I am getting old, and perhaps you are too. Are you ready for eternity?
If you are an old guy like I am, you certainly remember the classic 1967 Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. There are plenty of memorable tunes found in the album, including “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Lovely Rita.” But there is another tune we all recall.
I refer to “When I’m Sixty-Four.” The title of my article is a line from it. It was one of the first songs Paul McCartney had written. The melody to it was penned back in 1956 when he was just 14 years old. Hmm, I was just three years old then, and when I got to be 14, I am not sure I was worrying about getting old and losing my hair. Well, I am now old, and yes indeed, I certainly am losing my hair!
If you are super-young and clueless about such things, or are old and nostalgic, here is one video where you can listen to the song – either for the very first time, or for the umpteenth time: www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7TANPFMf1k
My point in walking down memory lane and indulging in all this nostalgia is actually twofold. One, I find it quite interesting that all the cool, hip, beautiful and amazing people I grew up with – usually watching them from afar – are now quite old. Funny that. Consider Sir Paul: just two days ago he celebrated his 79th birthday! Wow.
The only other surviving Beatle, Ringo Starr, is 80. And think of some other rockers from way back. Let’s run with a few old Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger is 77, Keith Richard is also 77, and Bill Wyman is 84! Wow, and I thought I was getting old at 68!
Think also of the various movie stars from back then. Two of the leading heart throbs of that period were Brigitte Bardot and Sophie Loren. They are both still alive, but have of course aged a bit. They are both 86. Other actors we grew up with include Kirk Douglas who died last year at the grand old age of 103. Still alive are Angela Lansbury (95), Beau Bridges (79), and June Lockhart (95).
My second reason for writing this piece is to once again express some key biblical truths. ‘Life is but a vapour’ as we are informed in James 4:14. As such, and in the light of eternity, what sort of persons should we be? Where does our Creator and Judge fit into our lives? Or is he completely absent?
In a few short months I will commemorate 50 years of being a Christian. In my morning prayer walk I half-jokingly and half-seriously asked God to keep me alive till then so I could share that story with others. The Lord reminded me that one of my most regular and fervent prayers of late has been this: ‘Come quickly Lord Jesus.’
So yes, if push comes to shove, I would far rather the Lord returns – and soon, than to have my half-century celebration of my new birth. But assuming the Lord does not return in the next 60 days or so, I certainly will have my story written up and posted.
Time has certainly passed by quickly for me. But most of my life has been spent as a Christian. While I am not aware of any of the well-known personalities that I mentioned above becoming Christians, it is obvious that none of them will be on planet earth for all that much longer.
And if they have not yet gotten right with God, then all their fame and fortune, all their worldly success, and all their legions of fans will not mean a hill of beans. They may have packed out cinemas or rock stadiums; they may have adoring fans in the millions swooning over them; they may be filthy rich; and they may be followed every second of the day by the paparazzi – but all that really means nothing.
What does matter is where they stand with the Living God. Come judgment day they will have to give an account of their lives. God will not really care about how many millions they made, and how many mansions they owned. He will not care about how many films they starred in, or how many albums they turned out. He will not care about their worldly glamour, success and notoriety.
He will care only about one thing: ‘What did you do with my Son?’ How did they respond to the most incredible event of human history: the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Jesus came to die for our sins, and if we turn to him in faith and repentance, we can find forgiveness of sins and newness of life.
If we miss out on that, everything else will have been a real waste of time. In fact that is what British journalist and writer Malcolm Muggeridge called his autobiography: Chronicles of Wasted Time. He had it all as a world-class journalist and writer. But he found it all to be so much wasted vapour, once he finally found Christ. As he wrote in that important volume:
Austerity has always made me happy, and its opposite, miserable. I find it strange that, knowing this, I should so often have inflicted upon myself the nausea of over-indulgence, and had to fight off the black dogs of satiety. Human beings, as Pascal points out, are peculiar in that they avidly pursue ends they know will bring them no satisfaction; gorge themselves with food which cannot nourish and with pleasures which cannot please. I am a prize example.
He often wrote about happiness – and true happiness. He said this for example: “I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness, or cared to live until I chose to die. For these two discoveries, I am beholden to Jesus.” Or as he also famously put it:
Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful, with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained… This, of course, is what the Cross signifies. And it is the Cross, more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ.
After a long life of agnosticism and cynicism, Muggeridge eventually saw the light, He saw how fleeting fame is, and how fleeting life itself is. He finally learned the biblical truth about what real life is all about. He learned what all Christians have learned: We look for a better country.
As the writer of the book of Hebrews put it, speaking of the saints of old: “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). Or as one country music star put it in the early 60s:
This world is not my home
I’m just passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue
So I ask you this: what are you living for? And I remind you again: life is short, and soon enough you will be living in one of two eternal destinations. Scripture is clear on how short life on earth really is. Just one of many passages worth citing here is Psalm 39:4-6:
O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
So whether or not you are old and losing your hair, you need to choose wisely. As the young martyr Jim Elliot put it before dying at the age of 28: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”