There are a lot of 40’s in the Bible. Dozens of times the number appears.
- It rained for forty days and nights so Noah had enough water to float his ark.
- The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years.
- Jesus fasted and lived in the desert for forty days.
- Jesus walked the earth for forty days between his resurrection and his ascension.
And many more.
It’s a Bible number, like three, seven or twelve. Must be something about forty that God likes. The intentionality of its use means that God must have wanted us to connect some dots to teach us something, but I am not smart enough to even guess what that is.
But I can count.
Forty years ago this week, I became a Christian. Prior to that date, I was a churchgoer and knew the books of the Bible and a bunch of Bible stories, but I didn’t know Jesus. I only knew “about” him.
There is a difference.
The former is inside and transforming. The latter is outside and on the perimeter, like a spaceship orbiting a planet and never landing.
The embarrassing part was that forty years ago I was attending a Christian college, the one from where Billy Graham graduated. I sat in a freshman intro-to-theology class and realized I had no idea what the professor was talking about.
Then one day in early October, 1974, while taking notes in the class, something happened. My eyes were opened, the truth came in and the information that until that time had lived in my head fell twelve inches to my heart and I finally knew God, and he knew me.
Spiritual blindness was real and absolute. I was blind, but then I saw.
One of the first things I read after that life-altering event was a short book by J.B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small. Originally written in 1952, it is one of those foundation-rattling books that every Christians should read at some point.
Looking back over forty years, while I failed God many times, he has never failed me.
My spiritual growth-graph is not a straight line up at a forty-degree angle. It has some zigs and several zags in it. At each turning point in my life, the written word in the form of the Bible or a book has been the pivot-point on which my life turned back on course.
Who can read Your God is Too Small and not feel challenged to re-think your inadequate image of God?
Who can read In His Steps and not feel a tug on every move you make to be different than the world?
And forty years later, something more current…
Who can read Gods at War by Kyle Idleman and not feel deep in your bones that this is a fallen world where everything around us is vying to replace God?
Books and THE book. Iron sharpening iron.
One of the great benefits of being a Christian for a long time is that God proves himself faithful so many times. I still hesitate to criticize the Israelites too much for wandering away and forgetting stuff repeatedly for 40 years in the desert, since I’ve been doing that myself for the same length of time.
Maybe what you write will be a pivot point for someone.
Other than Scripture, what book was important at the beginning of your Christian walk?