20 Things I’ve Learned in My Twenties

As of this writing, I only have a few days left in my twenties. While other decades of my life had more formal education from teacher to student, in my twenties, life itself has taught me a lot. Here is what I would love to share with you:

1. You are already perfect.

There is always going to be next step in your life, but because of God’s grace we are already perfect. Grace should give us the freedom to take that next step. God loves you more than you could ever imagine and nothing you have done or will do can ever change that. Jesus has paid the cost; it is finished.

God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are RIGHTEOUS. He did this though Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. – Romans 3:24 (NLT)

2. It’s not about you.

Okay, I took this one from Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, but it is true! The sooner you learn this the more you will succeed.

If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. – Galatians 6:3 (NLT)

3. Internships/Co-Ops are the most valuable thing you can do while in college.

Doing will always be more valuable than knowing. Everyone who graduates from college walks away with a degree, but if you want to differentiate yourself from the other candidates it will always come down to your experience over what you know. My internships with a consumer product company in Princeton and a reinsurance firm in Chicago while completing my degree opened the door for me to work at my dream job (at the time) at an investment bank. Quality internships will send you light-years ahead of the other candidates when it comes to getting a full-time job.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! – James 1:22 (MSG)

4. Never stop learning.

You can learn from anyone. Everybody can teach you something because we all have had different life experiences. One of the best questions you can ask someone is, “What are you learning?” I learned this from my friend Steve Gladen. Steve is the Small Groups Pastor of Saddleback, a church with 8,400 groups! He is humble enough to ask me, a leader with 40 groups, what I am learning.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. -Phillipians 3:12 (NLT)

5. Get out of debt as soon as you can.

In my early twenties, I built up quite a bit of debt. School loans by themselves accounted for $30K of that. Debt will make you a slave. I know people who are in jobs and careers they hate because they have no other choice but to stay because of the debt they have. This past month my wife and I had a major dental emergency and a plumbing mishap. These events would have crippled us when we were in debt and did not have an emergency fund established. Now when life throws us a financial curve ball, we are pretty much able to brush it off.

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. Proverbs 22:7 (NLT)

6. If it’s not essential, it’s a luxury.

If you want to tackle your debt this is a big lesson you will have to learn. When we first started out, my wife and I moved to a neighboring town with a cheaper cost of living to save $850 a month in rent. We eventually sold our car to save $250 a month. We got rid of cable and saved $50 a month. Even that smartphone you have with the expensive data plan is not a necessity. When you realize that it is just a luxury it is a lot easier to let it go. Also, it will help you appreciate the luxuries you do have.

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 1 John 2:16 (NLT)

7. It’s better to give than receive.

You typically only hear this around Christmas, but did you know that it was Jesus who originally said this (Acts 20:35)? I experience this throughout the year, but one area that I see it most is with baptism. My own baptism was an important milestone, but watching others take the step elevates it to a whole other level. Maybe you have mastered something new. Go share it with someone else! You will find it far more rewarding.

8. Facebook debates are worthless.

I have been learning this the hard way. We all have that uncle who posts a really insensitive article or an old friend who posts a status that just makes you angry. It is not worth giving them real estate in your mind. Just hide or unfollow their updates. Your reply to them, however intelligent, is not going to change their mind.

Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. -Proverbs 26:4 (NLT)

9. Find a healthy church in your community.

When I first moved to Hoboken, I went on a search to find the perfect church. Let me save you some time. A perfect church does not exist. Why? Because they are all run by humans. If you find one that is not in your existing community then it is worth moving to be a part of their community. You need a place where you can worship together on Sunday and grow with and care for each other during the week. 

They worshiped together at the Temple (church) each day, met in homes (small groups) for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – Acts 2:46 (NLT)

10. Find authentic community.

Judah Smith once said, “You are the pastor you listen to most, which can be a dangerous thing.” This is why having an authentic community is so important because there are going to be times in your life where you want to say, “I give up”, and you will need people in your life who will say, “we will not!” You need others who have you seen how you have grown and who will be truthful and gracious enough to call you out when you are taking steps backward.

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. – Phillipians 2:4 (NLT)

11. Don’t wait to fix issues you know exist now.

If there is an issue in your life where you think, “Well this will not be an issue when I… have a job/relationship/get married/etc.” That is a lie you are telling yourself. The issue you are facing will only grow bigger the more you avoid dealing with it. If you find yourself trying to stop but keep failing, seek professional help.

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:17 (NLT)

12. Counseling is a good thing.

I am not sure what it is about going to a professional counselor that makes people think it is a bad thing. Maybe it is because it forces them to acknowledge there is an issue in their life. My wife and I have received so much because of seeing a counselor. Our counselor has helped us through some difficult areas of struggle in our relationship and has given us the tools to greatly improve how we communicate with each other.

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5 (NLT)

13. People can’t help you if you can’t be honest.

When people ask you how you are doing do not hide behind the responses “good” or “busy.”  When you are in dinner group and people ask how they can pray for you, be honest with them. You have to be willing to be transparent with your struggles and not just put up a front that you have it all together.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. -James 5:16 (NLT)

14. Don’t go at it alone.

We are better together. There is nothing in life that you have learned to do 100% on your own. Someone had to come alongside you to teach you how to walk. When you accomplish tasks with others, you have the benefit of sharing in the celebration of success. We foolishly believe we can do it on our own. Most of the time, it is not even possible and if it is, it is not worth earning the credit of doing it by yourself.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. -Proverbs 18:1 (NLT)

15. Go on a Mission Trip.

I went on two mission trips in my twenties and the opportunity to experience God on those trips was overwhelming. The people you meet and serve with on trips like these will be ingrained on your heart forever. My trip to Uganda taught me everyone has something to give – that poverty is not just restricted to finances. While the people there may not have much, they were spiritually wealthy and able to expose my spiritual poverty.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs -Matthew 5:3 (NLT)

16. There isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.

This is actually a quote from Fred Rogers, but it is so true.  Take the time to listen to those around you. There is always a reason people do the things they do. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Caring must start with listening first.

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. -James 1:19 (NLT)

17. If you want to make an impact, consistency and proximity are your best friends.

We all desire to live lives of significance and leave an impact on our communities, but we tend to underestimate the time it takes to make a difference. Continued investment is the most effective way to make an impact. That means more than just giving money – it is going to take time and energy. It is also hard to make a lasting impact when living in a state of constant transition.

Be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. -1 Corithians 15:58 (NLT)

18. Set your priorities straight and build your schedule from there. (God, Spouse, Work)

I learned this from Pastor Chris. Make a list of the priorities in your life. It should hopefully look like this: God, Spouse, Kids, Friends, Work. Then take a blank schedule and fill it out based on your priorities. When will your time with God be this week? When will your date night be? Then with what is left, fill in your work. What you give priority to ultimately shows what you care about most.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. -Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

19. Honor those who came before you.

You think that you are being revolutionary, but more often than not, your contemporary is just the new traditional. Things can always be better. More often than not the reason things could be better are because someone before you put in the hard work to give you the platform to make it better.

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. -1 Timothy 5:1 (NLT)

20. The best is yet to come.

Do not get me wrong, I love a good #tbt post, but do not live a life where you alway feel like your best days are behind you. Enjoy the now and look forward to the future. Find the people that love and care about you and celebrate with them.

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philipians 3:13-14 (NLT)

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