By Dermot Cottuli
Today I want to share with you a number of reflections on change. It seemed good to me and the Holy Spirit to challenge our thinking on this key aspect of life given that it’s the start of a brand new year and also because of the changes that are underway in our church. It’s my hope that these reflections will speak to everyone here in some way and that you’ll find them beneficial in whatever season of life you’re currently in.
As you follow the story of the Israelites in the pages of the Bible you see that their story was one of constant change. Sometimes the changes that they experienced brought times of great prosperity and expansion for their nation but other times the changes marked times of persecution and captivity. What’s interesting is that whenever the nation of Israel kept their heart toward God they always prospered. It was only when they drifted away from God that the changes they experienced weren’t the ones that they would have liked. Yes, there were times of struggle where they had to persevere before they saw God’s plan out worked, but over the lifespan of each generation a pattern can easily be seen, marked by the focus of their collective heart. When their heart was turned toward God they had victories, growth and prosperity. When their hearts were turned away from God they experienced hardship, persecution and even enslavement by other nations.
“I have always argued that change becomes stressful and overwhelming only when you’ve lost any sense of the constancy of your life. You need firm ground to stand on. From there, you can deal with that change.”
Richard Nelson Bolles
Throughout human history there’s been one overarching constant that’s never changed or wavered and that’s been the existence and presence of God on the earth. The bible tells us that God doesn’t change and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. What that means for us and what the Israelites experienced is that when we’re planted in God and walking with Him then any change that life sends our way will ultimately lead to our good. He’s the firm ground that never shifts that you can lay the foundation of your entire life on and know that it won’t slide out from underneath you when the storm comes.
The leadership of Grace have worked very hard over the past 5 and half years to keep our focus on Jesus and to lead the heart of our church toward the things that are on the heart of God. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do and secondly, whenever a group of people have remained faithful to Jesus through tough times He always leads them toward life, wholeness and growth. Because of that we can approach this next season with great faith and confidence.
So onto my reflections
Change is inevitable
If there’s one thing certain about life it’s that change will always occur. Where we get into trouble is when we try to keep things the same way that they’ve always been. If we’re not moving forward then we run the risk of falling behind into stagnation and eventual decay. It happens in the natural world and also the church world and our personal worlds. You can hold steady for a period of time but eventually you either move forward into renewed growth or you will fall into decay.
“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.”
If change is inevitable what then should be our attitude toward it?
- Fear? Distrust? Criticism? Self preservation?
- Acceptance? Thankfulness? Faith? Confidence?
We all go through various emotions when facing change but it’s wise to lean into the more positive attitudes if we’re to grow through the change and stay healthy and whole. I’ve seen two people face the exact same situation with opposite end results – one ended up bitter and twisted and the other ended up growing stronger and more loving. The difference was their attitude.
1) What is your overarching purpose in life?
We need a compelling purpose to help us overcome our natural tendency to focus on ourselves when the change we’re experiencing starts to cost us personally. For the church that has always been – The cause of the King – That none shall perish
But what about you? Is there something in your life that’s more important than your own happiness and wellbeing?
“We need a purpose greater than our own happiness if we’re to endure and grow through the process of change.”
2) Ask the right questions
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” –
1. What is an example of the wrong question? Hint – what questions DID the Israelites ask when looking at entering the promised land? What will this change cost me? What will it mean for my family? Will it hurt?How can I safeguard what I already have?
2. What is an example of the right question? Hint – what questions should the Israelites have asked when looking at the promised land that God wanted them to enter? Has God ever let us down in the past? If God is for us, who can be against us? Is God leading us this way? When can we start? What can I do?
3) Change causes us to focus on the cost to self.
The challenge of change is to look up and out, not down and in.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”
4) List the pitfalls and promises of change
A great activity to do when facing change is to list all of the positives and perceived negatives. Often we’re afraid because we lack enough information. Ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” And 9 times out of 10 when you do, you’ll realise that you can handle it. When I was a kid and I was facing something difficult that I didn’t want to do I’d say to myself that I’d still be alive the week after it was over and it would all be behind me. It helped me to face up to whatever it was that I was afraid of. Naming things help to reduce our emotional fear of the unknown. And then bring Jesus into the situation and see what happens.
5) Be Prepared – Change brings out the inner critic
The obstacles become insurmountable when we take our eyes off the destination. That which we focus upon draws us toward it.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
6) Steady as she goes
You don’t jump out of a plane when you hit turbulence at 30,000 feet – you remain seated until the captain brings you to a safe landing.
“In a progressive country change is constant; change is inevitable.”
7) Every change that has influenced our world for good started small.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
8) There needs to be time for consolidation
Nature doesn’t grow all year round – there are times of growth and times of dormancy.
Who are those who fear the Lord?
He will show them the path they should choose.
They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land.
Quotes about Change
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James A. Baldwin
“Weep not that the world changes – did it keep a stable, changeless state, it were a cause indeed to weep.” – William C. Bryant
“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” – Karen Kaiser Clark
“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.” – Confucius
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” – Ellen Glasgow
“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.” – Johann von Goethe
“No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution… revolution is but thought carried into action.” – Emma Goldman
“Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert
“The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.” – William James
“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.” – Charles Kettering