The Winds of Change

We all know change is inevitable. With the coming of fall, my mind often turns towards the changes that are beginning to take place. We see the changes all around us in the yellow school buses that are back in traffic, the grass dressed in morning housecoats of dew, plants beginning to wilt and fade and leaves starting their colorful descent towards life's end. Most of us enjoy these changes. Moms with school age children are usually ready to resume the routines associated with their children being back at school. Homeowners look forward to putting away the lawnmowers and trimmers for the long winter season and those of us who love nature look forward to the colorful display of potted mums and changing leaves. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Pixabay

Pixabay

fall

Change can also be very scary.

There, I said it. You know it is true. Many changes are not looked forward to like those I listed above. Change can involve pain, volatile emotions and overwhelming shadows of the unknown. Anyone facing the difficult changes of a divorce, a long term disability or illness or the loss of a loved one, know that change can take on a very different appearance. Instead of looking exciting and enjoyable, change looks lonely and terrifying. So how can we embrace change, even when it is difficult?

Know that God did not intend for things to stay the same.

In our relationship with Christ, God the Father has an ultimate plan, our growth and development as His children. You knew when you had children, the ultimate goal was to nourish and take care of them so they could, ultimately, take care of themselves. Most parents look forward to the day they can see their child go off to college or get married, or move to start a new job. They never intended their children stay with them forever. An attitude like that, would not only be difficult on the marriage, but it would be extremely limiting for the child. They need to grow and become the individuals they were meant to be. 

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
— Philippians 2:1-3 (NASB)

God did not intend we stay the same. Life is all about change. Many changes we have absolutely no control over. However, we do have control over ourselves and our attitudes towards those changes. Every time we choose to have the mind of Christ, rather than feeling sorry for ourselves or becoming anxious, we grow and become more like Him.

Know that God is with you through the change.

Going through change can be extremely lonely. I am sure there are times when you are encountering change that you don't feel at liberty to share your burdens with other people. These are the times to remember His is with you. He will never leave you.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

Did you ever really look at that verse? God commanded...you heard me right. God commanded that Joshua not be afraid, that he be strong and courageous. Isn't He commanding us to do the same thing when our lives are chaotic with change? Because he is with us, we can do it. 

I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You...
— Isaiah 42:6(a) (NASB)

Know that God will give you the strength to get through it.

Going through difficult changes can be exhausting, especially if the change has to do with physical distress or limitations. Emotional changes can also leave us feeling drained. Many times when we are encountering change we have a harder time sleeping, eating and just doing the normal every day routine. However, routine is important, especially when your life is in upheaval. Try to wake up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, eat when you need to eat, brush your teeth, get dressed and so on.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

God is capable. When I get to the point where life just won't let up, I find myself returning to this verse in Philippians over and over. I claim it. I bring my fatigue and distress to the Lord and simply say, "Lord, your word says, 'I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.' I claim that promise now and trust You to give me the strength I need to keep going." You know what? He has never failed me. He always gives me the strength to get through the changes that are going on in my ever rocking world. 

That strength may not always be physical. You might be flat on your back in the hospital, but He will give you the strength mentally and emotionally to deal with those changes. Remember, it is all about Him. He will give you strength because He is the one who will be glorified as you get through the winds of change.  

The Imperishable Prize

There may be no other simple six letter word that invokes so much stress and fear as change. Have you ever considered how much change you go through in a day, a week, a month or a year, let alone your life time? I was thinking about the changes that I have encountered in the last month. My daughter found a new job which changed her schedule, so that changed my grandson's schedule, which in turn, changed my schedule. Certain procedures at my place of employment changed, which changed how I did the schedule and changed the amount of time I had to spend working on the schedule. Changes are not always good. Sometimes, they are just excruciatingly frustrating. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

In the last few months my daughter and son-in-law have had both cars in the shop, my nephew who was supposed to get married, didn't, another nephew had a daughter which no one was aware of until the mother went into labor and my hairdresser decided to give up being a hairdresser for a different full time job. All of these changes in some way affected my world. Wouldn't it be nice to just go a few hours, days, weeks or even months without changes?

And let's not forget the change, that wonderful time period that all women get to look forward to. Weight gain, hot flashes, abnormal periods, oh the joy! 

Don't get me wrong, many changes are good. Giving up smoking or excessive sugar is good for your health. Ending a toxic relationship is good for your well being. Starting to exercise can, not only help your heart, but improve your mood. Reading can open your mind and imagination to new worlds and learning something new can help delay memory loss. Much of change is good and necessary. 

God does not want us to be static. Webster defines static as showing little or no change, action or progress. Our lives are supposed to change and grow as we come to know Jesus more and as we learn to trust and obey Him.

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
— I Corinthians 9:19-27 (NASB)

The Apostle Paul was not only uniquely aware of change, he was an agent of change. Once a top shelf Pharisee, persecutor of Christ followers, he met the Lord Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. You can see his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. This intellectual Jew, raised in the strict order of the Pharisees, became a Christian. He changed. He went from killing Christians to believing in Christ and becoming one of the greatest leaders in the early Christian church. 

Paul knew that change did not end the moment he became born again. He was aware that his faith was going to be an ever evolving and changing thing. His desire became, to become all things to all men, so that Christ might be preached. He wanted to do his best and he knew that meant working at his faith and his relationship with Jesus.

I am thoroughly convicted by the above passage.

1. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run - Really? Do I remember I am even in the race, let alone that I am supposed to be running. I am not a runner, but I am smart enough to understand that being in a marathon takes hard work, discipline and practice. What do marathon runners practice? Piano? Chess? Painting? No! They practice running. They run to build their endurance and then they run to increase their speed. So the first question I need to ask myself is, 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Am I running in the race or am I sitting on the sidelines being a spectator? I believe there are times we are on the sidelines. Runners get injuries, after which they have to take time to heal. As Christ followers and as human beings we get injured. We feel pain. And often that means we have to sit out for a spell. However, the analogy goes deeper. Let's say I am one of those marathon runners. My goal may be to win or just to make it to the finish line. If I fall and get injured do I stop or do I keep going? That all depends on the extent of the injury. We live in a world of hurt and pain. Our churches are filled with hurting people. Once in a while we get hurt by one of those hurting people. Does that mean I'm out of the race? Not if God is on your side.

2. Run in such a way that you may win - Winning? Hmmm. I don't feel like I am winning when I keep getting knocked down over and over. But think about it. A soldier who goes into combat keeps getting up and firing back until he can't get up any more. He knows the prize - to win the war, to keep people safe and protect human dignity and freedom. He fights for that to his very death because he is focused on the prize. So my second question is,

Am I running to win? - I have been. I am answering that question honestly. There are times in the last few years where I feel like I have hunkered down in a trench to hide and hope I don't have to ever show my head in the race again. But, my heart says, I want to run and run to win. Jesus' Spirit in me, is not going to let me give up, not if I really believe in the prize.

Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things - Excuse me? What did you say? Self-control? What is that? You mean you want me to not eat that other donut? You mean you want me to take a walk when I would rather sit in front of the TV? You mean you want me to hold my tongue when that customer was extremely rude to me? You mean you want me to love, give and care even when there is nothing in return? So my third question (no, I don't know how to count) is, 

Do all things, really mean all things? - Uh, yeah! So true, but so hard to do! But what is the motivation? For the Olympians past and present it is to receive a perishable wreath, or gold medal. For a Christ follower it is to receive an imperishable wreath. To hear Jesus say, "Well, done." To me, that seems worth the effort. 

4. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. - It seems to me we need to have a purpose for what we do...not without aim, not beating the air. Disciplining ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My fourth question then is,

Pixabay

Pixabay

For what purpose? - Paul says it is so that he might not be disqualified. Paul didn't want to mess up, not for his own pride and reputation, but for his Lord. Our goal as a follower of Christ should be to lift Him up; to glorify Him; to turn people toward Him. 

What does that all have to do with change? Everything. Every day we experience change we can either take it in stride and glorify Jesus, or we can whine and complain. I know I am not always going to run with the aim in mind and at times I may even be beating the air, but I want to keep running. I want to remember why I run...for the imperishable prize.