“I’ve been thinking lately about how I can change the world.” It was the first line of my editor’s letter several years ago. I shared how I had wanted to be a physician like Dr. Albert Schweitzer and how over time and through life experiences I realized that I could be a blessing in other ways—nurturing my family, caring for people in need in my community and doing seemingly less important daily tasks like bathing my dogs. And that through these acts I could change the world for the better.
In response, a reader wrote to tell me the letter had impacted her life and that she was surprised and even laughed when she realized how far God had gone to get her attention. She wrote, “God, are you trying to talk to me through a decorating magazine?” She’d been feeling inadequate when she compared herself to her husband’s business associates. She felt her only hope to be relevant and valued meant becoming a physician even though she was a bright and accomplished woman. Such a career change may be a wonderful undertaking for the right reasons. But God directed her change to be an understanding that he loved her and had a unique purpose for her life and with her accepting that she didn’t need a new career to be successful in making a difference in the world.
Each year-end, as the final days expire and the promise of a new year is on the horizon, I contemplate my life. And once again I’ve been thinking about how I can change the world. I think and pray over my accomplishments and unfulfilled goals and my physical, mental and spiritual strengths and weaknesses. Then I ask God for His leading as to the changes I need to make in my life for both short and long term.
We are all seeking change for one reason or another. The motivation to change is prolific in this world. Media and infomercials promise it. Politicians promise it. Diet programs promise it. Wrinkle creams promise it. We even promise it to ourselves and others. We want a better world, a better body or a better life. We want to start doing such good things as exercising, eating wisely and praying and stop doing such bad things as overeating, cheating, smoking, gossiping, using profanity and more. But good intentions and motives aside, change is hard. And sadly, after multiple failed attempts to change, the resolutions we write on New Year’s Eve are likely to be hollow promises by mid-January. But hope is alive. Change is Biblical and there are good changes we should and can make. The Bible records the stories of people changed by God including Moses, David, Esther and Paul. The story of Jesus’ work centers on God changing us from being enemies to daughters and sons of God, Himself.
Change with a Purpose
Why we change is as important as what we change. As followers of Christ, we have a unique calling to change. We also have a Teacher, the Holy Spirit, to guide us in our change.
Ask God for wisdom on what changes you should make (James 1:4-6). Then seek His strength, encouragement, discipline, power and love to see the changes through. God promises the power through His Spirit to transform us. God has the power to make the change within us if we will simply submit to Him daily and follow His leading. How do you know if change is good? Consider this checklist:
1. Does it help us or call us to holiness before God? (1 Peter 1:15-17)
2. Does it call us to be more like Christ? (Philippians 2:1-15)
3. Does the change help glorify God? (1 Peter 2:11-12)
4. Is the change for my wholeness or pride? (Galatians 6:4; 1 John 2:15-17; Galatians 5:16-26)
God’s call to us is clear. Discerning good change from bad requires us to understand its source. God calls us to be holy. Do these changes draw me toward God? Will these changes help me serve God better? Offer up your proposed changes with a prayer of confession and humility asking God to direct, oversee and be glorified by the changes you make.
Change That is Good
Talk to a thousand people and you will get a thousand different desired changes, but they often revolve around the same core areas that can be summarized by character, circumstances, relationships and physical changes.
Changes in Character: God is constantly refining our character. God is more concerned about us becoming more like Christ in our character and actions than our temporary happiness! God wants our best first. Contemplate the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and Christ’s example (Philippians 2:1-13).
Changes in Circumstances: Sooner or later we all encounter circumstances that are difficult or hard to endure that require change to overcome. Income or job loss, natural calamity and accidents are just a few circumstantial challenges that when managed successfully may build character and make us stronger. Seeking God’s counsel and wisdom from mature believers can help guide us in how we should pursue change. Paul lays out his experience with difficulties in 2 Corinthians 12. Pursue change, but seek God’s guidance as you move forward.
Changes in Relationships: God designed people to be in relationships with one another and with him. All relationships can be improved, and Scripture is the best place for direction on how to do this. Christian authors may also help shed the spotlight on what is needed or not needed for a good relationship. Before seeking changes in these areas, check to make sure the change aligns with God’s view not the world’s.
Changes in Physical Areas: God made each of us and we can work to present ourselves well to all around us. Using your intellect, skills, gifts and maintaining the health of your body is an act of stewardship. When what we have controls us—whether it be our looks, time, or money—we are out of balance (Luke 12:13-34). If you feel and act better with less weight, then lose those pounds. Exercise for health. Eat right. Look the best you can, but do not be taken in by lies of the perfect movie star body.
14 Steps to Successful Change
Change is an opportunity to grow into a more mature Christian. Change can also improve our physical body and health, our relationships, our circumstances and character. Bad habits can be overcome and good behaviors implemented with a well-laid plan. Consider these steps to encourage your successful transformation:
Step 1 Pray for discernment:
Ask God to reveal the changes you need to make and for the power to be able to change. Pray for wisdom, knowledge and understanding and for His plan for how you can be transformed. Luke 12:31, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.”
Step 2 Pray and plan each day:
Start each day in prayer and with a quiet time with God. Afterward review your plan and prepare for the day. A few minutes in the morning will go a long way in arming yourself for success (Ephesians 6: 10-17).
Step 3 Select role models:
Seek out worthy role models in your life. Look for people doing or being something that you want to do or be. God created us to learn from each other. People become like those they associate with (Proverbs 13:20) and the books they read (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Scripture offers examples of good role models, such as Esther, Barnabas, Ruth and Noah. Biographies are also inspirational examples. Consider Corrie ten Boom, Billy Graham or Dr. Albert Schweitzer. And as believers, Jesus is our primary role model.
Step 4 Be accountable:
Confide in one or more people who will lovingly hold you accountable for taking action. Proverbs 27:17 captures this thought saying, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We are social people needing the encouragement and sometimes the discipline boost from one another. Find someone who you can trust to ask and, if need be, challenge you to keep going. Be that accountability partner for someone else (1 Thessalonians 5:6-15; Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Step 5 Plan:
As we all know, change rarely just happens. We must be purposeful about pursuing the good changes that God has called us to make.
Step 6 Set goals:
What are you seeking to accomplish? Think about what you hope to achieve (Proverbs 14:8,15,22 and Proverbs 12:5). Write the goal(s) down. Summarize what you want to make happen.
Step 7 Educate yourself:
Start with Scripture and seek insight on your habit or behavior. Scripture helps identify any underlying or hidden source of bad habits or behaviors. Seek other sources of information to expand your knowledge to handle such areas as exercise and health.
Step 8 Set short-term goals:
Make a map or schedule that breaks your goal into steps that are achievable and allow you to succeed daily.
Step 9 Remove obstacles & temptations:
Losing weight when the pantry and refrigerator hold sweets and bad carbs is more difficult than when the kitchen offers healthful food choices. Common sense can help us remove situations, habits, people or things in our environment that will cause us to fail. Increase your chances of success by protecting yourself from barriers, even if they are as sweet as chocolate (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).
Step 10 Review progress:
Take joy in your success no matter how minor and be encouraged by progress. If needed, adjust your plan as you learn your individual needs. Discuss this with your accountability partner and seek professional advice if you do not progress or are growing frustrated.
Step 11 Forgive your failures:
We will all miss a goal. We may eat dessert or say hurtful words when we promised we would not. Forgive yourself and start again immediately. Do not wait until the next Monday, for example, but rather strengthen your resolve now.
Step 12 Cheer yourself on:
Speak aloud positive words of encouragement. If negative words come out, change your heart and try again. Words are a powerful weapon against failure (Matthew 15:17-20; Galatians 5:16-26).
Step 13 Be persistent:
Consistent effort is the biggest factor in success. The tortoise and the hare fable that we are all so familiar with communicates profound principles that we, as adults, forget. Effort pays off. Proverbs 14:23 puts it clearly, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” We need to persist in our faith, and this persistence is a guide for all we do. But take one day at a time as you press on (Philippians 3:12-14; Matthew 6:33-34).
Step 14 Praise God:
“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods” (1 Chronicles 16:23-25). We praise God because He is worthy of our praise (1 Chronicles 16:25; Revelation 5:11-14). He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is our Creator, Provider, Healer, Redeemer, Judge, Defender and more.
As we praise and worship God, we discover great benefits for our lives. That’s because we were created by God to praise Him (Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 21:16). Man’s original sin broke this relationship. Praising God helps restore this relationship and the Bible tells us God dwells in the praises of His people (Psalms 22:3). As we draw near to the Father in praise, He draws near to us (James 4:8).
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