Too Young Or Too Old?

Going by the current retirement age of 60 years, Moses was twenty years older by the time God commissioned him for the biggest assignment of his life. One may, therefore, argue that his initial excuses were not totally out of place — he was simply telling God to look elsewhere as he had already retired! He had voluntarily opted to carry out the mission much earlier in his life but was rejected. Then, after forty years had expired (during which time he was literally buried alive in Midian and was now grown old, and one would think past service), he entered upon the post of honour to which he was born. This, in a way, recompensed for his self-denial at forty years old and proved that all his performances were products of divine power and promise. You can never be too old or too young to achieve God’s purpose for your life.

Proverbs 20:29 says: “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.” This shows that both young and old have their advantages, and therefore each of them must be, according to their capacities, serviceable to the public. Neither of them should despise nor envy the other. Let not old people despise the young, for they are strong and fit for action, able to go through business and break through difficulties, which the aged and weak cannot grapple with. The glory of young men is their strength, provided they use it well (that is, in the service of God and their country and not of their lusts), and do not become too proud to boast about it.

Neither should young people despise the old, for they are grave, and fit for counsel. Although they do not have the strength that young men have, yet they have more wisdom and experience. Juniores ad labores, seniores ad honores is a popular Latin saying that means “Labour is for the young, honour for the aged.” God has put honour upon the old man; for his grey head is his beauty. “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding” (Job 12:12). Among men, we find wisdom and understanding, although this is limited to those who are blessed with length of days. They get it by long and constant experience. And, when they get it, they usually have lost their strength and are unable to execute the results of their wisdom.

However, bodily weakness is not tenable as an alibi for failure. As Bonstetten said, “to resist the frigidity of old age, one must combine the body, the mind, and the heart — and to keep these in parallel vigour one must exercise, study and love.” Talk about old age achievers; Harlan Sanders, the goateed colonel whose picture is familiar on America’s roadside signs, patented his method of cooking chicken ‘finger-lickin’ good’ — the Kentucky Fried Chicken — when he was 65. A Nigerian musician, Fatai ‘Rolling Dollars’, only came into public relevance shortly before he turned 80, after several years of struggle. And comedian George Burns won an Oscar in his eighties and signed a ten-year performance contract when he was in his nineties. Burns used to say his daily key to success was to get up and look in the obituaries; if his name was not listed, then he would get busy! He lived until a hundred years and then he died, unlike many who retire at 60 and are simply buried years later.

Indeed, we can choose to delay our death. In the words of Jewish novelist, Franz Kafka, “Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” And English poet, Robert Southey, admonished: “Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of your life.” Never tell a young person that something cannot be done. God may have been waiting for countless centuries for somebody ignorant enough of the impossibility to do that thing. Every youth who is ambitious to grow to the full stature of noble manhood must make up his mind at the start that he has got to be bigger than the things that are trying to hold him down. If he doesn’t he will go down with them.

No young person has an excuse to fail because God has invested in every person. Youths should learn not to think too much about themselves but try to cultivate the habit of thinking of others as this will reward them. Nourish your minds by good reading; discover what your life work is, work in which you can be happiest. Be unafraid in all things where you know you are right. Be unselfish. That’s the first and final commandment for those who would be useful and happy in their usefulness.

Examples of successful young people abound both in the Bible and contemporary times. Although society continues to groan under incidences of vices and crime, with the youths as major culprits, we still have several young people that stand out as shining lights. Joseph, although still very young, maintained the righteous stance of his father’s religion in a foreign country. Among Israel warriors, no one dared to face the enemy called Goliath until young David arrived, who went ahead to defeat the giant. There are still giants to kill today, and brave children and teenagers are facing them head on.

The record for the youngest professional artist was achieved by Arushi Bhatnagar, who had her first solo exhibition when she was 344 days (or 11 months) old. Adám Lörincz was aged 14 years 76 days when his 92-minute musical, ‘Star of the King’ was performed. For many people, at 15 years old, passing geometry is considered a major accomplishment. But that is nothing compared to a young Nigerian girl, Kimberly Anyadike, who at 15 became the youngest African-American female pilot to ever fly across the United States in 2009. What impact are you willing to make at this time?

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