A woman bought a piece of needlework at a craft fair. The piece read, “Prayer Changes Things.” Proud of the handiwork she hung it above the fireplace in their living room. A few days later she discovered the prized piece missing. When questioned, her husband admitted taking the needlework down. “Don’t you believe in prayer? she inquired. “Yes, I do,” the husband responded. “I believe in prayer. I believe it changes things. But I don’t like change so I took it down.”
A lot of people don’t like change. I suppose it really is human nature to be uncomfortable with change, especially when it is not in our control. People don’t like change and the change to which we tend to be most resistant is change in us. As a pastor and observer of people I’ve seen people choose to lose their job, destroy their marriage, or go to jail rather than change themselves.
Change is often extremely difficult. Some people are more resistant to change than others. I’ve even known people who would rather die than change. You probably know someone who has been told by their doctor they need to change their diet are they will die prematurely, and yet they fail to change. Change is difficult but there is good news.
Change is possible. Do you recall the story of the Apostle Paul? He had been a ferocious persecutor of the early church. However, after his encounter with the risen Christ he became the greatest human influence on Christianity. Most of us have known someone who has experienced radical change in their life. What happens to bring about truly transformational change in our lives.
You have to want to change. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous insists that people don’t change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. The first of the twelve steps is “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction–that our lives had become unmanageable.”
We can change if we have a vision of something better. There is a wonderful scene in the Karate Kid movie where Daniel is visiting Mr. Miyagi who is trimming a bonsai tree. Miyagi encourages Daniel to work on the delicate little tree. Daniel, however, is reluctant. He doesn’t have a clue about how to even start trimming the tree. Mr. Miyagi encourages Daniel to close his eyes and envision what he wants the tree to look like. After Daniel has a picture of the trimmed tree in his mind, Mr. Miyagi instructs him to open his eyes and go to work. But then, Daniel asked, “How do I know my vision is correct?” Mr. Miyagi replies, “If the picture comes from your heart, then it must be right. Just trust your picture.”
If we need to make some changes in our lives we should start with a clear vision of those needed changes. But how do we know the vision is right? How about this? Picture in your mind what Jesus looks like. Of course, I don’t mean his physical appearance. I’m talking about his compassion, his patience, his humility, his gentleness, his empathy and understanding. I’m talking about his willingness to serve and even to die for others. We can change if we really want to, if we have a clear vision of who we want to become. But one more thing.
God can change us if we are willing to surrender our will to God. The Apostle Paul had a life-changing encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. From that day on Jesus was the Lord and Master of Paul’s life. He went where Jesus called him to go and did whatever he was called to do, often at great personal sacrifice.
I read once that when Earl Weaver was manager of the Baltimore Orioles he would charge at umpires shouting, “Are you gonna get any better, or is this it?” Perhaps God is asking you the same question. Are you gonna allow God to transform your life, or is this it? You can change if you really want to. If you are willing to focus your vision on Jesus. If you are willing to allow Him to become the Lord and Master of your life.
So, what’s all of this got to do with changing America. I suppose you are probably on to me by now. It’s really quite simple. America won’t be changed by electing a different president or members of Congress or having newly appointed judges on the Supreme Court. America will be changed when you and I change. It will be changed, not when political parties change, but when hearts are transformed and men and women across this great land put on the mind of Christ, learning to love our neighbor, like the example set by the man from Galilee.
QUESTION: What changes do you need to make in your life? Are you willing to trust God enough to surrender your will to His in order to be transformed?