HomeFaithDooley Noted: Milestones 40 years in the making

Dooley Noted: Milestones 40 years in the making

Last weekend was both a milestone and a joyful celebration for my family. As an adult, birthdays don’t carry the same priority as they do for children anxious to have a superhero party or to get their driver’s license. Still, certain moments in life deserve more than passing recognition. My wife is the unspoken hero in our family for numerous reasons, so when I realized she was turning 40 this year I knew we had to make it special.

Our family from out of town quietly gathered in the Hub City. The biggest surprise, by far, was the arrival of two grandmothers who have never visited Jackson, TN. We secretly decorated an undisclosed location. We yelled, “SURPRISE!” when my wife least expected it. We showered her with good food and gifts, but most of all, love. She wept with joy as she took it all in. Truly, it was moment we will never forget. After reflecting a bit more on our celebration, I am amazed by how much we’ve changed over the years and how deep our love for one another has grown.

Not surprising, though, is how often the number 40 shows up in the Bible. Frankly, I tend to believe that sometimes we make too much of biblical numerology. Looking for secret meanings behind straightforward numbers can leave readers missing the plain meaning of a text. In this instance, Scripture nowhere assigns a hidden significance to the number 40. The patterns around the number are more descriptive than prescriptive. That said, the biblical scenarios surrounding both 40 days and 40 years are fascinating.

Rain flooded the earth for 40 days and 40 nights during the life of Noah (Gen. 7:4, 12). Moses spent 40 years in the desert after killing an Egyptian (Acts 7:30), as well as 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving the Law of God (Ex. 24:18). Israeli spies scoped out the Promised Land for 40 days (Num. 13:25). Afterward, the entire nation wandered for 40 years in the desert because they refused to enter the land that God gave to them (Deut. 8:2-5). Jesus later relieved Israel’s season of testing by enduring 40 days of temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). After his resurrection, Jesus walked the earth with His disciples for 40 days (Acts 1:3).

These examples merely scrape the surface, but already you can see a pattern surrounding the number 40. Wherever it appears the themes of testing, preparation, and even judgment emerge, all of which are necessary to make us spiritually aware of and obedient to the Lord’s direction. In other words, the sanctification process takes time. God has His ways of perfecting and equipping us, but our maturation is not a microwave experience. Spiritual growth is more like a crockpot recipe where God builds character, experience, and endurance into our lives. In a world that prizes youth and beauty, we should remember that God’s greater depth and blessings often come with age.

I am not suggesting that we should resent our younger years. To the contrary, Scripture admonishes us not to despise our youth and to seize the opportunity to be examples in service and character (1 Tim. 4:12). Yet, the same Bible warns that we should flee youthful lusts if we want to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Tim. 2:22). Every season of life has its advantages, but walking with the Lord requires faithfulness over the years that cannot be rushed or faked. We usually don’t hit our stride until our later years.

That means that my wife is just getting started. The greatest fruit of her walk with Jesus is yet to come because she is ready to reap a harvest of faithfulness that is years in the making. I do not know everything God has been preparing her for, but I cannot wait to watch it unfold. The same can be true in your life and mine if we, with each passing year, will keep forgetting what lies behind in order to reach for what lies ahead in our pursuit of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:13-14).

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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