In this issue
The Name of the Game is Change charles r. swindoll
6 Letting Go: Discovering God's Purpose in Loss joy mckee
How can I learn to embrace change?
11 When God Surprises Us steve johnson
14 Q & A: How Can I Learn to Embrace Change? steve johnson
8 Finding the Harmony in Change scott tolhurst
Copyright ÂŠ 2014 Insight for Living Canada. All rights reserved. No portion of this monthly publication may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from the publisher. Insights is published by IFLC, the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. IFLC is an autonomous ministry and certified member of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture passages are taken from the NASB. Unless otherwise noted, photography and illustration by IFLC staff. Printed in Canada.
Change THE NAME OF THE GAME IS
by charles r. swindoll
hen you boil the Christian life “learned in evil.” Now that’s quite an down to the basics, the name admission! Those who are “learned in evil” can do no good. Evil habits that remain of the game is change. Those who flex with the unchanged prohibit their doing good. Evil times, who refuse to stay rigid, who resist is a habit that is learned; it is contracted the mould and reject the rut…ah, those and cultivated by long hours of practice. are the souls distinctively used by God. To In another place Jeremiah speaks for God them, change is a challenge, a fresh breeze and declares that it is so: that flows through the room of routine I warned you when you were prosperand blows away the stale air of sameness. ous, but you replied, “Don’t bother me.” It seldom fails to stimulate and invigoYou have been that way since childrate…and it often serves as oil on the rusty hood—you simply will not obey me! gate of habit. This is especially applicable (Jeremiah 22:21) when it comes to certain habits that harm and hurt us. That kind of change is always All of us have practiced certain areas of hard—but it isn’t impossible. Let’s think wrong from our youth. It is a pattern of that over. life that comes “second nature” to us and therefore it strongly resists change. We gloss over our resistance with the varnish of excuses: “Well, nobody’s perfect.” “I’ll never be any different; that’s just the way that we see ourselves as I am.” we really are in the light of “I was born this way—nothing can be done God’s written Word…then about it.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” be open to change where Jeremiah tells us why such excuses change is needed." come easily. We have become “learned in evil”…we have “been that way since childJeremiah pointed out the difficulty of hood.” In one sense we have learned to act breaking into an established life pattern and react in sinful, unbiblical ways with ease and (dare I admit it?) with a measure when he quipped: of pleasure. Admittedly, there are many times we do so unconsciously, and on Can an Ethiopian change the color those occasions the depth of our habit patof his skin? Can a leopard take away tern is most revealing. its spots? Neither can you start doing It is vital—it is essential—that we see good, for you have always done evil. ourselves as we really are in the light of (Jeremiah 13:23) God’s written Word…then be open to Notice the last three words, “always change where change is needed. The numdone evil.” The Hebrew says, literally, ber-one enemy of change is the hard-core,
"IT IS VITAL—
it is essential—
The Name of the Game is Change continued from p. 3
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satisfied sin nature within. I warn you: during the passing of years cannot occur that sinful nature has been gratified and in a few brief days. “Instant” change is as spoiled all these years, and it won’t give up rare as it is phoney. God did not give us His Word to satisfy without a temper tantrum. Change is its greatest threat. Change must be allowed our curiosity—He gave it to change our to face and conquer the intimidations of lives. Tell me, can you name a couple of inward habit—and I repeat the warning, specific changes God has implemented in it will never be an easy confrontation. So your life during the past six months? Has He been allowed, for example, to change don’t expect it. The flesh dies a slow, bitter, bloody your attitude toward someone…or in death. “Putting off” the clothes of the old your reaction of stubbornness…or a deepman (the old, habitual lifestyle) will not be seated addiction that has hurt you for a complete until you “put on” the garments long, long time…or a habit of discourtesy of the new man (the new, fresh, Christian in your driving…or a profane tongue…or lifestyle). The tailor’s name is Change, and cheating…or laziness? Perhaps a better question would be, he is a master at fitting your frame. But the process will be painful, I repeat, and “Exactly what changes do you have on your drawing board?”—or—“What are you costly. But worth it? Absolutely. Change—real change—takes place asking the Lord to adjust in your life that slowly. Far too many Christians give up needs immediate attention?” Since the name of the game is change, and get discouraged. Like ice skating or mastering a musical instrument or learn- this time let’s play to win, OK? ing to swim, certain techniques have to be discovered, developed, and implemented in the daily discipline of living. Charles R. Swindoll serves as the senior pastor-teacher Breaking habit patterns you established of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. 5
DISCOVERING GOD’S PURPOSE IN LOSS or most of my life God has been teaching me to release my grip on everything I hold tightly. It’s a process that began when I was 13. I lost all my friends when my family moved halfway across the country. We had grown up together in a tight-knit community and I knew this move meant
by Joy McKee
I’d never see my friends again. In the days before Skype and email moving away was devastatingly final for a teenager. This was my first major loss and I was unprepared for how quickly life could change. The carefree days of childhood came to an abrupt end. In my new school I was lost and unhappy, overwhelmed at
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the process of making new friends. It was a period of intense emotional struggle. And then something unexpected happened. The pastor of the new church we were attending spoke about how we could have a personal relationship with Christ. This was news. I had grown up in the church but had never heard about accepting Christ. Hadn’t I been listening all those years? Was I too distracted and carefree and uninterested with my chums around me? Whatever the reason, my spirit had not been sensitive to God. Now suddenly it was. Within a short time I trusted in Jesus Christ and was born again. What a joyous event. In my sorrow, the Lord led me gently to Himself. He took what I had lost— comfortable friendships, security, sense of identity—and replaced it with His peace, hope, and joy. I was changed. Over 40 years later, God is still changing me through loss. Deaths of loved ones, miscarriages, children moving away, loss of health, financial setbacks… the losses have become more significant as time passes. It would be wonderful to say that it’s a process I rejoice in, but that’s rarely my first response. Usually I put up a fuss and make sure God can see how uncomfortable, distressed, and anxious I am. But when I finally pry my fingers loose and truly let go, God always has something new and profound to teach me. Trusting Him allows God to accomplish His overarching purpose of moulding me into the image of His Son. Isaiah 64:8 says, “We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” (NLT) No one knows me better than my Creator. He knows exactly what I am to become and how He’s going to achieve that. Being shaped by God is a
relentless, painful process but absolutely essential for each one of His children. Times of testing not only keep my eyes focused on the Lord, they also give me an eternal perspective, reminding me that this life is temporary. Second Corinthians 4:16-18 says it beautifully. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
“ Times of testing not only keep my eyes focused on the Lord, they also give me an eternal perspective, reminding me that this life is temporary.” I came into the world with nothing and hopefully I will leave clutching nothing. Whatever is given to me is on loan. Family, friends, possessions, job, home… they’re all God’s. Loss of what I hold dear will always be heartbreaking. It’s something I’ll never get used to. But my response of praise rather than pity helps to make sense of it and brings glory to God. It was Job who said, “The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21.) Joy McKee is the communications manager at Insight for Living Canada.
IN CHANGE by Scott Tolhurst
hange by its very nature is an exchange of give-and-take. The changes of geography, calendar, family, or friendships all bring something to gain and something to lose. If there is no plus or minus, then there is no change. Life remains the same. And of course it never does! With my permission or without, change occurs constantly. Since change always carries a ledger measuring credits or debits, we resist and avoid the transitions. Obviously, we don't mind the gains—a bigger house, higher income, enlarging the family by marriage or birth. We embrace the additions. It’s the subtractions we shun. Instinctively we recognize that change will take something from us. If we move to a larger house we may lose the old neighbourhood. When our children marry we hear the cliché, “Gain a daughter and lose a son.” Every parent discovers that the addition of a child will rob you of sound sleep. So, change is hard. That’s true in family, at work, or in our congregations. It is equally true within our own body and soul. My body experiences change daily. I gain pounds and wrinkles. I lose follicles and flexibility. Frankly, the physical process of change is hard to smile at. Mass media point to my past. It shows me who I used to be, or at least thought I was! Smooth of skin and fleet of foot. I look at my grandchildren and remember running on an endless reservoir of energy. I look at my aged parents and weigh the subtractions
© shutterstock.com / Giada Canu
"Time does not have the same detracting effect upon our inside as it does our outside." waiting in my future. The flip of calendar months do not offer my body many credits in the aging ledger. It looks like debits from here on. No wonder our culture is enamoured with youth. Who wants to live on a reducing graph? We grasp and grip in a tug-of-war with time. But our attempt to stay the same cannot be held. Change wins. We age and decline. Now lest I have depressed you completely—read on! The parade of time does take from us but it ushers in great gains as well. We are more than a body. We are souls. Time does not have the same detracting effect upon our inside as it does our outside. Listen to God via Paul’s quill, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV). We have treasure in a fragile jar. The currents of time and the opposition of darkness press us. These forces may cause physical injury or remind us of mortality but Paul is adamant. Do not lose heart! The graph of our bodies and the graph of our souls point in opposite directions. Our bodies waste. Our souls are renewed daily. If we review Paul’s thought in this passage, we will hear a repeated theme of glory. God is changing
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us “from glory to glory.” God holds before us an eternal “weight of glory,” which shrinks current losses to puny potatoes. Paul does not ignore the impact of change in our lives. But he does make a fuller calculation. Our bodies are diminished to the point of death. The daily nourishment of grace to our souls overshadows that loss. Glory illuminates darkness. Life speaks to the final word to death. All of this is theology. Good theology, but it tends to stay in our heads. What practical difference does it make when I confront living changes? Sickness. Aging. Moving. Losing. Injury. Abandonment. Death. How does this truth equip me to navigate the gains and losses of change in my life? Here is a quartet to lend song in the midst of change. We will need all four to achieve harmony. I can revisit my own values. Holding on to superficial values enlarges my sense of loss through change. If I am bent out of shape about my hair loss more than my prayer loss my balance may be out of kilter.
I can recognize that God is always at work for me. Change does not catch God off guard. In fact, He employs the changes of life to shape my soul. It’s one of His favourite tools. Looking beneath the surface of change will reveal God at work. I can be assured by the generosity of God. Here is an unshakable fact: God does not take. He gives. Even temporary losses are building blocks for something good added to our living. I can live in the hope of the end of change. Change is a factor of time. We are headed to an eternal destiny where time ends and so does change. Perfection will not permit gains or losses. The body, which has suffered so much weakness, will be raised to incorruption. Our souls, shaped by daily renewal, will be perfected beyond the effect of change.
Scott Tolhurst is the lead pastor at Richmond Bethel Church in Richmond, BC.
by steve johnson
don’t welcome surprises. Oh, I’m good with happy ones like surprise parties, surprise gifts, and serendipitous turns of events, but for most things I like to know what I’m getting into. By nature I’m cautious and I’ve also been burned a few times. To avoid the deer-inthe-headlights feeling I like to prepare and think things through ahead of time. When faced with a new situation or change of course my usual defence mechanism is to ask questions. “Why me?” “What will I say?” “Who else is involved?” “How long will it take?” “Is there a cost attached?” “What exactly do you want?” Sometimes my analysis causes paralysis and I miss opportunities from God for blessing and growth.
"When God surprises us with an opportunity our first reaction is to view it from the perspective of our own sufficiency." I know I’m not alone. While at the pinnacle of Egyptian power, Moses attempted to free the Israelites from slavery. It went poorly so he fled to the wilderness in disgrace and fear for his life. There he slid into obscurity and underachievement of tending sheep for 40 years. God surprised Moses one day by appearing to him in a burning bush and calling him to be Israel’s deliverer. How did Moses respond? He too used the defence mechanism of questions. “Who am I…?” “What shall I say…?” “What if they will When God Surprises Us continued from p. 11
not believe me, or listen to what I say…?” (Exodus 3:11,13; 4:1). Notice Moses’ responses were “I, I, me, I.” His eyes were focused inwards. He felt inadequate so he was defensive. Finally Moses tried to plead inability, “I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer” (4:10 MSG). When God answered with a statement of His sufficiency because He made Moses’ mouth Moses finally said, “…please! Send somebody else!” (4:13). The prophet Jeremiah tried a similar ploy in response to God’s surprise call. He said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6). Jeremiah’s eyes were also focused inward. The Lord’s response to him was, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. “Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord (1:7-8). God turned Jeremiah’s attention back to Himself. It’s human nature to be self-centred. When God surprises us with an opportunity our first reaction is to view it from the perspective of our own sufficiency. We fear the unknown and we fear rejection and failure, which cause us to use our defence mechanisms. With every surprise and opportunity God also brings answers for our fears, objections, and defences. His answers in every instance point to Himself and His own sufficiency as He did with Moses and Jeremiah. Here are four promises God’s answers offer us.
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1. His plan. “I have sent you.” There is a sovereign purpose and plan for everything including our lives. He planned with us in mind. What we consider surprises in life are not surprises to God. They are part of His plan for His ultimate glory and we are a meaningful part of His plan. 2. His presence. “I will be with you.” We are not alone as we participate in fulfilling God’s plan. Knowing He is always with us brings peace amid tumultuous times and comfort amid challenging days. 3. His provision. “I have made you, I will give you the words to speak.” God designed us so He knows exactly what we need. God is sufficient not just for words to speak but for all our needs in every situation He surprises us with.
4. His power. “My power is with you.” Our weakness is not a defence against doing what God asks. We are told to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. And when His power is at work through us His plan and purpose will be fulfilled. The next time God surprises us with an opportunity, a challenge, or a change in life, we need to take a moment to pause before we get into defence mode. We need to think about who we are focusing on—ourselves and our limitations, or God and His unlimited sufficiency. Knowing He is sufficient in every way we will begin to welcome surprises.
Steve Johnson is the executive director at Insight for Living Canada.
by steve johnson
How can I learn to embrace change? There’s a saying, “No one likes change except a baby with a dirty diaper, and even then the baby will cry about it!” Embracing change involves three attitudes: acknowledgement, adjustment, and acceptance. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. For the Christian to embrace change there are three fundamental aspects we must acknowledge. 1. God is in control. Daniel 4:35 says, “But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” Everything that happens, including changes in our lives, happen within the sphere of God’s sovereign control. 2. God has a plan. Change is not random. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not
one of them.” Even when we don’t understand or see it God has a purpose behind all change. 3. Change is an inevitable and a necessary part of life. God has built change into life as a means to achieve His will and purposes. Without change, His will would not be done. ADJUSTMENT. Perception affects everything. We need to adjust our perceptions about change. Most of us view change as a negative thing to be feared. We paint scenarios in our minds reinforcing the idea that change is negative. One of the keys to embracing change is to stop assuming change will be for the worse. Most of the things we fear never actually happen. And the changes we think are bad often turn out to be the beginnings of the best things in our lives. If we perceive change as loss we feel sad and will not want to lose what we had.
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Focus instead on what is gained with the change. God is bringing about change toward the goal of eternity with Him and that is something we can be thankful for. We also need to adjust our self-talk by changing our negative language. Rather than thinking “I hate change” change it to “God is fulfilling His plan.” ACCEPTANCE. If God is sovereignly working out His plan through change then embracing change revolves around accepting His will. If we don’t submit to His will we’ll see ourselves as a victim. We also need to accept our responsibility with respect to change. We have a responsibility to manage and make changes in light of God’s will. In managing change we must align our expectations with God’s will. James 4:13-15 points out it is sin to plan presumptuously saying “next year I will do such and so.” This passage also tells us we need to submit our expectations to the will of God. One of the reasons we don’t like change is because often things turn out differently than we planned or expected. But if we submit our plans and expectations to the will of God, acceptance comes easier.
Rather than seeing ourselves as victims of change we are to responsibly and proactively manage it. By viewing ourselves as both part of God’s plan and the change process we can treat change as an opportunity to act rather than react. Acting can sometimes mean making changes when we are complacent or comfortable. Sometimes being complacent in a job or relationship means we are not achieving all God has for us.
One of the keys to embracing change is to stop assuming change will be for the worse." As with most things in life, change is much easier to deal with when we get help. We don't have to go through it alone; there are probably many people in our lives who have gone through similar changes and can support us in the process. I hope this helps. -Steve Steve Johnson is the executive director at Insight for Living Canada.
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