Part 2: The Purpose-Driven “Spiritual Journey”:

It’s “Not about You,” or Is It?

Chapter Three:

The Bible Is Clear

God Takes 40 Days to Prepare People for His Purposes?

One of Rick Warren’s premises for his book and the basis of his 40 Days campaigns (which have incrementally led churches into his global P.E.A.C.E. Plan that will be discussed later) is his assertion that:


“The Bible is clear that God considers 40 days a spiritually significant time period. Whenever God wanted to prepare someone for his purposes, he took 40 days.” (PDL; p. 9)

Forty-day time periods are only mentioned in the 66 books of the Holy Scriptures a mere 22 times:


         4 of these are in reference to the 40 days it rained on the earth during the flood.


         1 of these is in reference to the 40 days set by the Egyptians for embalming, which they did to Jacob.


         7 of these are in reference to the two 40-day periods Moses spent with God on Mount Sinai.


         2 of these are in reference to the 40 days the spies spent in the Promised Land.


         1 of these is in reference to the 40 days Goliath challenged the Israelites.


         1 of these is in reference to the 40 days Elijah took traveling to Horeb without eating, after an angel fed him.


         1 of these is in reference to the 40 days Ezekiel had to lay on his right side bearing the iniquity of the house of Judah, each day representing a year.


         1 of these is in reference to the 40 days the people of Nineveh were given to repent.


         3 of these are in reference to the 40 days that Jesus was in the wilderness, tempted by the devil.


         1 of these is in reference to the 40 days that Jesus was seen by His apostles after His resurrection.

All in all, there are only a handful of instances in Scripture where a 40-day period could possibly be construed as “spiritually significant.” Scripture does not in any way justify Rick Warren’s fallacious claims that “the Bible is clear that God considers 40 days a spiritually significant time period,” and that “whenever God wanted to prepare someone for his purposes, he took 40 days.” If this latter claim was true, then God has only prepared a handful of people, and everyone else in Scripture (and throughout history) was never prepared by God for His purposes!

Twisting Scripture to put spiritual significance on a 40-day time period is akin to occultic numerology. The Holy Scriptures are clear that transforming and life-changing power is found through the knowledge, belief, and obedience of the Lord God Himself and His Word. There are no ‘magical’ formulas or rituals that bypass this. Yet regarding his book Rick Warren confidently declares:


“The next 40 days will transform your life.” (PDL; p. 10)

Eight examples are given from the Bible in an effort to justify his premises regarding 40-day periods (these examples are listed on p. 10 of PDL). Not one of his examples, which he has removed from their scriptural context, supports his unscriptural premises. However, some of these examples when examined in their scriptural context actually warn against following what the majority is doing.


“Noah’s life was transformed by 40 days of rain.” The 40 days of rain were actually God’s purpose itself. The 40 days brought the flood of God’s judgment on the disobedient world and destroyed it. Thankfully, Noah did not follow the majority, or we would not exist. As a result of following God rather than the crowd, he had found God’s grace (see Genesis 6:8). So God prepared Noah ahead of time in the years preceding the 40 days so that his life would be saved.

In addition, Scripture says nothing about these 40 days bringing about transformation in Noah’s life, so why claim that the days it actually rained are more significant to Noah than the 150 days the waters prevailed upon the earth or the 370 days he was on the Ark?


“Moses was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai.” God’s purpose was to deliver the Israelites from the oppressive Egyptians and then bring them into the Promised Land. Moses had already been obediently following God as a result of his transforming walk with God in the land of Midian. Rick Warren himself even wrote, “The Bible is filled with examples of how God uses a long process to develop character, especially in leaders. He took eighty years to prepare Moses, including forty in the wilderness” (PDL; p. 222; emphasis added)!

God specifically prepared Moses for His purpose not in the 40 days but in front of the burning bush. By the time Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai, God had already used Moses to fulfill the first part of His purpose. In addition, Scripture does not record that any transformation occurred in Moses’ life on Mount Sinai to prepare him for God’s purposes.

Food for thought: In neither of the two sets of 40 days on Mount Sinai nor in front of the burning bush did God reveal Himself to Moses in the context of community. He was alone when face to face with God. For Rick Warren to say that transformation occurred when Moses was on Mount Sinai alone is to contradict his own communitarian principles in The Purpose Driven Life!

Rick Warren’s numerous internal inconsistencies and contradictions clearly reveal that his book is not firmly founded on the unchanging and consistent truth of the Holy Scriptures but, rather, is “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

Incidentally, when Moses was with God on Mount Sinai, Aaron had assisted the “community” in adopting the ways of the world in its worship. The result of their having “turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them” (Exodus 32:8) was God’s severe judgment. About 3,000 men were killed, God blotted the names of those who had sinned out of His book, and then He plagued the people (see Exodus 32:28, 33, and 35).


“The spies were transformed by 40 days in the Promised Land.” The tragic truth is that the spies (excluding Joshua and Caleb who remained faithful to God in walking by faith and not by sight) were sinfully transformed by their 40 days of walking by sight and not by faith. The spies were frightened by what they saw during the 40 days they spied out the land God promised them. As a result, they frightened the Israelites and turned them against God’s purposes (see Numbers 13:31-14:12).

God’s judgment was the consequence of this 40-day transformation. God killed the spies with a plague because they tried to thwart God’s purpose after their 40 days. God’s preparation of all the spies was His word, yet only two spies believed and followed God. In addition, because the Israelites heeded the majority rather than the two who tried to get them to heed God’s word, they were forbidden to enter the Promised Land for 40 years so that this generation could die off first (see Numbers 14:26-38). Yet nowhere does Rick Warren say the spies were transformed in anything other than a good way by their 40 days.

That these spies were transformed into plague-infested corpses should be heeded as a warning for those who think only good transformations can come out of 40-day regimes. In the name of purpose, churches are heeding the majority and are now walking by sight rather than by the faith and obedience of God’s Word. What they see in the world (e.g., its successful pragmatic ways and aversions to “traditional” Christianity) determines how they “do church.” By the way, anyone who thinks plagues are only for the Old Testament time period should carefully read Revelation 18:4.


“David was transformed by Goliath’s 40-day challenge.” God’s Word does not clarify how many days David actually sees Goliath. However, the first time that David sees Goliath he begins to speak up about killing him, so it is more likely that David saw only a few days, if not just one day, of Goliath’s challenge (see 1 Samuel 17).

Contrary to supporting Rick Warren’s premises, this passage is another example of 40 days being a result of sin: The Israelites (the majority) did not trust God and cowered before Goliath for an entire 40 days before David finally came and killed him in faith!

David had already been transformed by his walk with God (see 1 Samuel 13:14, 16:7, 13). When faced with Goliath, David said he knew God would deliver him into his hands because God had already enabled him to kill a lion and a bear (see 1 Samuel 17:32-37). God had prepared David ahead of time to fulfill His purpose of slaying Goliath and putting an end to the Israelites’ 40 days.


“Elijah was transformed when God gave him 40 days of strength from a single meal.” This took place when Israel’s leaders had led the people astray into the worship of false gods. Elijah had just killed the false prophets, and Jezebel threatened to kill him. After God’s angel had given him two meals, Elijah traveled 40 days to Horeb, the mount of God. It was there at Horeb that he communed with God and told Him that God’s children had forsaken His covenant, thrown down His altars, and killed His prophets. Although Elijah believed he was the only one left who was still following God, God let him know that He had reserved a remnant of 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to the false god the majority were following. (See 1 Kings 18-19.)

This 40-day period was near the end of Elijah’s faithful service to God and were traveling days in between serving God and communing with God. Scripture does not say anything about these 40 days being a preparation of God’s purposes or causing transformation in the life of Elijah. This is yet another example of adding to Scripture what God did not put in, which twists Scripture to fit man’s purposes.


“The entire city of Nineveh was transformed when God gave the people 40 days to change.” When Jonah finally obeyed God and told Nineveh that it would be overthrown in 40 days if they did not repent, Scripture does not say that Nineveh waited the entire 40 days to repent. It merely records that after Jonah “began to enter into the city a day’s journey” the people believed God and repented (see Jonah 3).

Yes, God chose to give them 40 days to repent, but the 40 days given to them were not the moving force behind Nineveh’s “transformation.” It was their belief and acceptance of the Word of God regarding their sin and God’s impending judgment that caused them to repent. This should be thoroughly heeded today, as the signs of God’s impending judgment rapidly increase in our own generation. Incidentally, the city’s repentance put an end to the 40-day countdown to God’s judgment.


“Jesus was empowered by 40 days in the wilderness.” Scripture has been abominably twisted in this choice for a supporting example of his premise. God’s Word states that in the wilderness Jesus was “being forty days tempted of the devil” (Luke 4:2; see also Mark 1:13). Nowhere throughout all of Scripture does God even hint that being tempted by the devil empowers anyone! Besides, if these 40 days “empowered” Jesus physically, then the angels would not have needed to minister to Jesus immediately afterwards (see Matthew 4:11 and Mark 1:13). Furthermore, if these 40 days “empowered” Jesus spiritually, then Jesus would not have been fully God manifest in the flesh.


“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)


“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:8-9)

To even hint that the devil and his temptations were a source of power for the Lord Jesus Christ is appalling, to say the very least! Contrarily, Jesus was already prepared when His 40 days of temptation came.


“The disciples were transformed by 40 days with Jesus after his resurrection.” Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, after the 40 days He was with the disciples, Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; see also Acts 1:3-9). On the day of Pentecost the disciples were transformed by the filling of the Holy Spirit, which was the preparation for God’s purpose of using them to preach the Gospel of Christ to the world. It is important to note that Pentecost is a Jewish festival meaning “fiftieth” because it was celebrated on the 50th day. This example as well fails to support Rick Warren’s claims.


Again, God’s Word is clear that transforming and life-changing power is found through the knowledge, belief, and obedience of the Lord God Himself and His Word, rightly divided. Yet, grievously, Rick Warren has taken portions of the Word of God and twisted them, giving them new meanings apart from their Scriptural context. He does this throughout his purpose-driven “manifesto” and Paradigm in the attempt to justify his faulty premises and fulfill his purposes. Nevertheless, the masses have fallen in step behind him, his purposes, and his 40 Days campaigns. They have accepted Rick Warren’s claims that his “spiritual journey” is all about God and His purposes.

God’s Purposes are Man-centered?


“He [God] has clearly revealed his five purposes for our lives through the Bible.” (PDL; p. 20)


“It’s not about you.” (PDL; p. 17; emphasis added)

Rick Warren’s personal list of God’s purposes for our lives consists only of the following five purposes, which he has clearly centered around “you”:


PURPOSE #1: You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure

PURPOSE #2: You Were Formed for God’s Family

PURPOSE #3: You Were Created to Become like Christ

PURPOSE #4: You Were Shaped for Serving God

PURPOSE #5: You Were Made for a Mission

Looking at each of these five purposes, a basic understanding of elementary grammar clearly shows that you, not God, are the subject. In sentence structure, the subject is what the sentence is about. Regardless of his repeated claims to the contrary, each of the five purposes are about you—not only here but also in his descriptions of them.

According to his “manifesto,” these five purposes can be summed up in worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. The God-centered scriptural definitions of these five things are indeed part of the many purposes God has for us. However, a great deal of man-centered theology and other unscriptural errors have been included in the purpose-driven definitions. You, not God, are the subject of this “spiritual journey.” God is merely the means to purpose, meaning, and significance in life.

God’s Word is clear that the nature of God is the basis for what He wants from us. Therefore, increasing our knowledge of God Himself also increases our knowledge of His purposes. Yet not much is said in The Purpose Driven Life about the nature of God. In a man-centered “spiritual journey,” helping people deepen their knowledge of God isn’t the primary issue.


Return to Chapter 2            Proceed to Chapter 4

Copyright © 2006 Tamara Hartzell. All rights reserved.