Yep, it’s official. I’m over the hill. On Monday March 16, 2015, I turned forty!
I’ve crossed the great divide – without having a midlife crisis or buying a Corvette! Not that I would buy a Corvette even if I had the money. A Ferrari would be more like it (if I had a cool 500K to drop). Though I’m not having a mid-life crisis I will say this has been the most unique birthday I’ve experienced to date; unique in that it’s hard to know what to feel. My general sense is I will know more looking back at 40 than I do looking ahead from 40.
I’ve heard it said, “Life begins at 40.” Many say the forties are some of the most fruitful years of your life. The Lord has also encouraged me in this way. For the last couple of months, I’ve had the sense that while my first twenty years of walking with the Lord have had many hardships and challenges, the next twenty years will be marked by “fruitfulness.”
Advice for any decade
For those of you are nearing forty (or any decade for that matter), here are some thoughts that may help you navigate the next 10 years a little more successfully.
Decades are a time to reflect
At 30, I was definitely doing a lot of reflecting and asking some important questions, like:
- Am I doing what God has called me to do?
- Am I where I thought I would be at thirty?
- Are there any changes I need to make or want to make?
Forty feels slightly different. I’m still asking similar questions but they seem to carry more weight, or maybe I’m just more aware of my own mortality and feel less invincible.
The biggest question I find myself asking is,
Am I making a difference?
Ask the right questions
At the end of the day, we all want to know that our lives matter; that we are making a difference. We all want to leave a legacy. In this soul-searching process, it’s very important to have God’s perspective on things; to make sure you are not gauging your success or failure based on a false definition or looking at the wrong measures. I define success as knowing and doing the will of God. As followers of Jesus, if we define success any other way we set ourselves up for disappointment. Sure, we all want to be successful in what we do, but that pales in comparison to pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 tells us without faith it’s impossible to please God. When we know His will and desire through our relationship with Him and we are diligent to carry it out, we are walking by faith and this is pleasing to God. It’s matters less whether or not the endeavor “fails or succeeds.” What matters the most is that we have discerned God’s will through relationship and pleased God’s heart by stepping out in faith and obedience.
If outward signs were the only measures of success, there would be a lot of seeming failures. In the eyes of the world, Jesus Christ Himself would have been a failure. Think about it – the poor son of a carpenter who Himself became a carpenter, had a following for a while, then crashed and burned via a gruesome criminals death on a cross. Many people still don’t view that as a “win.” Yet what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection was world changing. It changed everything. Jesus had a different measure of success. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me (see John 4:34).
Here are some questions to gauge your real success:
- Am I deeply dependent on Jesus Christ? (see John 15:1-8)
- Do I know God? (see Matthew 7:21-23)
- Am I doggedly pursuing Him and His will by faith? (see Romans 12:1-2 and Luke 18:1-8)
- Am I succeeding with the people who matter most and do I love them the way Jesus loves them – my family, friends, church, neighbors and co-workers (Mark 12:29-31)
- Am I doing my best to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)
Spend some time asking God about the next 10 years
I enjoy taking personal retreats. Decades are a good time to get away with God, ask some questions and gain some fresh insight, perspective and direction. That’s never a bad thing. If you are approaching a new decade in your life, take some time to talk to God about it and hear what He says. You won’t regret it.
Make any necessary adjustments
If you’re not happy with your life and don’t feel you are following God’s will, now is the time to adjust the sails. Sometimes it may be a small adjustment and other times it might be giant leap. The picture that comes to mind is a sailboat. A small adjustment to the sail makes a huge difference where you end up. Make the proper course corrections (guided the Word of God, prayer and wise counsel) and keep sailing.
If you need to make big life-changing adjustments, there is no better time to do it than the present. So take heart and make a shift!
Rehearse God’s faithfulness
Decades are a good time to look back over your life and rehearse God’s faithfulness. What are the milestones in your life? What are the things He’s done that have marked you? Have you documented them with pictures, mementos or monuments? I try to do that with all my major milestones. Here are a few of the milestones I rehearse:
- My salvation in February 1996. Each year I take a little time to reflect and celebrate on my spiritual birthday.
- My wedding day
- My call to ministry in 1996
- God’s deliverance from sexual addiction and pornography
- God calling me to work with BASIC College Ministries in 2002 and His faithfulness as we stepped out in faith
- My first missions trip to a foreign country (Turkey) – I have a picture hanging on the wall in my office
- God’s undeniable call to start Journey Church in Cambridge, MA
- The launch of Journey Church in September 2014 – I framed our pictures from the subway ads to hang on my wall behind my desk!
The great hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” states, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’m come.” In 1 Samuel 7, after the Lord grants Israel a great victory over the Philistines, the prophet Samuel sets up a stone as a monument and says, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” An Ebenezer is a stone or monument set up to remember the faithfulness of God. What a powerful picture. So raise your Ebenezer and celebrate His faithfulness!
In the end, I’m actually pretty excited about entering my 40’s and looking forward to what the next 10 years hold. With God, we can always say, the best is yet to come!
What are your reflections about turning 30, 40, 50, 60 or beyond? What are some things that have helped you navigate the decades successfully?