09 Oct Embrace Change
Church is barely recognisable today from those that I attended in my childhood. I grew up sitting in my Sunday best on cold hard pews, in poorly heated buildings, singing endlessly long hymns, listening to what seemed like interminably long sermons. We had flower rota’s, tea committees, singing groups, hymn books, Women’s Bright Hour and the tithes and offerings would be collected and brought to the altar by two beautifully choreographed suited men (were they mafia?) who walked down each isle to the front. Those were the days! Thank goodness things have changed!
Today we have (in most cases), well heated buildings, comfy chairs, worship bands, multi media presentations, filter coffee, professional publicity, web and social media, bibles on our phones, sermon podcasts from anywhere in the world, online giving and even payment points in church to pay offerings by card….the list goes on!
Things have changed! Mostly for the better!
God is the greatest agent for change who ever existed and yet He, the Lord does not change!!
“I am the Lord, and I do not change.” (Malachi 3:6 NLT)
However the Lord God who is unchanging – expects you and I to embrace change!
Consider Abraham who at 75 years old was told by God, presumably during a quiet time, that ‘it’s time to move house – you’re moving to Canaan!’ No removal companies to oversee the arrangements, no planes, trains or automobiles – but rather a 600 miles trek across desert and mountains that would have taken several months! Then to cap it just as Abraham is finally enjoying a well-earned retirement at 99 years old with Sarah his wife (90); God tells him: ‘you are going to be the Father of nations!’ Imagine standing at the school gates with your child at 105!
As we read through the Bible we see so many of God’s people embracing the change that God himself had brought about. Consider Moses, Esther, Joshua, Gideon, Paul, Peter among others….
There is a common belief that people resist change – but this isn’t true. People will change jobs, hairstyles, cars, homes, outfits, phones etc.
Change Is Good For Us!
Imagine if nothing ever changed? I’d still be in a nappy sucking my dummy (and believe you me some days…)!
- Stops us stagnating and takes us out of comfort zone
- Leads to progress
- Creates new opportunities & experiences for us
- Challenges us to scale new heights
- Enlarges our capacity – we discover we have a greater capacity
- Causes us to trust and rely on God more.
- Is actually refreshing – ‘a refreshing change.’
What Does God Desire Us To Change?
1. Our Hearts
How is your heart for God today or for people? When Israel had sinned and was in exile in Babylon, God used the prophet Ezekiel to speak His Word to them and twice God gave them the same challenge and promise concerning their hearts:
“And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:16-20 NLT)
I can remember reading these verses shortly after being called to ministry and being deeply challenged by the hardness of my heart and saying:
‘God do something with my heart. Change my heart. Remove my heart of stone and replace it with a soft, tender, responsive heart towards you and others.’
2. Our Character
God desires to change and transform us from within.
“We are being changed to become more like him.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
We should never say – ‘that’s just the way I am or that’s just how God made me.’ But rather ‘Father – keep working on me….’
My regular prayer is this: ‘Lord may the fruit of the Spirit, (the character of Jesus) be more present in me:
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)
It should be our desire to be changed and transformed in order to become more like Jesus every day.
3. Our Perspective On Him
Have you got your perspective right?
“Today vast stress is laid on the thought that God is personal, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of the same sort as we are – weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. But this is not the God of the Bible! Our personal life is a finite thing: it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite and almighty. He has us in His hands; but we never have Him in ours. Like us He is personal, but unlike us he is great! In all its constant stress on the reality of God’s personal concern for His people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience, and yearning compassion that He shows towards them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of His majesty, and His unlimited dominion over all His creatures!” (DI Packer – “Knowing God”)
He is omniscient, omnipresent & omnipotent!!
- He truly is a good good Father. (Perhaps you need a fresh revelation of who He is and that the God of the universe is on my side.
- He is our friend not our enemy and He is for us and not against us.
- He’s certainly not fickle – He is faithful.
- He never changes. He is constant and consistent.
- He is loving and kind but not too loving and kind to leave us the way we are.
- His aim is to change us and transform us and make us more like Christ!
4. Our Perspective On Others
We are so quick to judge others and if we’re not careful it can be a misjudgment and perhaps there is someone in your world whom you need to see as God sees them. Perhaps some fresh perspective is needed.
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.” (Romans 14:1 MSG)
It is so easy to misjudge people based on our own understanding and experiences. I wonder who you are misjudging right now. Who do you need to understand through God’s eyes? You will be amazed at how your relationship with them will change once your perspective changes.
5. Our Faith Levels – become buoyant in faith.
We live in such a cynical negative world – it shapes us! God restore that childlike faith and passion for Jesus! Some of us will have had a raw deal in life and it’s changed us and God wants to heal us and soften our hearts and restore positive faith, belief and expectation to our lives. Let faith arise again!!! Lord increase my faith.
6. Our Trust Levels
They maybe particularly low right now. We don’t trust anyone – politicians, business leaders, retailers, media or even our pastors sadly. This attack on trust in our society and media results in us no longer trusting God. If we stay in this place we will miss out on so much that God has for us. We must leave to trust Him again, in fact all of us have the capacity to trust God more.
I’ve written a book about trusting God more, based on Proverbs 3:5-6. You can find our more about it here
What Does God Desire You To Change?
What do you think God desires to change about you?
The Bible talks about God’s desire to change us and transform us. Can I encourage you to ask God if there’s anything He wants to change about you. Yes – He created you and loves you the way you are but He also longs to help you become more like Jesus. So ask Him….
What if God wanted to bring a change to your life?
What if God wanted to change you?!
What if He wanted to change something about you that was sinful, an unhealthy characteristic or a direction you were going in?
What if God wanted to change:
- The anger problem that continually hamstrings you?
- The hastiness with which you make decisions?
- The treatment of your spouse or children, siblings, parents or a workmate?
- The habit you can’t kick?
- The behaviour towards workmates?
- The bad attitude at Uni?
- The intolerance of other people?
- The selfishness that dominates your life?
- The perverse talk and innuendo?
- The direction you are heading in?
What if God wanted to do a new thing right now?
What if God wanted to open a door of opportunity in your life?
What if the reason God wanted to work on your character, sin, weaknesses, flaws is because He has some amazing plans lined up for you that are dependant on you embracing the changes He is trying to instigate?
I would encourage you today to embrace the changes that God is perhaps attempting to bring into your life and the things that He is beginning to reveal to you. He knows best.
How Do We Embrace Change?
In order to embrace change we need to do five things:
- Identify the need to change – sometimes we have this view of ourselves that we are doing fine, nothing needs to change. I’m ok thank you very much.
“Complacency is easy…and it is a deadly foe of spiritual growth.” (AW Tozer)
Complacency is the greatest danger! None of us are complete and mature yet. Even the apostle Paul declared:
“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. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: 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.” (Philippians 3:12-14 NLT)
2. Practice Humility
It takes humility to realise we need to change and to actually change! It’s only God who can say ‘I am the Lord and I do not change!!!!!’
One of the things I’ve discovered with God is this – until I recognise my weakness, sin, wrong attitude, heart, unbelief then He will allow me to go no further. I hit the buffers. God does that for my own good. He knows how unwise it would be for me to go any further with my heart not being right.
One of the greatest tragedies of ministry and life is to see people with incredible gifts and abilities being restricted by the limitations of their character. They refuse to face up to it and remain hamstrung and unwilling to change. They go no where because God cannot work with them!
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble……..Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honour.” (James 4:6-7, 10 NLT)
3. Learn To Accept & Embrace Change
As you grow older we have to learn to embrace change. I remember one of the last times I played football with some of the young guys at camp. I became aware that my feet weren’t responding quite as quickly to my thoughts as they used to. It was so frustrating! Change was occurring in my body!
I want to encourage you to accept & embrace change! Perhaps God has brought change to your life. You might feel aggrieved at present. Lost. Bereaved – at the enforced and unexpected changes that God has allowed in your life. Maybe there has been some pruning? God prunes both unfruitful and fruitful branches!
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (John 15:1-2 NLT)
I’ve begun to learn to quietly trust God when He brings change. Why? Because God knows best.
4. Understand What You Have To Gain From Change
‘One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain.’ (Rick Godwin)
I don’t believe anyone enjoys dieting. I certainly don’t! However the benefits are soon experienced in terms of weight loss, increased energy levels and focus and being able to re-wear clothes in our wardrobes that used not to fit! It’s hard to give up food but the benefits far outweigh the losses.
Imagine the benefits of allowing God to bring change to your character, attitudes, relationships, rhythms of life and fresh direction and guidance to your life, family, finances and career?
5. Ask God To Help
I’ve discovered that if I will humble myself before God then I will discover that His grace is truly sufficient for me and that He will help me to change.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1-2 MSG)
It starts with a DECISION to change and then God will help with the rest.
‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” (John F. Kennedy)
God wants us to put our trust in Him – the never changing God – in an ever changing world!! He is constant, consistent, faithful and never changes. Yet –
He desires us to be open and willing to embrace the change that He seeks to bring in our lives and into our world. We mustn’t be fearful of change but rather choose to trust God. Our lives will be so much better if we make a choice to embrace change.
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO READ?
If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog you might wish to try one of our books. All have been well received and are available on Amazon.
“Imagine” is all about trusting God as you journey through life and how to really discover and experience the abundant life that God planned for you before you were born. It’s been used in many churches as a Sunday teaching series and in small groups. “Imagine” is available on Amazon here.
“Courage for the discouraged” was only published in November 2020 and has already touched and changed lives. It has been described as “a book of help and a book of hope” and “encouragement on steroids!” It can also be read as a 30 day devotional as each chapter contain readings and suggested prayers. It’s available at all good online bookstores and on Amazon here.
My wife’s book “End of the beginning’ is a truly powerful book charting her journey from widowhood to finding Christ – it’s full of honesty and transparency. Bit it’s not just a story of hope in the midst of loss – it’s a story of finding freedom from anger, hurt, failure and discovering purpose and fulfilment in Christ Jesus. It’s available on Amazon here and all good bookshops.