~ Muhammad Ali
I wish an older Christian told me the following when I was in my 20s. It would have saved me a lot of aggravation, frustration, discouragement, [fill in the blank].
Hold on to your chair. These are blunt, even unsettling, observations.
1) You’ll turn your head and you’ll be 40 years old. So live in the present and savor every moment. You cannot rewind the clock of your life.
When I was in my late 20s, an older friend in his 60s said to me, “Frank, you’re going to turn your head and you’ll be 50.”
As I write this update, I’m slightly over 50 (still younger than Johnny Depp, mind you. And I’ll always be younger than Johnny Depp!). But my friend was right. I turned my head and I was 50.
What I wish he would have added was …
“Strive to always live in the present. Savor each moment of your life, like a glass of fine wine. Don’t mainline or inhale it. Because your life will slip by before you know it.”
Have you ever seen the movie, Click? Life is a slightly slowed down version of that film.
At 50, I can say that with sad confidence.
So the moral of the story is: Don’t let the frantic pace of your youth suck you into life’s breakneck vortex. Throw your hands on the gears, slow them down a bit, and take stock.
Redeem the time for the days are evil.
2) Life won’t get easier. So learn to accept trials, disappointments, suffering, and incalculable loss.
On some levels, life will become easier. Thank God, junior high is over. Can I get a tiny amen on that?
(Alas, the memories of middle school. In my eyes, a pencil sharpener was a knuckle destroyer and on some days I treated P.E. as though it were the Olympics! I do miss Dodgeball, though. But I digress.)
Speaking of junior high, when I hit my mid-30s, I was stunned to discover how many adults act like they’re still in middle school.
Searing jealousy, two-faced back-stabbing, unabashed gossip, scorched-earth drama, perceived slights that never took place, schoolyard belittling, sophomoric one-upmanship, imbibing slander and spreading it, etc. all run at high tide among adults … even “Christian” adults.
Yes, these tactics are carnal, immature, absurd and appalling. No, not every adult deploys them. But I’ve seen so much juvenile behavior and sharp elbowing among grown men and women that it’s unnerving.
I used to be an angel, but the backbiters chewed my wings off.
The fact is, as each year passes, you’ll weather one crisis only to meet another.
Life will never become void of pain, discouragement, disappointment, and periods of suffering.
Well, you do get some breaks between explosions. Then the napalm bombs start dropping again.
But remember. These are the tools of your Lord to transform you. So don’t waste your sufferings. Lean into them to see Christ in a fresh way through each difficulty.
As I’ve defined it elsewhere, a crisis is an unwelcomed opportunity to discover a new aspect of Jesus Christ.
And what you see depends on where you stand.
So seek to stand in Christ and view things from His perspective. And learn the secret of living “care-free.”
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
3) Christians will break your heart.
If the New Testament story teaches us anything, it teaches us this: Some of the greatest pain in your life will be dished out to you at the hands of “Christians.”
This was true in the case of Paul and even Jesus (“I was wounded in the house of my friends”). Calm down, Citizens, I know that “Christians” came after Jesus ascended.
I’m talking about God’s people and even the Lord’s own followers (if you recall, one of the Twelve betrayed Him and another denied Him thrice; and all His male followers checked out during His darkest hour.)
Persecution from fellow Christians has come to the doorstep of every great woman and man of God who impacted the Kingdom of God. The pages of church history are bloodstained. There’s carnage in every chapter.
And the passing parade continues.
Same torches, same pitchforks, just different faces.
So don’t be surprised. And get ready to discover the enduring virtues of suffering with Christ; some of them being brokenness, humility, forebearance, forgiveness, patience and the art of taking the high road.
Something more Jesus-followers need to learn in our day, in my humble (but accurate) opinion. 🙂
Only a relationship with Jesus Christ will enable you to survive without becoming embittered or destroyed.
4) A great deal of what you are certain about now, you’ll question later in life.
Someone famously said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
(Ascribed to Mark Twain, but that’s debated.)
With age comes maturity. With experience comes wisdom. And part of wisdom is discovering that the more you learn, the more you realize just how ignorant you are.
It’s as though God hard wired the universe to challenge our pride.
When I was in my early 20s, I was a theological expert. I knew everything.
Today, I wish I knew half of what my older self knew. I mean, why can’t life’s problems hit us when we’re 21 and we know everything?
Because life is a crash course in teaching you what you don’t know. Especially those things you once asserted as unimpeachable fact.
So tread humbly. Always.
For we know in part.
5) The commitments you made in your teens and 20s will be severely tested in your early 30s.
This includes your commitment to Jesus Christ.
It’s when a person hits 30 — or thereabouts — that they begin to reevaluate the commitment they made to the Lord. And they either dig in or bail out. Sure, some people go through this crisis before 30 and some experience it in their 40s.
But there will come a point where your faith will be tested beyond measure. You’ll wonder if God exists, if the Jesus narrative is true or makes sense, if the Bible can be trusted, etc.
Expect it. And don’t make the mistake of walking off the field before the whistle blows. Make a stake-in-the-ground commitment to play full out for the Lord.
The one who endures until the end shall be saved.
6) Things aren’t always what they seem.
In my youth, I quickly drew conclusions without hearing the whole side of a story from all parties involved. Regrettably, I still see this happen today, even among “seasoned” Christians.
Someone hears a rumor or reads an attack against a fellow Christian online. Instead of going to the person being attacked (Matthew 7:12), countless Christians believe the rumor.
But if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s this: There is always more than one side to a story, and things aren’t always what they seem.
I learned this lesson the hard way a long time ago. (I wrote about it here.) Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.”
7) The greater the spiritual impact you will have, the greater your sufferings will be.
This is God’s way. It takes a good amount of breaking for God’s light to penetrate the dark places and create a clear way for that light to seep out. Put another way, it’s a seismic task for the Lord to clear the pipes so the sludge can get through. As I put it in Revise Us Again, “As high as God is going to elevate you is as deep as He digs to lay the foundation.”
It would have been nice to know what to expect when I put my hand to God’s plow. But as a young believer, all I heard was how glorious it was to serve the Lord. No one told me the heights, depths, and lengths to which God goes to break His servants!
(My chest just tightened typing that.)
8) Jealousy is at the root of most divisions, conflicts, and persecutions.
I admit my naivety here. I used to think that jealousy and envy were things that went with middle school and high school drama. I thought, “adults don’t engage in that kind of juvenile behavior.”
Man, was I wrong. Jealousy is pervasive among adults, in business, education, and also in the world of ministry.
Have you ever wondered why some of the most gifted and anointed speakers aren’t ever invited to speak at certain Christian conferences? Jealousy is often at the root (the fear of being upstaged).
Ever wonder what’s behind so many personal attacks in the Christian world? Jealousy is almost always at the root.
The meanest people in the world are those who are drowning in the rip tide of their own egos. The human ego has a voracious appetite, and the more its fed, the hungrier it becomes. Jealousy rears its ugly head whenever a person’s ego hasn’t been crucified.
Years later, I discovered that religious jealousy is what incited the murders of Abel, Jesus, and Paul.
9) Transformation is a (really) slow process.
Spiritual transformation is real. God changes people. And conformity to Christ is an essential aspect of God’s ultimate purpose. However, it takes time. Years. It’s not a sprint, but a marathon. As a young man at the age of sixteen, living on the momentum of a new Christian, I made the mistake of equating knowledge with experience. “If you know it, you’ve got it.”
Equating knowledge with experience is like dropping a rose pedal down the grand canyon and waiting for it to echo.
It takes years — and a lot of breaking — for God to translate any spiritual insight you have into experiential knowledge.
If you’re in your 20s, measure the space between the top of your head and your heart in inches. Someone once said that it takes at least that many years to move what’s in your mind to your spirit.
I think that’s pretty accurate.
10) When someone imputes evil motives to another person’s heart, they are merely revealing what’s in their own.
I can multiply examples of this, but let me give you one.
I once heard a “Christian” (we’ll call her Sally) judge another Christian (we’ll call her Sharon) of being “full of pride” simply because Sharon regularly employed humor.
Not only does that calculation not compute (Jesus often used humor and irony), but it only reveals one thing. Sally was exposing herself to be a prideful individual.
You see, when people read intentions and motivations into another person’s words, they are merely exposing what’s in their own hearts.
Few things throw sand in the gears of one’s spiritual growth faster than adopting a critical, judgmental attitude.
Therefore, never judge another person’s motives. Always think the best. If you have a concern about someone, ask them directly (“Why did you say or write or do such and such?”).
So there you have it. 10 things I wish older Christians told me when I was younger.
I’ve left out a lot more. But again, this isn’t a book. It’s a blog post.