The Most Important Lesson I have Learned at Age 70
Someone recently asked me what the most important lesson that I have learned at the age of 70. The answer was probably a bit surprising. In fact, it even surprised me a bit. I said, “The most important lesson I have learned is that there are many lessons left for me to learn.”
I am convinced that the reason Dr. Hyles remained a vibrant preacher up until his death was that he never stopped learning. He never thought he had arrived. He remained a student until his death. I can still hear him say, “ When you are teachable you are reachable.” Likewise I find myself continuing to learn many important lessons even at age 70. Why is this so important?
1. It means that I did not do everything right, but that God still blessed me. Throughout my ministry I always sought to do things the way I felt was best. However, that does not mean I always did everything the best way. One of the problems young men have with older men is that they judge them by what they did rather than what they learned. If you want to know what I believe don’t just study what I did, listen to what I say.
I have learned a lot since I left the pastorate. God blessed my ministry as a pastor, but that does not mean I did everything the way I would do it today. There are things I would do differently. I think it surprises some men when they sit and talk with me that some of the things I tell them are different than how I did them. One man asked, “Dr. Gray that’s not the way you did it is it?” I replied, “No, but it is the way I would do it today.” I have learned since then.
2. It keeps me relevant. I had a burden to train older men and women for the ministry, but I felt that there was a void in doing this. One day I was sitting with a couple of men who were telling me about something called webinars. From that discussion came the idea for Independent Baptist Online College (IBOC). Had I not been willing to learn it would’ve hindered my opportunity to do something I feel God has called me to do. I can sit in my study at home and teach because I was willing to learn. God expanded my potential because I am still learning.
3. It keeps me young. There’s a certain child likeness in people who continue to learn. Whenever I was around Dr. Hyles I felt his youth rather than his age He was always learning. He had a certain childlikeness about him that came from his desire to be a student. I want to be a student until the day I die.
4. It keeps you serving. Mrs. Beverly Hyles still teaches Sunday school at age 87. Recently she commented as to why she continues to teach. She said that she had considered resigning her class, but teaching Sunday school kept her studying the Bible. Because she did not want to stop learning she keeps teaching. That is how I feel. I want to continue doing more for God but to do so I miss continue to learn more and to learn more I must continue to study.
5. It keeps others alive. You may have noticed that I spend a great deal of energy perpetuating the ministry and philosophies of my mentors, especially Dr. Jack Hyles. The more I have studied his life and ministry the more I have learned, the more I have learned the more I have been able to share his principles with others. In many ways I feel as though I am teaching his principles and philosophies more than my own. I have become a more devout student because of that. In so doing I am keeping him alive.
6. It keeps me humble. Sometimes as we grow older we think we have all the answers and we become proud “know it alls.” When we realize there’s still much to learn we remain humble because we are aware that there is more to learn than we’ll ever have the opportunity to learn in this lifetime. I want to live out my years as a student, not just a teacher. The way to do that is to realize that you have barely scratched the surface in what there is to learn.
7. It allows me to help more people. The more I learn, the more people I can help in more ways. When I was a pastor there were certain ways I did things. I thought they were the best way at the time. But, I was always looking for new and better ways. Even though I am no longer pastoring I am still learning. I have enjoyed learning more about building the Sunday school. That has enabled me to help other men with their Sunday school. If I stop learning then I limit myself as to who I can help. I want God to use me more not less.
Don’t judge me too harshly for things that I teach that may be different from what I taught when I was younger. I am a work in progress. I am a student who is still learning. Yes, if I have learned anything in my first 70 years of life it is that there is still much to learn, so stay tuned.