“The man who views the world at 50 the same way he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
~ Muhammad Ali
I wish older Christians told me these five lessons when I was in my 20s. It would have saved me a lot of aggravation, frustration, discouragement, [fill in the blank].
Here they are …
1) 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.”
2) 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.)
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) 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. Five more 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.
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, I trust this helps.
If you’re older, do me a favor and share this blog post with those who are younger — assuming you agree. (Which if you don’t, we can still be friends. It will be awkward and all, but still friends. )
www.frankviola.org. Used by permission of the author.