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Why Do Some People Not Turn to God Until Later in Life?

We all want our relatives to find faith before it's too late, but some don't make that choice until later in life. Why is this?

Contributing Writer
Oct 31, 2022
Why Do Some People Not Turn to God Until Later in Life?

Some of us have friends and family members nearing the end of their lives who still haven’t received the gift of salvation. There are many reasons why people reject salvation or do not turn to God until later in life, but one thing’s for sure, no matter a person’s age, the Gospel is the power of God to save every person who believes (Romans 1:16).

How Does a Person Receive Salvation?

The Bible tells us that salvation is available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Though He was without sin, Jesus died on the cross to pay the debt for our sins, and then He rose again as the victor over sin and death forever. Those who put their trust in Him share in this victory. We’re free from condemnation and reunited with God for eternity. This is the Gospel—the way to salvation. 

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

To those who have already believed and received Christ, it seems unfathomable that anyone could reject or ignore the message of salvation. After all, who doesn’t like good news? But for someone to receive the truth of the Gospel, they have to hear it. Really hear it. 

What Must Happen Before Someone can Hear and Receive the Gospel?

The most important gift on earth is free for the taking. But that doesn’t mean everyone will receive it or recognize its value immediately. Scripture is clear about what happens behind the scenes during the sacred process of salvation. Here are a few things that must occur before someone can hear and receive the Gospel.

God must draw—Jesus said in John 6:44 that no one can come to Him unless the Father first draws them. An unregenerate person has zero ability to find their way to God, nor do they have the desire to seek Him truly. Our sin-fallen existence has hardened our hearts. Our minds have been darkened to the truth of our sinful nature and need for a Savior. But God knows the right time to draw our hearts and open our understanding. Only He can grant the gift of repentance and lead us into His paths of righteousness.  

The Gospel must be preached—In the book of Romans, Paul tells us that every person who confesses that Jesus is Lord and wholeheartedly believes that He was raised from the dead will call upon Jesus’s name and be saved. Paul follows this powerful promise with four important questions.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

Before a person can receive and believe, they must first hear the Gospel and can’t hear unless someone first tells them. As ambassadors of Christ, every born-again Christian is responsible for sharing the Good News with those who are lost, as if God Himself were making this appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). 

A person’s spiritual eyes must be opened—Because the Gospel is the power of God to save, Satan actively seeks to confuse this life-giving message in every way possible. We’re told that he has blinded the minds of the lost so they cannot understand the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). Only God has the power to open the eyes of our understanding so that we can know the hope of His calling through Jesus Christ (Luke 24:45). In Acts, we see a good example of this supernatural intervention through a woman named Lydia. Lydia was already drawn to God, but it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of understanding that she could respond to the Gospel and surrender her life fully to Christ (Acts 16:14-15).

Why Do Some Hearers Wait to Receive the Gospel Until Later in Life?

From a human standpoint, there are many reasons people say they choose to reject the Gospel. But what about those who are presented with the Gospel, and instead of rejecting it, they put the decision to receive Christ on the back burner until later in life?

Today’s culture supports almost every human pursuit above so-called religion. So, it’s no wonder that some prefer to dedicate the prime of their lives to their careers, self-improvement, pleasure, travel, or even their families before committing themselves to Christ. 

Undoubtedly some older people feel there’s plenty of time to get right with God before they enter eternity. But that assumption is dangerous. The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that repentance is a gift and that none of us is guaranteed another tomorrow. (Acts 17:30, Hebrews 9:27). That’s why today is always the right time to receive the gift of salvation. “For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

From a spiritual standpoint, a battle is taking place for the souls of old and young alike. During His time on earth, Jesus explained what happens in the spiritual realm when the seed of the Gospel falls onto four types of hearts. It was so important to Jesus that his disciples understand the Parable of the Sower that after sharing it with the multitudes, he pulled the twelve aside to explain its rich spiritual truths. These truths can help us understand why the Gospel doesn’t take root in some people’s hearts.

Jesus began the parable (found in Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:2-9; and Luke 8:4-8) by explaining that there was once a farmer who went out to sow seed, but while the farmer scattered his seed, not all of it fell onto soil where it would take root and yield fruit. The seed represents the Gospel message, and each of the four soil types represents a different response to the Gospel.

The path—The first soil type presented in Jesus’s parable is the hard ground that isn’t soil. Instead, it is the path beside the fertile field where the birds come to feed upon the freshly sown seeds. Jesus explained to His disciples that when someone hears the salvation message but doesn’t understand it because their hearts are hardened by sin, Satan swoops in and snatches away the seed of the message before it can be implanted in the heart of the resistant hearer. 

The rocky places—The next soil type in the parable is rocky soil. Jesus explains that this type of soil is deep enough for the seed to germinate, but as the plant begins to sprout, it becomes evident that the soil is too shallow for the roots to grow. Soon the plant withers in the sun’s heat because it has no source of nourishment. Some people hear the Gospel and appear to receive it with joy, but because their belief is based only on shallow head knowledge versus deep heart knowledge, there’s no real connection to Jesus, therefore, no source of real life. This condition becomes evident when, after trial, tribulation, or persecution, the hearer quickly abandons their supposed newfound faith. 

The thorns—The thorny ground in the parable is a soil type infested with thorns that overtake the good seed and rob it of the nourishment it needs to bear fruit. Jesus explains that when the Gospel message is received by someone with this kind of heart soil, life’s worries and worldly desires render the seed unfruitful. All of us come to Christ with the baggage of sin, fear, and our own selfish desires. Only when we repent of that sin and surrender ourselves to Jesus can He cleanse us and make us new creatures—vessels that can bear spiritual fruit. 

How can We Help Older People Know Christ?

Human statistics reveal that only six percent of the population will choose to receive Christ later in life. But praise God, our hope is not rooted in human reports. 

With God, all things are possible. Using what we’ve learned in scripture about the condition of the human heart and the behind-the-scenes battle for our souls, God has given us a solid plan of action—through prayer—to help the older people we know come to Christ. Here are four ways we can approach the throne of grace on their behalf:

1. Pray that God would have mercy on them and draw them to Himself. (2 Peter 3:9, John 12:32)

2. Pray that God would send people into their sphere of influence with the boldness to present the Gospel in His perfect time through the power of His Holy Spirit (Matthew 9:38, Ephesians 6:19-20, Luke 4:18). 

3. Pray that God would prepare the ground of their hearts to be ready to receive the gift of salvation. Pray that He would give them eyes to see, minds to comprehend, and a heart to receive the Gospel (Ezekiel 36:26, Ephesians 1:18-21).

4. Pray that God would plant His incorruptible seed—Jesus—deep in their hearts and seal them with the Holy Spirit so they will be empowered to bear fruit that yields eternal value (Ephesians 3:17-19, John 15:7).

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/yacobchuk 

Annette GriffinAnnette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.

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Christianity / Theology / Salvation / Why Do Some People Not Turn to God Until Later in Life?