Four Reflections on Faith for my 40th Birthday
Tomorrow I turn 40! I remember 33 years ago sitting on the cold, white countertops of my neighbor friend’s kitchen and saying, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m already seven.” Seven felt so old back then. And now that the number is 40, my primary feelings are, well that was fast, and I’m grateful.
I can’t say that I’ve arrived at any special destination or garnered extraordinary wisdom in these four decades. But I am grateful for what the Lord has done in my life and for the many, many gifts he’s given me. Today I thought I’d mark this celebration with four reflections on faith from 40 years of life. Thanks for rejoicing with me.
Do the Act of Faith
Life is short. These 40 years feel very fast, and as they say, YOLO. Our days are indeed numbered (Job 14:5). If the Lord has impressed a calling upon you, then do it. Don’t wait for a better time—until you have more money, more education, or feel ready. Tomorrow is not a guarantee, so walk in faith today. Of course, seek the wisdom of godly mentors and a community of faith—I’m not encouraging foolishness here. But if you sense that God has asked you to pursue a lost friend, share the gospel with your neighbor, move overseas as a missionary, adopt a child, foster a child, plant a church, start a business that glorifies Jesus—do it.
Life is full and hectic and it’s easy to forego the most important things to keep our heads above water (or keep up with the Joneses), but without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Take a leap for God’s pleasure and your joy. I can say that the faith adventures that God has called us to—both the ones that feel drastic and the ones that feel very ordinary (everything from living on three continents for missions, adoption, and planting a church, all the way to opening our home to neighbors, supporting Compassion kids, teaching kids’ Sunday school, and writing a blog)—have been sources of joy and growth and really the substance of life that matters.
Growth Comes Through the Word of God, The People of God, and The Spirit of God
In my experience, the Lord uses very ordinary means of grace in our lives to bring about our growth in him. While we are naturally attracted to shiny curriculum or fancy growth models, and we tend to want the silver bullet for change, there is no substitute for investing time in the Word of God, relationships with the people of God, and being shaped by the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God is foundational in this. It is “he who began a good work in you [who] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). It is God himself who saves us and grows us. The Spirit will bring the growth and change and fruit in our lives. While we do indeed toil in our effort to follow Jesus, it is with all his energy in us (Colossians 1:29).
To know God is to know his Word. His character and history and will are all found in the pages of Scripture. No experience or emotional high can substitute for the words he has given us to tell us about himself.
And his church is precious! The gathering of the saints is powerful and useful. Solomon tells us we’re better together (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to keep meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25), Paul described frequently the importance of every member of the body (1 Corinthians 12:14-31). Finding a body of believers to grow with is crucial.
Behold Jesus All the Time
The Christian walk is really all about Jesus. Like a magnet, we are constantly drawn to ourselves and want to make it about us—our will, our decision, our efforts, our good works. But we “have died, and [our lives are] hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Our faith was established by him and it’s for him.
Paul reminds us, our faith “is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
This truth—that my faith is by him and for him and to him and through him—is liberating and joy-giving. I don’t have to strive and worry and fear. He saved me and he’s growing me.
This reality has probably had the most profound impact on my growth as a Christian. In an age that’s all about self—self-empowerment, self-improvement, self-help, self-autonomy—being renewed day by day, as I fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith (Hebrews 12:2), is a gift.
Good Things Take Time
There is no substitute for small, daily investments in growth. The older I get them more I appreciate Paul’s analogy between spiritual growth and physical growth (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). I’ve been exercising consistently with my neighbor who has become a dear friend and trainer to me over the past 22 months. While I am noticeably stronger than two years ago, it’s not an overwhelming change. I have to keep “chipping away at it,” as she says. Just as athletes are not made overnight, so mature believers are not made in just one season or two. It takes time.
Any spiritual maturity that I enjoy has come by the Spirit through the days, months, and years (and now decades!) that God has allowed me to enjoy consistent time with Him (through the Spirit, Word, and people of God—see above!). There simply are not shortcuts.
When I’ve been physically training for 20 years (and not just two), I will see a huge difference between now and then. And so it is with spiritual strength. I am not the believer I was when I was 20. The difference is because of small, daily deposits of time spent with Jesus and the growth he has sweetly imparted.
Thank you, friends, for visiting jenoshman.com. Writing here has been a gift and I'm daily humbled that you read these words. I’m so delighted to celebrate the 40 years God has given me with you! May he “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).