How do you handle changes in life? How good are you when something new takes the place of something old and comfortable? Being human means being confronted with constant changes that disturb our feelings of security. Have you noticed that you welcome some changes while others you see as an annoyance?
If you own a smartphone, every few months you get a message that a software update is needed. Right? A few months ago I experienced the painful reality of untimely change when I was on a one day safari into an Ethiopian game reserve. I’ve always been a huge fan of wildlife documentaries, so I was super excited the morning I had my first chance to see an African wildlife park. Our guide met us at the hotel and drove about an hour to the entrance of Nechsar National Park. I could feel my heart rate rise with excitement as we drove through the gate and into the bush. In the early morning light beautiful birds took to flight and little creatures scampered in front of the truck as we traveled down a bumpy dirt road. We rounded a corner and I saw a small herd of Zebra. That’s when I reached for my smartphone to take a picture. When I looked at my phone, it was frozen and the camera would not work. Without my knowledge I had become the victim of an untimely software update that rendered my phone inoperative. So for the next few hours I missed photographing bush bucks, Anubis baboons, Vervet monkeys, herds of Zebra and even a rare distant shot of a fifteen foot crocodile!
Two days after I returned from Africa, I experienced the opposite kind of change. This change thrilled me and it was such a momentous change that it dwarfed every previous untimely and unwanted change. My daughter, Jana and her husband, Jeff, welcomed into the world their first child and our first grandchild, Ava Charlotte Warren. Who can calculate the warmth and instantaneous love you feel for a newborn? Holding Ava for the first time will always be etched in my memory as a most rare and beautiful moment. Welcoming this change to our family left me breathless.
Growing as a Christian means that God calls us to change at the deepest level. It’s been said, “God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way.” Maturing in Christ requires us to move higher and higher toward to goal of Christlikeness. Sometimes the changes along the way are painful and sometimes they are welcome.
The apostle Paul understood the dynamics of spiritual change and welcomed it when he wrote these immortal words: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way. (Philippians 3:13-15)
The book of Hebrews points to the kind of change that often feels unwelcome: He (God) disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10-11)
Hidden in these two passages are six secrets of handling both welcome and painful changes in the Christian life. These spiritual principles teach us how to handle God’s plan for personal growth through easy and difficult changes and get the most out of it.
1. Forget the past - Forgetting what lies behind. Don’t get hamstrung by either past failures, past sins or past successes. Start every day with a clean slate before God and trust Him for today.
2. Lean forward – Straining forward to what lies ahead. Look for the God’s open doors of opportunity. Stay alert and pray for discernment to understand the Spirit’s leading. Keep the hope of a better future alive.
3. Press on – I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus. God’s ultimate goal for your life is to be like Jesus. Move in that direction each day with purpose and intention. Stay connected to Jesus, the Vine, and allow Him to bear fruit through your life.
4. Think maturity – Think this way. Put aside pettiness, childish games and sinful distractions. Grow up and learn to be faithful in all things.
5. Endure painful changes - For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant. Realize that painful circumstances don’t last but faithful people do endure and they claim victory. Learn from your failures and faults. Be honest about yourself and areas of your life that need improvement.
6. Expect growth - He (God) disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. God is always at work in us to bring His work in us to completion. Stay optimistic by rooting your life in faith. Enjoy the days when growth is realized and progress is made. God is moving you on to the next level.
God promises that in the end with every up or down, we will all be conformed to the image of Christ. That breathes hope into every day and health into every change.
"Being human means being confronted with constant changes that disturb our feelings of security. Have you noticed that you welcome some changes while others you see as an annoyance?"
Maturing in Christ requires us to move higher and higher toward to goal of Christlikeness. Sometimes the changes along the way are painful and sometimes they are welcome."
"God promises that in the end with every up or down, we will all be conformed to the image of Christ. That breathes hope into every day and health into every change."