“Wait ’til you’re 40, things will be different.”

Those words sunk into my soul with subtle persistence. It was like I was hooked up to an IV and being slowly put to sleep. The words echoed in my ears, declaring my singular passion something of a fool’s errand, the product of youthful ignorance.

Let me give you the context. It was 2001 and I was in my early 20’s and a fairly new Christian. I did not know much other than I loved Jesus and wanted to preach. I had imbibed a few liters of Spurgeon, heard some Piper quotes and was dreaming big. I was also at a very large church heavily involved in attractional, church-growth ministry. Some of the leaders, seeing my zeal and perhaps some potential, turned me loose on a bunch of adults—some decades older than me. I preached my Sunday School classes. It was…interesting.

As my convictions grew I felt more and more out-of-place. I was broken by the trajectory of the church. They seemed to be exchanging the authority of Scripture and preeminence of Christ for feelings, programs and capital campaigns. I had to do something. I couldn’t let it be.

I tried to get a meeting with the pastor. He was something of a rock-star at our church. He ignored my emails and requests. His secretary kept me at arm’s length like a good pastoral bouncer. At the same time I needed to let him know about my concerns. I loved this church.

Finally, through a connection with one of his associates, I got in there. I was told that I had 30 minutes. I was going to make it count. I went through my outline (yes, it was typed out). I pleaded with him in shameless tears about the centrality of the gospel, the Scriptures, and the church.

He sat stoic. He was unmoved. He just stared at me. After baldly suggesting that I go to another church he cut me off and said, “Wait ’til you’re 40, things will be different. You won’t be so passionate.”

Well, here I am nearing the big “four – o” and I want to test this pastor’s prophecy.

I can confidently say that he was and remains dead wrong. Passion for the glory of Christ does not wane or whither with time when it is fueled and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Over the years I have found myself peering into more and more rooms in the mansion of Christology. Jesus remains infinitely lovely, compelling, and full of glory. The gospel is no less powerful. The church is no less worthy of my service. And this guys’ statement could not be more wrong.

As I look back I am—in a strange way—thankful for this pastor’s failed prophecy. It has served me as a sanctified rock in my shoe. His words often hung overhead like a bold, advertising banner attached to an airplane. They were something of a challenge to me and, I think, to the Holy Spirit. “You won’t keep this up. You will fizzle. This is just a fad for you.” He was so gloriously wrong. (And ironically, now I am looking to identify and shape passionate, gifted, young guys for ministry. I’m looking for guys like the 2001 version of me.)

If you have had similar encounters, let me encourage you not toward prideful but to prayerful refutation. Double-down on the Holy Spirit. Study the gospel. Pray like everything depends on it and live like you are serving the risen King. And when you pull over and take inventory, remember that it is not actually you who keeps you but God. We are prone to wander and naturally packed for apostasy. But, God is faithful.


[photo via Shutterstock]

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14 thoughts on ““You Won’t Be So Passionate When You’re 40″”

  1. Doug says:

    Psalm 92:12-15
    The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
    He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
    Planted in the house of the Lord,
    They will flourish in the courts of our God.
    They will still yield fruit in old age;
    They shall be full of sap and very green,
    To declare that the Lord is upright;
    He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

  2. Andrew Merriman says:

    Me too!!!!! Same age…same burning desire. Go get ‘em!

  3. Angel says:

    When I was younger, I was told often that I was a woman with a cause whether there was a cause or not. “Too passionate” or “too zealous” or my favorite, “I used to listen to Steve Camp when I had more energy.” Now I’m 42 and as passionate as ever. I pray often my zeal and passion will continue to grow with the fruit of the Spirit and wisdom. Cheers to chasing hard after God all of the days of our lives!

  4. Joe M says:

    I dunno. I’d think you could appreciate his attitude to a young guy trying to tell him how to correct his theology… esp. if he was a blind sinner. Dead people can’t see, and most people find presumptuous young’s’ hard to take. Just as most people feel more tired at 40 than 20.

  5. Mike says:

    As a guy about to turn 40 in a couple month, this resonated with me. In my early 20’s, I had an older gentlemen (by 30 years) correct me for standing on convictions. While I definitely had zeal, I’ll admit my wisdom and tack were not equal. 15 years later my convictions in the power of the gospel have not swayed, but gotten stronger… and thank God, my ability to communicate those convictions has grown!

  6. P.Samuel says:

    I am 35. The furnace of my passion for King Jesus makes the flame of my youth look dull and weak. The older I get the more the heat grows. To actually do anything with fire you need heat not flame. Thank you Erik for defying the words spoken over you.

  7. D. Monreal says:

    The realization of God’s love for me in Jesus has only really penetrated my heart in my 40’s! I am 47, have been a Christian for over 30 years, and a pastor for over 20 and I can say without a doubt I am more passionate for the gospel and more believing in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit than ever in my life! I remember talking to a friend’s dad who was a part of a strong “revival” at his Christian college back in the 70’s. In his spiritual apathy he told me how things like that are great but they will fade. I remember thinking as a young Christian, “No, it doesn’t have to be that way!” Now, at the same age as that man was when he told me I can say with confidence, “No, it doesn’t have to be that way!”

  8. Kathy says:

    I think it depends on your age during the revival. We are in a revival now, and you are 40. I think people who were 40 a decade or 2 after the 70’s revival see things differently. Be grateful for the revival.

    1. Stephen Trussell says:

      Still passionate at 56.

  9. Jarrett Klingler says:

    I am 41 and think of myself as someone who is still passionate for Jesus, His Word and His Church. I am challenged and encouraged when I see new, young believers in my midst. It helps me want to know Him more and echo Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship in sharing in His sufferings”.

  10. Nicholas Collins says:

    The difficulty in getting a meeting with the CEO (face it, this man never was a pastor) and the suggestion of another church were red flags right at the start. I’ve had a similar experience. To anyone in a similar situation, I can only say “run a mile”. In fact, to get to a biblical church, be prepared to drive fifty miles. Get as far as possible from such a place.

  11. Mack Stiles says:

    Amen! I’m turning 60 this month and more in love with Jesus, more passionate about his cause than I ever was when I (at 17) was told, in similar language, that “one day I would understand”. I understand this today: becoming lukewarm is synonynomous with spiritual death.

  12. Jim Chandler says:

    I’m 55 and I’m more passionate than I was at 40.

  13. Mary says:

    I’m am 21 now and not too long ago I was told basically that with age comes wisdom and therefore less passion for one’s convictions. May it not be true in my life!

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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