Monday, August 04, 2008

Work to Change

Yesterday I went with my parents to visit my grandmother, my dad’s mom, and my dad and grandma had an interesting conversation about change. The discussion centered around whether change happens from internal reasons or external reasons. Though at the end it was agreed that change doesn’t occur unless the person wants to change.

Erwin McManus acknowledges this truth:
“In the end no one can make you live a life that is not about you. No one can drag you down this particular path or make you something you do not want to become. In regard to your character, you don’t have to change alone. In fact you cannot change alone, but you alone have to desire to change.” (Uprising, p. 29)

Many of us are dissatisfied with who we are. We wish we could be better at reading our Bibles, volunteering to do things that need to be done, giving our time and money to people in need, being trustworthy, at loving our family and friends, at being productive with the time that we have, or any number of other things. I have flaws in my character that I wish I could change, and I am sure that you have flaws in your character that you wish you could change. There are things about ourselves that we would like to be different.

The problem is that these flaws don’t bother us as much as changing does. It is easier to stay with what we do know than to venture into something that we don’t know. This is especially true if that path is going to take us into difficulties. Yes, we wish things would be different, but it is so much easier to sit on the couch and ignore the problems.

We are not going to change until we realize that the process of changing is going to be worth the effort. The apostle Paul continued to work on changing because he believed that in the end the work would be worth the effort:
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. (Philippians 3:12; NLT)

Paul continued to work because he believed that Jesus saved him for a reason. Paul knew he was to be a certain type of person, a person he could be proud to be, and so he kept working. While he worked he focused his mind on three actions:
No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one things: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. (Philippians 3:13-14; NLT)

Paul says that in order for him to work on changing he had to forget about the past failure where he had come from. I think so many of look at our failures and talk ourselves out of every trying again: That didn’t work for me. If we are going to change we need to stop living and dwelling in the past and move on into today.

Paul also says that looks forward to what lies ahead. I think many of us don’t have a good idea of who we want to be or what God expects of us. It is hard to hope when we don’t know what to hope for. So we need to know God’s promises. His promises of salvation and heaven, as well as His promise to give us a new heart and to re-create us. God intends for us to be men and women of faith, so let us keep our eyes on those who have gone before us, particularly Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-4). That should give us something to work towards.

Finally, Paul says he strains for the end of the race. In other words Paul is faithful in how he lives his life. This work we are talk about is really about being faithful. God changes us when we live by faith. Through our obedience God changes us into the people He wants us to be. The change that occurs in us doesn’t happen through our effort, but through our faith. Our faith is demonstrated by the way we live (Hebrews 11).

Change will only happen when we decide that the effort to change is worth it. Even though it is God who changes us it will be an effort. Living by faith isn’t easy, and it will take us through some very difficult times, but in the end we will be changed into people even we can be proud of.

  • Point to Ponder: Change will only happen when we decide that the effort to change is worth it.
  • Passage to Remember: Philippians 3:12-14
  • Question to Consider: What are areas in your life that you would like to change?

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