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Why do some people not turn to God until later in life?

The gospel message is for men and women of all races and cultures, young and old (Galatians 3:28). However, the majority of those who hear the message do not respond right away. Some people may not turn to God until they are quite old.

Humanly speaking, there are numerous reasons for not responding to God until later in life—having a family or a career, wanting to travel, or participating in any number of sporting or social activities. Some may believe that God will not mind waiting until their hectic schedules calm down so that they can give Him some time. Others are too self-centered to acknowledge God. Some people live comfortably because of their own efforts, and they see no reason to turn to God. Some people simply enjoy their sin. Others are so convinced that they have earned their salvation through good works that they have not yet turned to God in faith.

Jesus told a parable in which different people are summoned at different times. The master of the vineyard hires workers to bring in the harvest in Matthew 20:1-16. Some people start work early in the morning and agree on a salary. The harvest is so abundant that the master must hire more workers as the day progresses, right up until the end of the working day. The master pays those who arrived late the same as those who arrived early. This parable illustrates God's sovereignty in calling whomever He chooses, at whatever stage of life. He treats those who join His service "late in the day" as equals to those who have worked for Him their entire lives.

God knew who He would call from the beginning: "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ out of love" (Ephesians 1:4-5). God knows exactly when to call a sinner to repentance and salvation. Many people can hear God's outward call because God's Word is sown all over, but not all of the seed lands on "good soil" where it can take root and produce a harvest (Matthew 13:1-23).

Individuals must not only hear the outward call, but also the inward call of the Holy Spirit, because it is He who convicts us of our sin and enables us to believe in Christ (John 16:7-15). Lydia's conversion is an example of this inward call: "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message" (Acts 16:14). The outward call came from Paul, but the inward call came from the Holy Spirit. We will never be able to respond properly to an outward call until that happens. "The person who does not have the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, but considers them foolishness and cannot understand them because they can only be discerned through the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:14). God is the one who draws us to Himself; He chooses who He calls and when He calls them. His timing is impeccable.

God's plan for us remains hidden until God chooses to reveal it. Only in retrospect can we see how the Holy Spirit worked to bring us to the point of salvation. We may recall something significant said by a Christian that caused us to pause and reflect. Or we were introduced to people whose lives exemplified Jesus' love and humility. Perhaps our circumstances changed dramatically and we found ourselves in an unfavourable situation. We finally realised we were missing something important after a series of seemingly random events, and this sparked our search for God and desire to be in relationship with Him. The story of conversion is unique to each believer, but the common denominator is the Holy Spirit's leading and the Word of God's generation of faith (Romans 10:17).


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