The Generation Gap
a sermon preached by Dr. Jack Hyles
“Thou shalt not rise up before the boary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32
“And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, “I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion.” Job 32:6
Every young person in this house ought to read that. Every young person in this house ought to ask God to give you a respect for people who have lived longer on earth than you have lived.
Now, turn back to Joshua again, which is the Scripture Brother John led us in reading. Caleb is a tremendous fellow. I want you to notice the story as I read through it and give you a few little thoughts. Joshua 14:10: “And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive…” This is Caleb who is talking now. Caleb is one of the two spies who said, “We can go in,” back yonder 45 years ago. “And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive,” as he said, “these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses…” Now look down at the last line of Verse 10, “I am this day fourscore and five years old,” eighty-five years of age.
Let’s see what kind of shape he is in. “As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me” (Joshua 14:11). Now, I’m not sure he was. Maybe he was bragging a bit. He had probably been doing some isometric exercises and felt a little bit stronger. Like one fellow said, “I feel as young as I did the day I was twenty years old.” And a fellow said, “You’ve got arthritis in your right leg. That’s a sign of old age.” “Well,” he said, “Arthritis is not a sign of old age. My left leg is as old as my right one, and there is not a bit of arthritis in that leg.”
And so I’m not sure Brother Caleb was stretching the point or not, but I think he was pretty close. “As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now, therefore, give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said” (Joshua 14:11-12). Here’s an eighty-five-year-old man talking. He said, “If God will help me, I will drive these folks out, as the Lord said.”
“And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel” (Joshua 14:13-14).
Now, I said this morning that today we are infested with a bunch of fuzzy—I started to say fuzzy cheeks but that’s a terrible way to put it, isn’t it?—we’re infested with a group of young people, late teens and early 20s, who suddenly feel that they have really found all the answers for our generation. They come and say, “Anybody who is over thirty doesn’t understand the situation.” Why, you ignorant punk, idiot, moron. The very idea of thinking because somebody’s over thirty that they can’t be of help. The honest truth is this modern generation of hippies and beatniks and long hair and so forth, is nothing more than an effort to get attention quickly. That’s all it is. You see, the honest way to get attention is to work for it. The honest way to get acclaim is to work for it. The honest way to get press clippings is to work for it.
Here’s a fellow who builds a business. Let’s take a man like Howard Johnson who builds a business. He starts off with an ice cream stand, and he works and works and sacrifices and builds a big business. He works and works, and he becomes famous. Here’s another fellow who says, “Not me. I’ll just grow long hair. People will notice me as I walk down the street.” I hardly ever look at these fellows twice. Hardly ever. That’s what they want. It is a short cut to get a hearing, and by the way, people who take the shortcut to fame fall as quickly as they rise.
I recall when I first began preaching, there was a bunch of youth revivalists—eighteen- and nineteen-year-old boys preaching big campaigns to ten or twelve thousand people sometimes. They said, “Don’t you wish you could do that?” I said, “No, I don’t. They will fall as fast as they rise. You give me a little country church somewhere, were I can lay the foundation and learn a little bit here and a little bit there. One of these days, maybe a fellow can build and deserve some attention.” Attention that is deserved is the right kind of attention but attention that is not deserved is not the right kind.
Now, these fellow can run universities—they think; but they never can build a building. Never raise a dime. Never set a budget. Never set up a curriculum. They think they can run our universities. They can run the economy of our nation, these little pink punks running around here on our campuses causing trouble. They think they can run the economy of our nation. And yet, the truth is, they have never worked a day. They have never made a dime. They have never built a hot dog stand. But all of a sudden, they have been given all the answers on how to run America and solve our problems.
They think they can run the country. They have never built a street. They have never operated an airline; never built a train system; never owned a bus. They never built a railroad. They never built a highway. They never built a sidewalk. They know nothing about a nation. The never were in Congress. They don’t know a thing about operating the country—except all of a sudden, they have gotten the idea that they can operate the nation.
Here is the problem, and here is what is causing these little immature, teenage, pink punks to ruin our country (and they’re doing it). The reason they are is because we older people are letting them do it.
Now, listen carefully. The older generation wanted to go to college but most of us couldn’t. We revered college. We dreamed of getting a college education but we had to work in the fields. We had to take care of rearing a family. We had to help our dads and mothers make a living, and so forth. We still have the idea in our mind that colleges are today what they were when we were kids. It always takes a college or university a generation to find out what it was like in the last generation. Universities, colleges, and Bible institutes always live this year with a reputation of the last generation’s character. What you were last generation is what you are known as this generation. And that’s why you criticize an institution.
Let’s take for example—and I’ll just come right out and say it—let’s take over here in Wheaton, Wheaton College. It used to be a wonderful center for the Truth. There was a day when Wheaton College was one of the grandest and greatest colleges in America. No longer is that true.
Wheaton College was in our budget when I came eleven years ago to pastor this church. As long as I’m here, it’ll never get in our budget again. Never. You say, “I don’t like that.” Well, you can lump it the best way you can, because I don’t like it either. I am sick and tired of Christian colleges hiding behind last generation’s character, kowtowing to a generation of beatniks and liberals, and acting like them. Listen, if Wheaton College were what it ought to be tonight, let them take a stand on the issues of our day; let them fight and get bloody for the Bible again like they used to. I’m simply saying the time has come when we are going to have to investigate our institutions for what they are today, not let them live on the reputation of the last generation.
But, now listen carefully. We stand in awe of formal education. As older people who used to be awed by the formal training of the university graduates, those who got degrees and so forth, we have stood in awe. There is something in people who did not have the right or the privilege of formal training in college years ago, that makes them feel unworthy to speak when college graduates stand to speak. There is something about it. When we say, “He has a college degree,” that makes us think we don’t have a right to speak.
Now, the honest, simple truth is, just because you have a college degree, that doesn’t give you a bit more character than if you did not have one. If you have four years in college and three years in seminary, you’re not one bit better a preacher or a successful person in this world than if you’d never seen the inside of a college. Success may have taught you a few facts, but there is a deadening thing in America that is causing the older people to say, “Well, I never had college myself. He’s smarter than I am, because he’s been to college and I haven’t.” Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s nothing quite so overrated as a college education. Now, you don’t like that, but that’s the truth.
I’m not opposed to college education in Christian colleges, but I am completely and diametrically opposed to sending our boys and girls off to heathen schools and paying their tuition. I’m going to preach a sermon one of these Sunday nights on where your money goes. I’m going to tell you, maybe next Sunday night, maybe tonight even. (It all depends on how this one gets off. If I don’t get off the ground with this one, I’ll try another one. If one plane loses an engine, I’ll go back and get in the other plane. Take off again.)
Now, what am I saying? I am saying that I’m going to preach a sermon on where your money goes. I’m going to tell you the institutions you folks are supporting that give a day’s pay to the red feather agencies. (Boy, that’ll curl your hair or your feather.) I’m going to tell you where your money goes. Some of you support liberal churches; some support liberal colleges. I’m going to show you where your money goes. I’m going to show you where your money goes when you send your boy or girl off to a state university, a university where communism is rampant and the SDS societies are allowed to be present. You say, “It’s not affecting mine.” The honest simple truth is, some of yours have already been in my office and told me I was wrong on this issue. They wouldn’t have done that three years ago. We have bowed down and worshiped the God of formal education; and now she is choking our nation to death.
Listen, I wont’ do it, but I would like to play a game. I’d like to have the people in the choir stand, and let you pick out the ones who have a college degree. You’d never believe it. You’d pick out the wrong ones. For example, look at this man: You’d think he went to school, wouldn’t you? You really would. You would think he went to school. Elaine, try to control yourself now. You wouldn’t think he went to school, would you? And look at John Colsten. You wouldn’t think he went to college. Nobody would ever predict that he went to college, but he did—barber college. What am I saying? We are absolutely standing in awe of formal training and we feel unworthy to speak.
Now, what happens is this. We have a generation of young people with degrees; and we have a generation of older people without degrees, who think that because the young person has the degree, the older person shouldn’t speak.
Brethren, it is time for the older generation to assert itself. When I say older generation, I mean folks thirty and over, folks forty and over, folks fifty and over. It’s time we stood up and asserted ourselves and quit thinking that because your boy, Johnny, went off and learned trigonometry…There’s a country fellow how said, “My boy has learned trigonometry.” His friend asked, “What foreign language is that?” The country fellow said, “It’s trigonometry.” “Speak some.” He said, “Pie are square.” His friend answered, “Pie are not square: Cornbread are square. Pie are round.”
So what if I spent six or eight years chasing X. You know where I found it? Right smack-dab beside Y. Right beside it.
Now, I’m not against formal training—you know I’m not—but I am against saying a person is uneducated because he doesn’t have it. The man who pastors the largest church in the world doesn’t even have a high school diploma.
Well, you say, “Brother Hyles, you are saying that nobody ought to go to college.” I’m not saying that. I’m saying some folks go to college and get formal training. Some folks don’t go to college and get informally trained and know more than folks who went to college. Somebody said the difference between a fellow who went to college and a fellow who didn’t it, they are uneducated on different subjects. The honest simple truth is, we have said, “Unless you have a B.A., or an M.A. or a Phd., you’re not allowed to speak.” Why, of course you’re allowed to speak. The best Congressmen and Senators and Presidents our nation has ever had have not been men who were trained in the institutions of higher learning. The best preachers we’ve had, the best evangelists we’ve had, and the pastors of the biggest churches we have had, have not been men who had much formal training. I’m not against formal training, but I’ll tell you what I am against: I am against classifying a fellow as unlearned, unqualified to speak, because he didn’t go to some university somewhere and get a degree.
In our church, there is prejudice. I tell you, this breaks my heart and makes my blood boil every time I think about it. I know a young man in this church. His parents are Godly people. They love God. They are sweet people. They are soul winners. They never had the privilege of going to college. The dad works out at the steel mill, gets up in the morning and goes out and works in the blast furnaces and works his head off, and has for all these years. He worked to rear that boy and give him a decent education in high school. Then the boy went off to a school of so-called “higher learning.” And there the boy became ashamed of his dad. God bless that good man who had been working out here at the steel mills all these years, rearing his boy and trying to make something decent out of him. He pays tuition to send his boy to some godless, wicked, deceiver who stands up and says his dad is not very much because he doesn’t have a degree or didn’t go to some particular university. That poor dad and mother sit in this service tonight with their hearts broken and crushed. Why? Because their boy thinks he’s too good for Mom and Dad. Why, he’s not worthy to untie their shoes.
America was built by godly people who stood for right and stood against wrong and stood for the Word of God. Let me say, it’s time some of those old godly people were heard from. Let these pip squeaks, who are not dry behind the ears, hear from some older people for a change. It’s time that we asserted ourselves—like Caleb.
You say, “Brother Hyles, how can I do it?” Well, you’ve got to stay young. You just have to stay young. I’ve decided I’m not going to grow old. I’m just not going to do it. Caleb said (boy I like this), “When I was forty I was strong, and at eighty-five I’m still strong.” I just pray God will help me when I get your age, brother, to be as strong as I am now. Caleb said, “Forty-five years ago I was sent out, at forty. We went to the Promised Land. Twelve went out and ten came back and said, ‘We can’t do it. We’re like grasshoppers in their sight.’ Joshua and I said, ‘That’s true, but out yonder there’s a land flowing with milk and honey.'” And Caleb said, “Let’s go possess the land.” And Joshua said, “Let’s go possess the land.”
Now Caleb is eighty-five years old. Forty-five years ago he said, “Let’s go.” At eighty-five he said, “I want that mountain.” He’s still looking for mountains. He’s still looking for land at eighty-five.
Now, how do you stay like Caleb? And that’s the sermon. What did Caleb do?
1. Stay optimistic.
Caleb was certainly optimistic. (Now, I don’t know if he was bragging or not. I guess the older you get, the more you want to brag on your physical prowess of which you have less to brag on!) But anyway, Caleb, who was eighty-five, said, “I am just as strong as I was when we left back yonder forty-five years ago. I can hurl a spear just as accurately as I could forty-five years ago.” In war, a lot of folks say that old men are for counsel and that young men are for war. Caleb said, “I can still fight a war.” I can still fight a war.” He was optimistic.
Let me read you Joshua 14:10 and 11. Don’t turn to it. I’ll just read them to you. “And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day”—Happy birthday, Caleb—”I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.” He said, “I can defend myself, and I can defend others just like I could forty-five years ago.”
Did you know that the most productive years of life are not between eighteen and twenty-five? Did you know that most of the great things that have been done by men in this world have not been done by young punks? They’ve been done by men, seasoned men.
Century Magazine one time took a poll of four hundred of the greatest men in the world, and found that seventy-eight percent had done their greatest works between the ages of fifty and eighty. Vanderbilt made most of his fortune between seventy and eighty. Hindenburg at seventy, commanded the German forces, and past eighty, became President of the German Republic. Victor Hugo wrote The History of Crime at seventy-five. Tennyson wrote “The Crossing of the Bar” at eighty-three. Michelangelo executed some of his most wonderful paintings at the age of eighty-nine, and Century Magazine says that men’s most fruitful years are not twenty, twenty-five, and thirty, but rather fifty, sixty, seventy, and eighty.
So, you say, “Brother Hyles, how did Caleb stay young?” The Bible says, for example, that Moses’ eyesight was not dimmed nor his strength abated when he was a hundred and twenty years of age (Deuteronomy 34:7). Think about that. A hundred and twenty. And his eyesight was not dimmed. He didn’t have to wear bifocals! He didn’t have to say, “Here, hold my Bible. I’ve got to read it.” His eyes were not dimmed nor his strength abated. At a hundred and twenty. You say, “Brother Hyles, do you think the years were the same size back in those days?” Yes, I do. Yes, I do.
Now, one way to stay young is to stay optimistic.
2. Don’t cater to youth.
Don’t cater to youth! Don’t misunderstand me. Don’t fight the youth. Young people, I think you’re fine. I’m glad you’re here. And I am glad we are here to teach you something so you’ll know more than you know now someday. I’m not fighting youth; I’m just putting youth in its place. But adults thirty and over, I hate to tell you, if you don’t watch out, they’re going to put us out to pasture: Retiring at fifty-eight nowadays. Fifty-eight! Retiring! Tell R.G. Lee that. He’s eighty-four and preaches like a boy. Tell John Rice that. He still works sixteen to eighteen hours a day at seventy-four. Retiring at fifty-eight. Don’t cater to youth.
When I was in New York the other day for a meeting…I told some of our folks about it. I got in all kinds of trouble. Not only did I get in all kinds of trouble, but the folks that got me in all kinds of trouble also got in all kinds of trouble with me, by the way. I was preaching at a State Convention in New York, and the Grace Baptist Church had their youth choir come out for the State Convention. The first girl who came out had on a mini-skirt, and the first boy who came out had long, shaggy hair and a long beard. The second boy who came out had his shirt open, his undershirt showing, and the hair on his chest sticking over his undershirt. (By the way, mine’s unbuttoned there. I didn’t know it. But, anyway, it wasn’t showing, was it?) He had his hair showing, his shirttail out, his shirt unbuttoned. The hair on his chest showing over his undershirt. At a State Convention. In the youth choir. Only one girl in the whole choir had on a dress that wasn’t a mini-skirt. Boys had long hair and beards, and they were hippies. (You folks who came on Wednesday night hear me tell all about it.) They came out, and one guy had a guitar. The choir, as the introduction to the song was played went, “Snap—snap—snap.” They sang a couple or three songs, and then introduced me. I’ll tell you, Brother, they’ve never heard anything like that in their lives. I dare say there are folks still sitting there stunned. If Lot’s wife was there, she would have turned to a pillar of salt, because, Brother, in my own timid way, I let my convictions leak through like a flood. Like Niagara Falls. I preached for an hour and forty-five minutes. I ranted. I raved. I hollered. I screamed. I kicked. I bellowed to New York City. The Empire State Building lost three floors off the top when I got through. I got letters from people—oh, many letters—and they said something like this, many of them…
And by the way, I want to stop and say this right now for our visitors. I am sick, I am tired, I am wear of our copying distorted, beatnik, hippie music in our churches. It’s all of the Devil. Everywhere I go, especially toward the East Coast, some group’s got to get up with the girls’ dresses about a foot above their knees, and a bunch of fellows in satin blouses with kerchiefs around their necks like sissies. They’ve got to give some “Snap—Snap” for Jesus’ sake.” They’re up singing some Gospel words to beatnik music. I’m sick of it. I’ll tell you one thing, anywhere I go and they have it, I’m going to make my presence felt. Somebody’s got to speak.
And so I got letter after letter (and boy, I’ll tell you when I preached, you’ve never heard such…really! You’ve never heard me mean. Listen, the sermons I preach here on Sunday night are sermons on the love of God compared to what I was that night.) And I got letter after letter. And people said, “Doctor Hyles, we just thought that the only thing we could do was let them do it. We just thought that was the trend of the generation. We thought we shouldn’t speak.”
Pastor after pastor told me, “I’m going to take my stand, too.” It’s time the old folks were heard from. By the way, there’s still nothing wrong with “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”; or Betty, or Suzie, or whoever you dream of with whatever color hair she has. “Nowadays with the passing of the week, she’s got to change the color. One week it’s “I Dream of Jeanie with the Dark Blue Hair”—and the light red hair, and blonde hair) but I still like those. And I still like The Twentieth Century Drawing Room. I still like classical music. I still like the old love songs that are decent. I still like the good music and songs of the day when good music accompanied good words. Don’t cater to the youth.
“Say, Brother Hyles, this is just a new generation.” Sure it is. Sure it is. And they can learn good music and love good art like the old generation did. And young people—and, you boys, listen to me—on the third row here! Young people, I don’t care who you are: just because you happen to be sixteen years old doesn’t give you the right or permission to use the world’s music and the world’s records and the world’s beat. It doesn’t give you a right to do it, and it doesn’t give you a right to think you know more than anybody in the history of this world. The honest truth is, there are people sitting in this room tonight, sixty and over, who have forgotten more than you know right now. I’m not against you; I want you to be in your place.
It’s time that the older people said, “We believe we can do something too.” A person gets up around sixty years of age, we just put him out in the pasture, put him in a rest home somewhere, and say he’s not worth anything anymore. The honest, simple truth is we need to hear the advice of the saints of God who have lived for threescore and ten. Don’t cater to the youth. Speak your peace.
3. Don’t grow old.
Just don’t grow old! Listen, very carefully. I’m going to teach you a secret. Tennyson said, “I have the trick of believing everyone I talk to is as old as myself.” “I have the trick of believing everyone I talk to is as old as myself.”
Now, you fellows down here, did you know that when you come into my office and talk to me, I don’t feel any older than you? Anybody here that way? When you talk to a young person, you just feel like you’re that age. Anybody here like that besides me? You would raise your hand, but you’ve got arthritis and can’t get it up. But, now that’s the strange thing about it.
I talked to Meredith Plopper. I’ll never forget it—never forget it. She came to work here at the church, and I thought we were the same age. I said one day, “Meredith, do you look at me as being old?” And she said, “Why no.” “Well,” I said, “Me either.” She said, “I don’t look at you as being old. To me, you’re just like an uncle.” I said, “A what? An Uncle?” (She never has gotten back to the salary she had before she said that!)
Just don’t grow old. In your mind, be the same. I can get on a ball field and play with a bunch of kids. I don’t feel like they’re younger than me—I know they can’t play ball “as good” as I can, and I feel like I’m their age. Don’t grow old. Just don’t do it. A bunch of hippies come in and say, “We’re the younger generation. Let’s take over.” I say, “Yeah, we are. Let’s take over.” Just don’t grow old.
Caleb said, “I’m eighty-five, but I can whip any of you whipper-snappers.” You say, “Brother Hyles, why don’t you preach the Bible?” I am preaching the Bible. I am simply saying that if these hippies and this college crowd had America, they would destroy her for two reasons. One reason is that their philosophy is of the devil. And the second reason, if their philosophy were right, they don’t have enough sense to run a country. Now, if they’re going to run a business some day, they ought to start sweeping out the place like anybody ought to start. Start at the bottom and work their way up.
You know, we’ve given them our television screens. Sometime, watch some of these talk programs to see who’s on them. Young fellows, twenty-two and twenty-three years of age, are allowed to speak to our nation about the “cure” for all the ills we face. The never were County Sheriff. The never were on the City Council. But we have given them our television camera, and screens, and said, “We’ll listen to you.” The Abbie Hoffmans and others have been allowed to speak their piece across this country of ours when they have not built a hot dog stand yet. Now, where I came from, you’re supposed to earn your right to speak.
You know, I’m thinking now of a preacher, and by the way, he’s a pretty good preacher. God called him, and he became a preacher. He wasn’t a kid when he began to preach; he was an adult—not an old man, but an adult. He went to a church, a small church, and built it to be a pretty fair-sized church. He just started off with a few people and got a couple hundred folks together. He built it pretty quickly. And so, pretty soon he became an expert. Every time he’d gather around preachers with churches bigger than his, he would tell the preachers how he did it. He would advise them. Do you know what? He never did much. He is about washed up now. You know why? He thought, because he had built a little church with a hundred fifty to two hundred folks, that he had the right to advise people. That’s not true. You earn the right to advise people. You earn the right to be heard. You earn the right to give counsel. You earn the right to be on television. You earn the right. Nowadays, anybody can write a book. Anybody can be on television. It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked. It doesn’t matter how far up the ladder you’ve gone. Just don’t grow old. Stay young, and keep speaking your peace.
4. Don’t plan to retire.
Now, hang on here. Don’t plan to retire. That’s sort of scary, isn’t it? You’ve been looking forward to it for so long. Just don’t plan to retire. You will not do much in your generation if you look forward to retirement. Look, when a lot of you go to work, especially in the winter time, you see that lake in Florida, and you say, “Just eight more years, six more months, twenty-four more days, three more hours, and sixteen more minutes, I’ll be there.” And you know what you’ll do when you get there? You’ll wish you were still back at the steel mills. Oh, you say, “Not me.”
Don’t retire. Somebody said to me one time, “Brother Hyles, what kind of retirement plans do you have?” I said Philippians 4:13 and Philippians 4:19.” And they said, “But when you get old, when you retire?” I said, “I’m not going to retire.” I’m not. When I can’t stand up to preach, I’ll sit down and preach. When I can’t sit down to preach, I’ll lie down and preach. When I can’t holler anymore, I’ll whisper. If I can’t whisper, I’ll learn sign language. No, I’m not going to retire. Don’t you plan to either.
Look. We are building a generation—talk about the generation gap! You know what the generation gap is caused by? The older people going too far away. Stay in the battle. Stay in the thick of it. Don’t run. And don’t plan to retire. Caleb said, “I’m eighty-five. I’m eight-five. I still want that mountain.” Do you realize Caleb could have been on social security for twenty years before that. I’ll be honest with you, I think social security has been a detriment to America. It has.
In the first place—and this is my sermon that I’m going to preach after while or next Sunday night, one or the other, on where your money goes. In the first place, the money you send in for social security isn’t there tonight. It’s been spent. It’s not there. The reason they raise the social security payments is so they can get enough money to pay off the people who are making claims now. But I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t have time to go into it, but the honest truth is your funds have been misrepresented by your government. The money that they have taken, that you’ve worked for, is now spent. They don’t have enough money to pay off claims they have now. It has already been misused.
In the second place, it has taught our people to retire, and this is what has happened: The most brilliant minds in America are not being used tonight—the most gifted men this nation has, the best professors, the best Bible teachers, the best leaders, the best politicians, the best men, business tycoons. The best ones.
I tingled this afternoon. I had had a funeral. When I came back and turned the television set on the Cubs were on. I didn’t have much time to look at it, but I saw Jack Brickhouse, and beside him was a fellow I recognized in a minute. It was James Doolittle. General James Doolittle. One of the great heroes of World War II. I recalled how I followed him, learned about him, and became a great admirer of General Jimmy Doolittle. I saw him on television, and I stopped and listened for a few minutes. Jack Brickhouse said, “How old are you now?” General Doolittle said, “Seventy-three.” “What are you doing now?” “Doing a few odd jobs.” And I said to myself, “He ought to be in the place of some of the beatniks, and we ought to be listening to what he has to say for a while. He gets about two minutes between innings of a Cubs ball game, and Rap Brown gets the whole NBC.”
We’re letting the greatest minds this nation has go unused because of the so-called “youth movement.” When President Truman relieved McArthur of his command, America should have voted to keep the flag at half-mast. We put that great old genera, one of the two greatest statesmen of our generation, out to pasture and put him in an apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York City, when the honest, simple truth is he should have been walking the halls of the White House in Washington.
When General McArthur was in the last years of his work in Japan—did you know he got a copy of my little tract, “The Roman Road Plan of Salvation”? General Douglas McArthur called his staff together in Japan and said to his staff, “Look what I’ve found.” He had Jack Hyles’ “Roman Road Plan,” that I started as a kid in East Texas. He said, “I want to read you something.” He read, “Roman Road Plan of Salvation” and tried to get the men on his staff to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior.
We’ve taken the greatest minds we have, the greatest men, and sometimes the greatest bodies, and said, “We don’t need you anymore.” We’ve turned our nation over to twenty-one, twenty-two, and twenty-three-year-old young people who never have earned the right to be heard, much less to run anything.
5. Keep well.
Older people, you want to be like Caleb? Keep well. I mean physically well. Now, I’m going to say this, and I believe it. I don’t think your body and mind need to deteriorate or weaken with the passing of the years.
Brother Streeter, you know, you and your brother, Dennis, are somewhat medical students. Dennis is going to be a doctor—already is maybe. And if you hadn’t flunked out, you would been one, no doubt; you know this is true. When men get thirty-five, forty, forty-five, they don’t get out of shape because they are old; they get out of shape because they’re lazy. You don’t get that way because you’re old. You get that way because you don’t have any character. You say, “Well, I’m getting old now. I’m getting a little pot.” No, the reason that you didn’t have that pot when you were seventeen or eighteen is because some physical education professor put you through the grind at school. I can tell you boys tonight, seventeen, eighteen years old, who already have the middle-age spread. You need not have a middle-age spread. There’s no such thing as a middle-age spread. It’s a lazy spread. I started to say for you to do this, but don’t do it. (You just drive out around Munster some…please, don’t do it. Tonight when I run, I’ll have thousands of folks beside the road waving at me. I’m going to run in Highland tonight or somewhere.) But you don’t have to get the middle-age spread.
Take care of yourself. You only have one body. It’s the temple of the Holy Spirit. Use it right and keep it well. Look, the body is God’s temple. The Holy Spirit lives in here. It’s all I have with which to serve the Lord. Brother John, when our bodies are gone, it doesn’t matter how warm our hearts are, we will not be able to serve God. If my body’s not strong enough to carry me to this pulpit, I’ll not be able to preach, not matter how good a Christian I am, or how warm my heart, or how alert my mind.
One of the saddest things in the world is the fact that we have cars to take us everywhere. I’ve often thought about Elijah when Jezebel got after him. If Elijah lived in our generation, she would have caught him. Elijah couldn’t have gotten away if he hadn’t been jogging every night, taking care of himself. Do you think Caleb, who said, “I’m as strong as I was when I was forty, and at eight-five, I can still go to war,” got that way from hanging around pizza parlors? French fried onion ring clubs?
The time has come when God’s people ought to take care of their bodies. We don’t have to spend all of our time in the doctor’s office. Now, I’m not against doctors. I go myself when I get sick. Stay young. Stay well.
Here’s one of the problems. The honest truth is: The average American male is washed up when he’s thirty-five. Right? Washed up. I don’t mean you. If that were the case, you’d be drowned by now. By the time he’s thirty-five, the average man is gone. If he had to run half a block, if he emphysema didn’t get him, his heart would. Why? Because we don’t take care of ourselves. Keep well.
If liquor is not sinful, it’s not right to use anyway; it is not good for you. If tobacco is not sinful, it is best not to use it; it is not good for you. Our air is polluted. Our water is no good. Our diets are sinful. Our ground is worn out. In the Old Testament, God said, “I want you to raise your crop for six years. The seventh year, let your land rest.” We’ve worn out our land until we don’t get much out of what we raise anymore. The simple truth is, we’re killing ourselves for the almighty dollar. We’re killing ourselves.
Look. Did you know when a fellow plowed all day, he walked miles, got exercise and fresh air, and was raising something that would be good for him. The average one of us gets in the car and drives to McDonald’s. No, I’m not against McDonald’s. I use the place myself. To me, they have the best French fries in the world. Milk shakes, too. I go to McDonald’s and get French fries and milk shakes, and go to Paul’s to get a sandwich. I am not against that. But the honest truth is we spend half of our money on the junk we eat and the other half going to the doctor to find out how to cure ourselves from the junk we eat. So the young folks have to take over because when you’re thirty-five you have emphysema. We have men in this church that would say, “Amen,” but who can’t get it out. Take care of your body.
You say, “You ought to preach the Gospel.” Brother, right in here, if we had more healthy people, we could get more Gospel out. Tell you what you do. Go down here on State Street sometime, and just watch the males go by. (Now, some of you fellows, I’d have to tell you to do the other.) But watch, some of you ladies watch the males go by. And boy, here they come. That’s right. Look. Did you know I know some men, and some women, too, who at thirty are old. And I know men and women, who at fifty, and sixty, and sixty-five, are as young and virile and active as they were at twenty-five. Why? They have cared for the body, that’s why.
Yesterday, I was reading in the paper a story about Arnold Palmer. I happen to like Arnold Palmer. I know he’s now what he ought to be—he shouldn’t play golf on Sunday—but I happen to like him. I’m in Arnie’s army. A Buck Private, but I’m in the army, Arnie’s army. I like Arnold Palmer. He’s about my age. I was reading that he does three hundred sit-ups a day. (John Colsten does one: He sits up on the bed in the morning; drops back in at night.) There’s a reason why men the age of Arnold Palmer can still play winning golf. There’s a reason whey men the age of R.G. Lee can still stand up and preach at eight-four. There’s a reason why the John Rices are going strong at seventy-four. There’s a reason why the Michelangelos can work at eight-nine. There’s a reason why some people like the McArthurs and others keep well. They have not dissipated their bodies with a haphazard and undisciplined kind of a life. Rather, they have said, “My body is going to be strong.”
6. Stay busy for God.
Caleb said, “I want this mountain. I’m as strong as I was forty-five years ago. I can still go to war.” Moses, of whom is said that his eyesight was not dimmed nor his strength abated, stayed busy for God. Now, when you get to be forty, fifty, fifty-five, sixty, sixty-five, and seventy, just keep on for God. Don’t quit your Sunday School class. Stay well. Keep your mind alert. Use your mind. Use your body. Never stop.
Do you know what? Some of the people whom we need the most aren’t available to us because they didn’t care for their minds and bodies. They didn’t stay actively busy—Actively busy. Now, what’s the fellow’s name—who was the Speaker of the House for so long? McCormick. I happen not to be one of his fans, but I don’t think that because he’s old he ought to be put out of his Speaker’s position. I also happen to be a great fan of the late Senator Dirkson. I think he was one of the greatest statesmen this country has ever produced.
By the way, I’m forty-three, but I go all the time. I’ve preached over three sermons a day for the last thirteen years. Some days I preach eight or nine times a day. Take care of your body! Stay busy for God!
Let us pray.