Growing Old and Learning Together

Adorned (week 3)

Lindsey was eighteen when I first met her. I listened as she spoke about her grandmother and other elderly women from her church that she loved to be around. Her admiration for women in a much different season of life was surprising and refreshing. Today, in America, that kind of appreciation for the older generation is uncommon . . .

Old age falls into a negative category in the American culture.

Old age is something that women in their teens rarely consider.

Women in their twenties roll their eyes at . . .

Women in their thirties start to wonder about . . .

Women in their forties try to RUN from . . .

Women in their fifties try to disguise or “fix” . . .

And once women enter their sixties, they either embrace old age or fall into a cliff of depression because of it.

Scripture has a lot to say about old age; it never demeans the aged, but instead places long years in a category of admiration and something to desire because it can be a time of fruitfulness, a time to extend the wisdom of years and experience to the next generations.

“Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” (Job 12:12)

The passage we’ve been studying (Titus 2:3–5) elevates the aged by presenting the “older woman” as one who serves as the example and trainer for the women coming behind. With that in mind, let’s continue with our summer study using Nancy Wolgemuth’s book: Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together.

(Warning, this is more than a blog post, this includes my teaching notes for the session from our church’s women’s study as well as the homework assignment, so, if you’re up for it . . . plan to spend several minutes reading!)

  1. Embrace God’s Plan for Aging

Today’s American culture is one of the few cultures throughout history that doesn’t admire and even venerate the older generation, but Scripture charges us to look to those who’ve gone before us as our examples and teachers. No matter your age, God desires to take our failures, our mess-ups, and our life-experiences and use them in passing on wisdom and life lessons to those coming behind us.

Who would fit into the classification of “older?” In other passages where this term is used it seems to indicate someone at least 60 years old or older; one historical reference even noted that this term could include those who are 49 years old and above. Although most of you may not be that old yet, we all need to be working toward these characteristics as we are growing in Christ. And we are all older than another woman who is coming behind us who may need input and encouragement in her walk with Christ.

Psalm 92 is a passage that LeRoy and I “adopted” a few years ago and began asking God to do through us in this season of our lives:

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him (Psalm 92:12–15).

But wisdom and fruitfulness does not automatically happen when gray hair starts showing up . . . wisdom, godliness, and fruitfulness in old age happen when we set a trajectory for that in our younger years. This study is one way to prepare you to make choices that are wise, to grow and flourish, and move on to spiritual maturity that will bear much fruit in old age.

I encourage you to reject the world’s view of aging, and begin to embrace and look forward to the season of life when you’ve gleaned wisdom and life experience that you can pass on to younger women. If you’re a younger woman, I encourage you to reject the culture’s attitude toward the older generation, but instead to respect and seek input from the older women around you.

Swim against the cultural stream that exalts the young, fresh face, and demeans wrinkly, gray-haired old ladies. For most women, those wrinkles and gray hairs are a symbol of years spent giving to, and serving, others.

In fact, Prov. 16:31 says: “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Leviticus 19:32 instructs us: “You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.”

Clearly, Scripture teaches us to respect our elders, so let’s reverse our thinking if we’ve viewed aging as something to run from, dread, or despise.

The passage we’re studying this summer opens with the words: “Older women likewise …”

  1. Six Imperatives for Both Genders

Before we look at the specific charge that the book of Titus gives to women, we need to study the characteristics that are listed for “older men.” Why would we spend time looking at these? It is certainly not so that we can go home and criticize our men if they are not “measuring up” to this passage! It is because of the word “likewise” or “in like manner.”

These characteristics are not limited to the older men only. In fact, three of these terms are used in other passages in lists that are prescribed to women, two of these are listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and the other is one of the most basic characteristics in the life of a believer.

“Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.” (Titus 2:2 NASB)
“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” (Titus 2:2 ESV)

I could camp out a long time on each of these descriptions, and in fact I’ve taught through this passage before and provided you with lengthy explanations of each of these words, but Nancy has provided you with a good overview of each word, so I encourage you to be sure to read through chapter 3 this week to get a handle on each. I’ll just quickly summarize:

  1. NASB: Temperate, ESV: sober-minded: (Greek: νηφαλέος [nay-fal’-eh-os] néphalios) 

This is NOT a commonly used word today; in fact, the words temperate or sober-minded seem to carry with it a very negative connotation. Today’s motto seems to be: “If it feels good, do it.” “Smoke it, drink it, snort it, shake it . . . get high with no worries.”  “Indulge yourself to the MAX!”

To be sober-minded or temperate doesn’t mean living a joyless life, but it is the way to experience lasting joy—not temporary highs.

The Enhanced Strong’s Greek Lexicon defines this word as, “Sober, abstaining from wine.” The New Testament Theological Dictionary defines this word as: “Holding no wine.” According to John MacArthur’s commentary on this verse: “A temperate person was an abstainer from wine.”

This word came to be identified with one of the most influential movements in our nation’s history and it was led by Christian women. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was organized in 1874 by women who were concerned about the problems alcohol was causing their families and society. The members chose total abstinence from all alcohol as their lifestyle and “protection of the home” as their watchword.

But being sober-minded encompasses more than being free from the mind-altering effects of drugs or alcohol . . . and even though the term “sober” may sound pretty grim, this characteristic does not mean being “joyless.”

In order to be temperate, an individual must walk in the fruit of the Spirit: self-control. Temperance is an outward behavior that is a product of the heart issue of self-control. Temperance requires the denial of selfish and sinful gratification. Ephesians 5:18 describes the individual who is under the Holy Spirit’s control rather than the control of alcohol.

A sober-minded woman . . . has learned the soul-satisfying difference between temporary pleasures and eternal pleasures. She recognizes that she’ll never be entirely immune to the demanding cry of unmet needs and the tug toward fleshly appetites, whether they take the form of extravagant purchases or highly addictive computer games. But maturity has taught her what really matters in life.

And so through a pattern of practiced obedience and surrender to the Spirit, she’s experienced the freedom of saying no to indulgences that could eventually leave her defeated, discouraged, and demoralized. And younger women who crave this kind of discernment and strength for themselves will find her example of temperance and moderation—sober-mindedness—to be appealing and worthy of imitation. (Adorned p. 58)

Sober-minded

Antonyms: wine drinker, drunkard

Root Issue: Self-control

Temptation: Living from sensual desires rather than Scriptural Instruction

  1. Dignified: (Greek: σεμνός [sem-nos’] semnos) Worthy of Respect, the quality of being honorable.

Semnós represents not only earthly dignity, but that which is derived from a higher citizenship, a heavenly one, which is the possession of all believers. There lies something of majestic and awe inspiring qualities in semnós which does not repel but rather invites and attracts.

The “dignified” woman isn’t fretful or doesn’t overdramatize, she doesn’t overact and view everything as an emergency . . . but as Nancy says in Adorned, she is “more at peace and settled, better able to determine how to handle a given dilemma or . . . disagreement.” The dignified woman carries herself with “quiet confidence and grace;” she “walks in awe of the One in whose presence we live.”

The dignified woman smiles at the future because she knows that the One who determines her future is trustworthy (Prov. 31:25).

The “undignified” woman is a wreck of emotions. She places herself and her needs before others, she is rash and injurious in her reactions, self-pleasing in her motives and arrogant in her demeanor. As a woman begins to humble herself before her God and places her confidence and trust in Him, she will begin to develop the awe-inspiring characteristic of dignity that attract others to her God.

Dignified

Antonyms: improper, injurious; self–pleasing, arrogant; headlong, rash; impious, ungodly

Root Issue: The outward behavior described as “dignified” stems from the heart issues of humility and trust. 

Temptation: To rush headlong into situations with rash and injurious behavior

  1. Sensible, Self-Controlled: (Greek: σώφρων [so’-frone] sóphrón) of a sound mind, to have healthy thinking that curbs impulsive desires.

Prudent, wise—this character trait seems to have more to do with the outlook of the mind that enables one to make wise decisions, rather than just curbing sensual desires or practicing self-control.

This is making decisions that are driven by wisdom rather than emotion.

The “sophron” woman uses her knowledge of the Word of God to apply it practically to the demands of daily life in order to live life to God’s glory.

Self-controlled

Antonyms:  mindless, rash, unthinking

Root Issue: Applying Biblical thinking to every area of living in a practical manner

Temptation: to make decisions based on personal feelings or what is easiest or most comfortable

I’ve got a lengthier description of what it means to be a “sophron” woman in the blog post: “The End of Drama Queens” if you want to check that out. And Nancy includes a helpful chart (which is also a pdf at www.reviveourhearts.com) on pages 170–171 of Adorned that paints a good picture of the contrast between a “non-sophron” woman and a “sophron” woman.

  1. Sound in Faith: (Greek: πίστις [pis’-tis] pistis) confidence, belief, trust

We looked at the word “sound” in our study (in the last post) when we talked about “sound” doctrine, and we saw that the word “sound” means: healthy, whole, pure, uncorrupted, health-imparting. So now we’re applying that word to the type of “faith” we’re to have. This kind of faith comes from being grounded in the truth of the word of God and being able to affirm the truthfulness of that faith through experiencing the trustworthiness of God’s promises.

. . . You may be an older woman who doesn’t feel “sound in faith.” You may not feel qualified to inspire the generation coming behind you. The fact is, we’re all still learning. Still growing. Still in need of daily grace. Soundness of faith is not a mountaintop, a finish line. It is a journey. And we each travel imperfectly.

The soundness of your faith is based on the soundness of the One in whom you’ve placed it, not on your perfect record in walking out that faith (Adorned p. 61).

Sound in Faith

Antonyms: unbelief, faithlessness, departure from the truth; heresy

Root Issue: Love (Galatians 5:6) – biblical faith is internally motivated by love for God. The more we come to know Him, the greater we will love Him; the more that we love Him, the more we will place our trust and confidence in Him.

Temptation: to depend on self rather than depending on God

  1. Sound in Love: (Greek: ἀγάπη [ag-ah’-pay] agapé) love which centers in moral preference. In the New Testament, typically refers to divine love (= what God prefers).

As we age, the believer is to be marked by an ever-increasing capacity for love. Genuine, sacrificial, patient love that extends grace and forgiveness from the heart of one who has been sacrificially loved well.

1 John 3:16 gives us God’s definition of love: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” This is the love that is descriptive of God’s love toward mankind and is the love that He desires to be our response to Him and display to others.

1 Corinthians 13 describes the characteristics of love. Love is also listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22.

To be “sound” or healthy in regard to love is to live out what Christ referred to in Matthew 22:36–40 as the greatest commandment.

Sound in Love

Antonyms: hatred, enmity

Root Issue: The humility of mind that seeks to place the needs and interests of others before itself (that action is motivated by recognizing the worth and value of God).

Temptation: to retreat inwardly to a place of comfort, self-focus, and protection, to be unwilling to expend self for God or others

  1. Sound in Steadfastness: (Greek: ὑπομονή [hoop-om-on-ay’] hupomoné) Patient enduring; constancy. In the New Testament, it refers to the characteristic of one who can not be moved from his deliberate purpose, but continues to stand with loyalty and faith even under the greatest trials and sufferings.

It is staying loyal to God, waiting on Him to work—even when we cannot see that He is working. It is steadfast commitment to Him even while under great pain and suffering. It is not just “gritting our teeth and bearing it.” No, this kind of endurance is patient and filled with hope for the future. Often believers give up, do not persevere under difficult circumstances, because they respond in anger or indignation to the difficulty rather than loyalty to God coupled with hope.

Sound in Steadfastness

Antonyms: Interestingly these are – anger, wrath, indignation.

Root Issue: courage, confidence in Christ, trusting that He is at work in the circumstances and remaining loyal to Him while under trial

Temptation: to allow the difficulty to be the winner, become angry or depressed due to the painful circumstance, and give in to the pain

Right now, some of us are witnessing that happen in the life of my dear friend, Jeanne. She has served relentlessly, giving of herself by nursing our sick, caring for our babies and elderly, organizing fun game nights for our kids, cooking meal after meal for crowds, and opening her home to the homeless. Jeanne has served as my right arm for almost 2 decades . . . driving me across the country and serving with me at conferences and hospital vigils . . . she’s been my “unpaid assistant” for years and I could never pay her what she’s worth . . . but she was injured almost 2 months ago now, and is in a season of intense suffering and debilitating pain.

But Jeanne hasn’t given up. She hasn’t lost the courage to trust her Savior with this difficult trial. She hasn’t caved to self-pity or anger. No, she trusts the One she knows is faithful. And as we watch her trust Him in her suffering, she is teaching all of us a lesson.

She is teaching us that He is worthy of worship . . . NO MATTER WHAT! Just as Jeanne is teaching us through this season of suffering, God wants to use you—right where you are. You don’t have to wait to grow up to be a godly little old lady to teach others.

  • You are Always Teaching by the Way You Live

“Our job is to embody the wisdom of God’s Word in such a way that we can effectively teach it to others—not just out of our notebooks, but out of our lives” (Nancy DeMoss Woglemuth).

You may think you have nothing helpful to pass on to others . . . God can even use our failures as a means of displaying His power. As we are transparent about our struggles, and as we share how God has provided and cared for us through our mess-ups . . . God can use those “faith stories” in the lives of younger women who are watching you.

Be assured, you are teaching others whether you mean to or not . . . younger eyes are watching; let that be a means of accountability for the choices you make.

If you’re an older woman, I encourage you to intentionally pour truth and life-lessons into younger women. Come alongside them in the parenting struggles, help a young woman learn how to organize her home or establish a good schedule. Invite a young woman to your house to help her with cooking lessons or preparing a meal plan for the month, or doing grocery shopping.

If you’re a young woman—seek out advice or help from older women, don’t just turn to Google or the Internet or women your own age . . . look for wise women who’ve walked years ahead of you! Reach out to an older woman, don’t wait for one to force herself on you.

That’s one thing that I’m so excited about in doing this study with the women of my church, that’s one of my hopes and prayers, that older and younger women will begin experiencing Titus 2 relationships and through that, we will grow and thrive in our walk with Christ!

*******

Assignment: I’ve included a portion of Scripture for you to read each day that I think will be helpful for you as we study the “Adorned” book. Before starting to read through the Scriptures, I encourage you to pray and ask God to speak to you and lead you in your study of His Word.

Monday: Read Proverbs 31:10–31, noting the admirable qualities and activities of this woman. Consider what kind of description that others would record about you based on your daily activities. Start reading Adorned Chapter 5–6.

Tuesday: Return again to the “excellent woman” described in Proverbs 31. What is the key to her godly choices (see what v. 30 tells us about her heart condition). What do you think is meant by having a “fear of the Lord”? Continue reading Adorned.

Wednesday: In order to stand in awe of God, to have a sincere reverence for Him, we must recognize His position of authority and His power. To fear Him doesn’t mean we are in terror of Him as though He would be cruel, but it is to recognize His holy perfection and our total unworthiness to stand in His presence. We could not come into His presence were it not for the work of the cross. As you think about the concept of fearing God today, read through these verses: Exodus 20:20; Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 31:30; Psalm 111:10; Revelation 15:3–4. Continue reading Adorned.

Thursday: Return to Proverbs 31 again today and consider the type of communication that this woman has according to verse 26. What do you think Proverbs 18:21 means? Do you obey the instruction of Proverbs 11:13? What does James 1:26 say about how we use our mouths? Continue reading Adorned.

Friday: What if you lifted the request of Psalm 19:14 as a prayer—daily and often—would your conversation be different? List what Ephesians 4:31 and Colossians 3:8 tell us to get rid of; to not indulge in. Ephesians 4:29 gives us the filter we need for our mouths and describes how to use our mouths in ways that will bless others. I encourage you to memorize and live this verse.

Through the week: Read Adorned (pages 91–128) and be sure to do the “Making it Personal” questions at the end of each chapter.



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