October 16, 2016
Change. Say that word to a Methodist, and you might just get shot on sight. When I told my husband that this week's service was about change, he was far from enthusiastic. This is a man that has only had one job and one wife, and has only worn 505 Levi's since his high school days - and if he was ever forced to wear something else, because perhaps, God forbid, they should quit making them, I think his whole world might be shattered. But then again, I am grateful that he is so resistant to change, because that also means he is very unlikely to change spouses either! I, on the other hand, have changed, and morphed, more times than I care to count. Homes, jobs, husbands, you name it - I have had more than most. One of my favorite songs is by the German band, the Scorpions, titled "Winds of Change". One of the lines of the refrain is, "Take me to the magic of the moment on a glory night where the children of tomorrow dream away in the wind of change".
But whether you are a person who embraces change, or resists it, there are times in our lives when change is inevitable. Some of us like the season of autumn when the leaves change color as if God Himself got out His artist's palette and painted each one a different beautiful shade of gold, orange, or crimson. But to others, it just means that they will soon be bare, and the cold winds of winter are soon to follow. Those who prefer perpetual summer might move to Arizona or Hawaii, but often even these folks crave a change of seasons after a while.
Change is not something to be feared or dreaded, especially since we have the Lord's promise "that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). But it is something that needs to be approached with discernment and wisdom. Some changes are good, some are bad, but avoiding them completely is neither possible nor healthy. Even King Solomon reflected on this in perhaps the most famous verses he wrote in the Bible. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Yes, everything in life, every change - good and bad, has a counterpart. For example - that new pet that we are joyful over, will eventually we the lost pet that we grieve over. And yet, would we sacrifice the joy to avoid the sadness?
And sometimes we cling to what we know, fearful of the unknown, even when it is clearly time for a change. For example, a woman who has an abusive husband or boyfriend, and yet refuses to leave him, always hoping he will change, instead of having the courage to make a change herself.
And then there are changes that are meant to bring joy, and yet sometimes we cannot adjust, and instead we end up miserable. My father and retirement never made peace. A supervisor at Electro Motive most of his life, upon retirement he found he had no one left to give orders to (both my mother and I being a bit headstrong). Instead of enjoying his retirement years, living on Deer Lake, amid 5 wooded acres, he ended up dying a bitter and miserable old man.
And sometimes there are changes in our life that we do not welcome, that cause us physical or emotional grief, and yet God uses even these to bless us, and possibly even others through us. In the Bible we have the example of Joseph, whose jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. And yet, the Lord was with him, and he went from being a slave to having a high ranking office. When a famine hit his family back home, and his brothers came to Egypt in search of food, they were shocked, and fearful, to be greeted by Joseph. Here is what it says in Genesis 50, "His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ˜We are your slaves,' they said. But Joseph said to them, 'Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.' And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them."
Yes, if we trust God, even when circumstances seem to dictate otherwise, He can turn even the worst days, weeks, or even years of your life into something that is a blessing in disguise. But in order for that to happen, there is one change that no one should ever resist. It is the one change that the Pharisees resisted with a passion. One that their hardened hearts simply could not endure, and which they sought to kill at any cost. Of course, the change I am talking about is the change found only in Jesus. Their pride resisted him. Their stubbornness resisted him. Their desire for control resisted him. And yet they could not stop the change he brought about for the billions of people who have put their faith in him. The Christians who have found forgiveness, mercy, love and hope by believing in His atoning death and resurrection, whose lives have been transformed by his healing power, who now have a future in heaven guaranteed through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The ones whose hearts have been changed through Christ, who have found peace amidst the chaos, and hope where others have lost all hope.
And speaking of chaos and lost hope, with the elections right around the corner there is a change coming in our country. Now, I am not one of those pastors who preaches politics, and I never will be. I am not going to tell anyone how to vote, although I will encourage you to vote. But no matter who wins the election, the words of my Gospel reading today (Daniel 2:20-22) still hold true. Ultimately it is God who puts people on the throne (or into office). But we must also remember the words of Psalm 33:12, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." If we want God's blessing on our nation, and a president who honors God, then we as Christians must first of all pray and pray hard, but also stand up for our faith in a country that has been falling away from God at an increasingly alarming rate. If God removes His hand of blessing and His hedge of protection from our country, it will bring about changes that we will not welcome. In that case, hopefully these unwelcome changes will spur repentance and a spiritual revival. But if not, we still need to hold fast to our faith, and not forsake God with the rest. For Jesus himself warned us that the day is coming when "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone on account of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:21-22). The Bible promises a crown of life to us if we remain faithful. James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." And Revelation 2:10 says, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
So let's quit sweating the small changes in our lives, that ultimately God will use for good anyway. And instead just rejoice that our names are in the Book of Life, because of Jesus. And because He lives we can face tomorrow. Amen.
What changes do you make everyday? (e.g. clothes)
What changes do you make every year? (e.g. new grade)
What changes do you make even less often? (e.g. new home or school)
What never changes? (God) And He is always there to help us face the changes we go through in life.