By Norman Grubb
I have been asked for thoughts on the roll of the elderly in the Body of Christ. Well, I suppose that is a reasonable request, since I, by human arithmetic, am eighty-one. But my trouble is that as a new creature in Christ, old things are passed away, and I am told to know no man after the flesh; and I take that to include human standards of calculation. Why, then should I say I'm eighty-one when I'm an "eternal-lifer?" Why should I say am elderly when I am a member of the Body of Him who always has the "dew of His youth"? Why should I talk of a generation gap when we are all one "chosen generation"?
I'm learning a new language and a new arithmetic of that new dimension of which it is said, "Ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit." That flesh dimension was a product of the Fall, of the first Adam, whom Paul said was only a figure, a shadow, a type (Rom. 5:14). But we are of the Last Adam, and in His death, resurrection and ascension we have been transformed from our flesh-selves to our spirit- selves and have been seated with Him in the heavenlies, which means the realm of the Spirit.
THE INNER PERSON
My spirit is the essence of who I really am, and my soul and physical body are only the more visible expressions of my spirit, which is the real me. Therefore, "what" I know in my spirit, that I am; for "knowing" in its biblical sense, means not mental knowledge but being inwardly "mixed with a thing." In other words, the more my spirit grows and develops, the more the "real me" emerges. Thus, on the human level we call a professional man competent because he inwardly knows his profession. Actually his professional capacity has taken on flesh and blood and become the man himself. For instance, a carpenter does not do his job by his outer tools but by his inner fixed awareness of how to use them. Someone recently said to me of a carpenter who had just paneled his home, "You don't ever need to tell him how to do a thing. You just tell him what to do!" It's the same way with us: all we really are is our inner selves, not the outer shell. The real us is our spirits, which express themselves in outer forms. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The man that I am is the man I am internally—the man that I am in Christ.
So when my redeemed spirit "knows Him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent," then I have moved over from the illusory realm which we used to call life. Paul said that when we live in pleasure, we are dead while we live (1 Tim. 5:6), but to live in the new awareness of God is our exceeding joy, and at His right hand are our pleasures forevermore.
When I walk in this truth, I begin to live on the Jesus level of "Take no thought " of human needs or conditions—of adding cubits to my stature, of food, of drink, of clothing—and that surely includes age! After all, I am a form of eternal life when Christ is my life. I live, not in the apparent real, but in the real real!
How do I do this? Of course, the beginning was my new birth in the Spirit. I then began to be a "see through-er" rather than a "see-at-er", for I began to see and be in the Kingdom of Him who is Spirit, of whom this outer world is only a manifested form. For the first time I began to see myself not in the outer flesh-form of a lost sinner, but in the spirit-form of a redeemed son in the Son. Then I made the great leap onward to the discovery that I was not merely in a spirit-relationship with Him - Father, Son and Spirit - but I am actually in spirit-unity with Him, joined to Him in one Spirit, a branch of the true Vine: therefore I see myself as the Vine in His branch-form. I am Christ in His Norman Grubb branch-form. As Paul said, "I live! No, not I, but Christ - it is Christ living in me" (Gal. 2:20); therefore Paul was Christ in His Paul branch-form. In the same way, Christ in me is actually the real me!
This is much the same as the way we speak when we meet someone. We don't say, "I met a body called John;" we say, "I met John." For the external form is not itself the person, but rather a limited outer expression of the real spiritual person inside.
APPEARANCE AND REALITY
So here was my changing outlook - judging not by appearances but by right judgment (Jn. 7:24). Do I see water that one sinks in when He and Peter walked on it? Do I see a sunken axe head when His servant sees it swimming? Do I see a Jordan in flood when His servant sees dry ground?
If not, why should I see my sick or weak body when with His eyes I see myself eternally perfect in Him? Why should I talk about old age when I have His inner youthfulness in my spirit? Must I have the word "retirement" in my vocabulary when life is only the "works before ordained that I should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10)? I am even now appealing to the grand missionary crusade to which I have belonged all my life to cut out that word "retirement" and merely talk of "change of commission."
That does not mean that I am not outwardly in the weaknesses and infirmities of the flesh, but I am still controlled by what I see. What I am believing in is present reality to me. That is why I see only one sin in the Bible—unbelief (Jn. 16:9; 6:29; Rom. 14:23). But to make that word "unbelief" more intelligible to myself, I call it "negative believing. "No person exists without believing, for all life is faith. But which way do we believe: outwardly in illusory appearance or inwardly in spirit-fact? What happens if I accept my physical weakness or material conditions as fact? The answer is that what I take takes me; for if a negative faith becomes substance to me (Heb. 11:1), then I become bound and sink. But what if I see outward infirmities as Paul did, glorying in his infirmities because "when I am weak, then I am strong; for His strength is made perfect in my weakness" (2 Cor. 12:10)? Then I am controlled by my spirit believings, and that which is spirit will be manifested in substance.
CHRIST OUR STRENGTH
I believe we will do far better in the healing of sicknesses if we point not to the sickness of the body needing healing, but to the present fact that here and now this sick one is a healed one, and that he praises God for his healing because he is in the eternal life of Christ. When a person transfers his concern from his body's illness to his spirit's health in Christ, and praises God that, though weak, he is strong, and when he accepts that God has temporarily meant him to be sick that Christ may be magnified in his body, whether by life or death, then the Spirit is liberated to be doing His silent work of healing in the body — not always, but often.
So when I take no notice of age calculations, or refuse to regard myself by human standards as an old man, but rather see myself just as a God-manifestor, the Treasure in an earthen vessel, then I go right on with all vigor in whatever He makes plain to me to be my immediate commission. For each of us, according to Ephesians 2:10, always finds he is a commissioned person, looking to God to show him what his commission is.
Then—back to the original question I was asked—what is the role of the elderly? The answer is: There are no elderly; we are all young and our role is precisely what it has been ever since we first knew we were God's commissioned servants. We simply move on to the next form of commission! So life is thrill, gaiety, fun—which are all outer wrappings of an intense seriousness; we always walk in some form of "the zeal of His house eating us up"! Life is great; right up to the moment we start across the river for that welcome in which we have a total confidence. For John said we have boldness since "as He is, so are we in the world."
What an adventure faith is! And faith is the inner realization of the eternal facts of who we are as sons in the Son, catching ever-fresh glimpses of why we are where we now are. Faith is the assurance of the Lord Jesus Himself living in us and through us, just where we are. And with this revelation of Himself in us comes the faith to continue laboring in the harvest, for He is the Lord not only of the sowing, but also of the harvest. And in these later years of adventure, we lift up our eyes to see our lives and the lives of those around us, not as bare brown earth with no blade showing, but rather as a field white unto harvest.