annoyed with changes they see. Especially in the church, the "we've-never-done-it-that-way-before" line can become the refrain of the senior citizen section of the chorus.
Well, being a middle-aged believer myself, my real concern is speaking to my own heart and my own age group. For I wonder aloud if _complacency _is not our most common sin? We have met many challenges that youth presented. We have taken risks and secured through work many goods. The Lord has blessed our efforts for his kingdom, and we begin to rest on our laurels. We slowly begin slipping into a spiritual forgetfulness as we enjoy comfort, and unknowingly begin to fulfill what the Lord said of his people long ago: "As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me" (Hosea 13:6 NASB).
Reading through the lives of the kings in the Scriptures lately has impressed this upon me. Solomon started out strong, seeking wisdom and building the temple of God. But then "his wives turned his heart away" (1 Kings 11:3). Joash came to the throne early with the help of Jehoiada the priest, and restored the temple which had fallen into disrepair. But then he and his advisers "abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols" (2 Chron. 24:18). Amaziah did right in the Lord's sight initially, and trusted the Lord for victory in a great battle against Edom. Yet he then "brought the gods of the sons of Seir, set them up as his gods, bowed down before them and burned incense to them" (2 Chron. 25:14). Too few kept the fire for the Lord burning into their old age.
So what are those getting over the hill in life to do to resist spiritual complacency? Here are a few suggestions I am seeking to employ.
- Every Lord's Day, take time to reset your heart by acknowledging every blessing you enjoy is from the Lord. Only by God's grace do lots become pleasant and cups overflow.
- Spend regular time with a few others who possess a true heart for the kingdom in accountability to achieve further goals for the Lord. Iron does sharpen iron, and sparks do beget flames.
- Promote and participate in prayer with other believers. The Holy Spirit is the true fountain of youth that can cause us to "still yield fruit in old age" (Ps. 92:14) if only we will seek his presence in our lives.
- If married, do not take for granted your relationship by allowing complacency to slip in. When life is busy, schedule time for one another just as you do for others. Spend much time in conversation and prayer.
- Read inspiring accounts of other believers whom the Lord has mightily used for his glory. I have found biographies stir my passions anew for Christ's glory. As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation's dawn approaches next year, I have a pile of Luther books I will be working through to help me in this area.
May the Lord save us from living in the dark during our middle ages!