How to make meaningful change in our lives is a question we all ask. We know how habits are hard to change. Think about how many people you have known who never seem to change. Though we haven’t seen them for years, they haven’t changed for the better. We sometimes look in the mirror and worry that that will be us. But we should take heart and not be discouraged because God helps and changes people who trust in Him. Through what means do we see this change in us?
PRAY – The Bible says to “pray at all times”; in communication with God you are not wrapped up in yourself. Effective prayer accomplishes much. God hears and answers the prayers of those who are righteously seeking Him. The road to change always starts with seeking God. Before he was a Christian, a man was introduced to one of our Elders the day after he sat crying in solitary confinement in a local jail, and was crying to God, “I just want to believe”. God answers the prayers of those who seek Him. “Seek and you shall find.” The Bible is filled up with examples, recorded especially for us, that show how God helps those who seek Him. Wherever you are, pray and pray hard. Pray until you have nothing left to say. That’s the time in prayer when our intellect, verbal skills, grammar and syntax fail us by failing to adequately say what’s in our heart. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;” (Psalm 139:23). Stay in prayer before the throne of God even if you have nothing to say. God searches the heart and knows the things you want to say and can’t. God will hear the unspeakable pains and joys of the heart “with groanings too deep for words”, and He will answer you.
REPENT – Jesus said, “unless you repent, you shall likewise perish“; repentence is the change you do in your mind. James 4 is written to some rather carnal Christians who are acting hostile towards God because they want to be friends with the world. Yes, sometimes our failure to change is unrepented of attitudes and habits. God is jealous for His people and His grace is only given to those who address their sins and draw near to Him. “8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (Jas 4). Now may be the appropriate time to mourn and confess to God just what a pitiful sinner you are. When we repent, the heart, mind, and body must be engaged or it won’t be lasting. David said, “17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51).
God’s grace is for the humble. He’s opposed to the proud, but He exalts the humble, Mt. 23:12. “Exaltation” means to lift or raise up to a very high position. Now what if God’s blessings were all more like platitudes without any tangible or measurable effects? When God exalts you, you are in a very real way changed. It’s a matter of faith in that you must acknowledge it and give Him credit. You must believe and not doubt. God doesn’t lift up and help the proud and arrogant of heart. But the humble person who lifts his or her spirit up to God will be blessed in this life and in the life to come.
Humility is at the heart of meaningful repentance. When we change our minds about sin, God changes us inside and out, now and forever.
DON’T WORRY – The Scripture says, “do not be anxious”; fretting about the future where you will be or about the past that got you where you are isn’t a bit helpful; live in the moment because each day has enough worries of its own. There is a time for mourning and grieving over the sin we have committed, but not to the point that we cannot move forward. Start living positively and see the change God makes in your life. When we fast forward to the future, our mind, body, and soul become intertwined in what is largely unknown. When we rewind to the past and make that the abode of our mind, the regrets and pains from mistakes we have made can completely disable the self living in the here and now. After we have dealt with our sin and established that from here on out we are going to walk with the Lord, then we can really live. And then we will see the changes of God in our lives.
GOD IS NEAR – Remember God is with you and in you through His Spirit. “God dwells in you and you are not your own”, says the Apostle. You are the temple of God through the Spirit and so be holy and sanctified. To be the temple of God is a meaningful reality. You are not alone for God is with you and He cares for you. David said, “7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence” (Ps 139)? The answer for David and for us is nowhere. He’s the Father who knows exactly what you need and is “a very present help in time of trouble”. An old Brother, I believe it was Roy Lanier, Sr. said, “Live in the presence of God”. That’s good advice if we want to make change in our life.
The temple which is you is made pure by God’s grace. The God who purchased us so that “you are not your own”, has called for us to be holy in all of our behavior. Treat God’s temple well. If we are abusing and defiling our bodies with immoral living, we fail to connect in our minds with the reality of God’s presence. If we are not loving ourselves – mind, body, and soul – it’s not possible to love others. God says we are to love others, but it’s not going to happen until we take care of ourselves. If our bodies are given to the passions and lusts of this world, it’s hard to be God’s instrument for righteousness. Be nice to yourself and treat God’s temple pure and holy.
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – Paul said a man ought to, “know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor”; self-control is a characteristic of people of faith. There’s no such thing as a perfect Christian, so stop beating yourself up. But Christians walk in the light and have fellowship with God. “Walking in the Light” is the habit of someone who renews himself each day. I messed up yesterday and it was a mistake. But I love the Lord and want to be known for that. Christians sin, but they don’t practice sin. If you are a Christian, love more today, rejoice more, trust more and have God’s peace….and practice self-control. It’s the fruit of the Spirit, it’s God’s work in you.
Want to make a change in your life? Like the title implies, the better question is how are you helped by God to make change in your own life or how is God changing you? We don’t do anything without the help of God and that’s why He alone deserves the glory for anything and everything we have done and ever will do. He saves us by sanctifying us through His Son. And He is active in the perfecting of each Christian until they are the fulness of Christ.
A most encouraging passage is Isaiah 41:10 which says, “10 Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” God says we don’t need to be anxious or fearful because he will strengthen and give help to His people. Whatever is your weakness or need, God changes things around us and in us. Amen.