May 11, 1993
After surveying several hundred thousand church-goers, an American seminary discovered some interesting percentages. The question they asked was: At what age did you become a Christian?
Four percent were five years old or younger. Eight percent were 30-39; three percent were 40-49; one percent were 50-59; and under one percent were over 60 years old. The larger groups were ages 13-17 at twenty-three percent, 18-29 at twenty-four percent, and a whooping 34 percent between the ages of 6 to 12 years.
These statistics do not make any distinction between those brought up by Christian parents and those raised without biblical teaching, but according to the age of largest percentage group, some home influence was likely a factor.
The numbers also suggest that parents who decide to “let children make up their minds after they grow up” are missing the best years for biblical instruction. It seems the longer anyone waits before deciding to follow Christ, the more difficult this becomes.
In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote, “Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.”
In youth, habits form that persist. Later on, anyone over thirty knows it is difficult, even impossible, to change unwanted or harmful patterns.
In contrast, if our youthful habits are good, the potential of wisdom and blessing from God is increased in old age. Jehoshaphat, an Old Testament leader, demonstrated it. “The Lord was with him because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He sought the God of his father... his heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord.”
Secondly, Solomon advises, “Be happy young man while you are young and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.”
Is youth a time for sowing a few wild oats? It almost seems Solomon recommends this, but read his words again. He says be happy and follow your heart but don’t forget everything you do will be evaluated by God. Whatever comes from anxiety of heart (indicating fear, not faith) or the troubles of your bodies (those sinful desires of the flesh that get us in trouble) will be condemned. He points out that the crop harvested from sinful living is meaningless, so why misspend youth and vigor in reckless living?
Solomon concludes his book of wisdom with, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’”
As a person gets older, life is not quite so carefree. Making a living, relationships, even survival, take away the lighthearted optimism of earlier days. It is more difficult to think about God with an attitude of trust if one has not trusted Him from childhood. Becoming a Christian after thirty is about six times less likely — not because God can’t save us older ones, but because hardening of our ways makes it more difficult to turn and go His way.