SIMPLE TRUTH: Route 40 and Route 85

Published 12:09 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2013

By Charles Christmas

I have never been a “Caleb,” and I am not a “Caleb” today. But this Old Testament character has served me well as an inspiration and a challenge for 55 years. His name is never recorded in the Bible until the beginning of what I refer to as “Route 40,” when he was 40 years old.

I discovered Caleb when I was 31 years old. His attitude, courage and faith grabbed me and, thankfully, have never fully turned loose. At age 40, Caleb faced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with seemingly insurmountable difficulties. His mindset was expressed in his words: “Let us go up at once. We are well able to overcome. God is with us. The Lord will delight in our faith and obedience, and he will bring it to pass. Let’s follow the Lord fully and wholeheartedly. Let’s not rebel against the Lord. This is God’s will for us.”

So, at age 31 and in our church’s first stewardship campaign, I preached a sermon titled, “Let Us Go Up at Once.” The situation was this: At the time, we had a $32,000 budget and I was challenging our congregation through tithing messages, to pledge a new $60,000 budget, which they did, and actually gave $58,000 during the budget year. This was one of several faith ventures which our congregation enjoyed, and all are well documented.

After the 10-year delightful time in Sylacauga, and at age 40, the Lord gave us another 10-year assignment in a Birmingham “county” community. The challenges of this church and community caused me to be depressed and somewhat overwhelmed. In the process of preparing to move, my 15-year-old son and I were making a necessary trip up U.S. Highway 280 when he detected my apprehension. He began to sing to me a childhood chorus: “Why worry when you can pray? Trust Jesus; he’ll be your stay! Don’t be a Doubting Thomas; trust fully in his promise. Why worry, worry, worry, worry; when you can pray?” I needed that well-known chorus, and I needed the spirit of Caleb; for I too, at the age of 40 was beginning my very own “Route 40.”

On this new route there would be the large challenges of enlarging the budget, two building programs, securing God’s chosen helpers, Evangelism Explosion, building an area-wide church bus ministry, the administration of a community and tri-state youth choir evangelistic outreach, family challenges, sicknesses and, finally, the empty nest for Louise and me. Louise and I would absolutely testify that God’s grace was sufficient for us, and his strength was displayed in our weaknesses. No, I didn’t accomplish “following God fully and wholeheartedly” as Caleb, but God is gracious, compassionate, patient and forgiving.

But what inspires me today, personally, about Caleb is that he had a “Route 85,” and that at age 85, he still had the same vision, faith and courage; the same strength and determination which he had at age 40. He remembered what God promised and had fulfilled on “Route 40” up until he was 85. He said to Joshua, “God has kept me alive for this day. His promises are still true. Give me the hill country where the giants live with fortified towns. With the Lord’s help I will possess what God has promised me.” And the Bible says in Joshua 14:14, “So the hill country of Hebron has belonged to Caleb ever since because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.”

My “Route 85” began 14 months ago when my wife died. I was 85. We had prayed that we would both be fruitful in our older days together, and God made it happen. In beautiful needlework on our wall, a plaque reads, “And they shall bring forth fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14). Some may remember my weekly article soon after I resumed writing, titled “Don’t Die Before You Die.” It was this same emphasis. And I am determined not to live in past memories and present excuses. I am believing God for “a new song” and to do “new things” in my life: with me, through me, for me and also for others for whom I am responsible.

Like Caleb, I will seek to keep my body healthy and will believe that what God has done and promised in the past is only a sample of what he will do today and in the future. Therefore, “God, give me the hill country with the giants. With your help we will drive them out. May I follow you wholeheartedly and be pleasing to you.” Whatever age route you are on or condition you are in, God has something in this article for you.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.