Making Positive Change

This week, I want to encourage you to embrace positive change in your life and family. It seems that we tend to resist change and stubbornly insist on holding onto to our comfortable patterns of life. We are often “stuck in a rut”. I once heard it said that a rut is really a grave with the ends blown out. Being stuck in a rut is not a good thing. Life requires change. Our marriage relationship requires change. Our relationship with our children requires change. When we resist positive change, we are hurting ourselves and those we love.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; all things have become new.” As followers of Jesus, we should expect to always be in a constant state of growth and change as He transforms us. Galatians 5 gives us a listing of the the characteristics that define the old person who lived according to the flesh, as well as a list of the characteristics of the new person who is living in step with the Spirit. So, as we pass through life, we should be always seeing ourselves better and abandoning the ways of the flesh to be more in step with the Spirit. This requires change.
In order to be a better marriage partner, we need to change. In order to be a better parent, we need to change. In order to mature as a follower of Jesus, we need to change. So, when we insist on staying in our rut and refuse to embrace change, we are hurting ourselves and those we love.
This week, I want to think about the components of positive change and how to navigate through change. The first step in change is to
acknowledge the truth about ourselves. We tend to see ourselves in ways that are more rosy than the way others see us. We tend to rationalize, excuse, and justify our actions. So, the starting point is to see the truth about ourselves. Marriage and parenting create the perfect scenario for seeing ourselves as we really are…if we can stop defending ourselves and take a look. So, it is crucial for us to allow the people closest to us to speak truth to us about our words, attitudes, and behaviors. The most important aspect of growth and change is to learn to recognize what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in changing us. We need to ask for His help and cooperate in the process. We need to realize that our bad behavior is no one else’s fault. When we justify our bad behavior by placing the blame on someone else, we see ourselves as victims and therefore we are not responsible for our actions or words. This cripples the growth process. Finally, in order to grow and change, we need to accept the truth that I cannot change anyone but me.
Life as a follower of Jesus is about change. Think about it, He changed everyone who chose to follow Him. He transformed the broken Samaritan woman at the well so much that her entire village wanted to know who He was. He transformed the corrupt, greedy tax collector Zaccheaus into a philanthropist. He transformed the passionate persecutor of the church, Saul, into a might apostle named Paul. Jesus changes everyone who will choose to embrace His touch. Change is exciting and the subject matter of awe inspiring stories.
Yet, we tend to resist God’s invitation as we stubbornly cling to our comfortable patterns of living. I want to focus on the process of change required to have a healthy marriage and be a great parent. Jesus wants to touch your marriage and family in a way that is an awe inspiring story that glorifies Him, but it will require change. Many marriages seem to be under great stress because of a need to make minor changes to a few simple things like, a little more help with the household chores, a little less spending, a little more help with the kids, a little more affection, or a little more time and attention.
I have been amazed how often a couple in distress can tell you what their mate is wanting from them, but they are simply unwilling to make the change. They go to counseling hoping the counsellor will justify their position and excuse them from any changes. The greatest enemy in becoming Christlike is self. Marriage and parenting create a fantastic environment to learn to set self aside and choose to serve others like Jesus commanded. However, the key is to embrace the process. So, the first step in the process of change is to choose change, growth, and improvement. In Matthew 19, Jesus invited a rich young man to be one of His disciples, but the young man chose to hang onto His possessions and comfortable pattern of life rather than accept Jesus’ invitation. Just like him, we can either choose to follow Jesus in change or we can choose to cling to what is comfortable. I hope you will choose to start making those changes that you know will improve your marriage and family.
One of the truly hard parts of making positive changes is to recognize and acknowledge our true condition. We have a tendency to see ourselves through filters. When defining ourselves, we factor in our good intentions, our past accomplishments, our struggles, our history, and other factors that make us feel good about ourselves. So, when someone points out a flaw and asks us to make changes, we have a hard time believing it. Our first impulse is to get indignant and defend ourselves. We rattle off a long list of how great we are and what we have done and what compliments we have received and how any flaw we have is really someone else’s fault and on and on we go. I have experienced this too many times to count. You see, I learned that how I view myself is probably not how God and others see me. I filter and justify my words, attitudes, and behaviors and feel good about me…nothing to change here. However, God and others see me without the filters…unfiltered…big changes needed.
I have learned that God wants me to grow as a follower of Jesus. He wants me to abandon the self serving tendencies of the sinful flesh listed in Galatians 5 and grow in the Spiritual characteristics also listed in Galatians 5. In order for that transformation to occur, I have to see myself clearly. He uses people, circumstances, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and Bible study to accomplish this.
He speaks to us through our mate and our children…if we let Him. The question is,”Do the people close to you have permission to speak truth to you?” In too many instances, we let them know that they better just let us be who we are comfortable being because if they point out things we need to change, we will make them regret it. I encourage you to invite those closest to you to help you see yourself with clear eyes. He also speaks to us through circumstances. We are like bottles. We look good on the outside, but all of us are full of something. When we get bumped or shaken by circumstances, whatever is on the inside sloshes out for all to see…including us. Often, we are surprised to see what spills out of us. When that happens, it is God trying to show us something we need to seek forgiveness for and change. It is important to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit that leads us and points out things we need to change. It is important to read the Bible because God speaks to us and changes us as we read His word.
I want to encourage you to long to grow and change. Invite God to bring change and growth in your life. Invite those close to you to speak the truth in love to you. Develop the habit of reading God’s word.
I want to remind you that God’s plan to transform us is a lifelong process. When we embrace the process, it is easy to become overwhelmed with shame, guilt, and condemnation. Proverbs 17:3 tells us that just as gold and silver are purified in the furnace, God purifies the hearts of men and women. So, remember the refiner does not purify the gold and silver because he is disappointed in it. He refines the gold and silver because he values it and wants to reveal its true value and beauty. Likewise, God is not revealing flaws and imperfections because He is upset or angry at us. He is purifying us because He values us and wants to call forth our true value and beauty. Romans 5:10 says, “For if when we were enemies,we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” God loved us enough at our worst point to make the ultimate sacrifice for us, so we can trust Him. He loves us too much to leave us living according to the harmful ways of the world. His goal is to purify us and set us free from the consequences of sin.
His process is quite simple. He allows circumstances or brings people into our lives that reveal parts of our true nature to us. These are the parts that we hide…even from ourselves. Once we see the flaw or impurity, He invites us to come to Him to receive forgiveness and transformation. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He understands better than anyone that sin leads to painful consequences, so His plan is to purify us and set us totally free from the sins that plague us.
His process is longterm. He knows that we will need to pass through the refining fire over and over, so He patiently works with us. This is not a one time experience. We will be growing toward maturity for a lifetime. The good news is that the more we engage the process and submit to His activity in our lives the more free we will become.
Marriage is a great tool in God’s tool chest for refining us. In marriage, it is necessary for us to adopt a lifestyle of denying self and serving the best interests and needs of our mate. So, if your marriage feels like a furnace that is melting you sometimes…maybe it is. The solution is not to resist, get angry at your mate, or give up on the relationship. The solution is to ask Jesus to help you understand what He is trying to reveal to you and plan on making changes. Maybe He is revealing anger, unforgiveness, selfishness, or something else. Whatever it is, the point is to recognize what the issue is bringing out in you and take it to God in repentance and ask for help to be transformed! God has a great plan for you! So, don’t give up!
I want to wrap it up by encouraging you to overcome two of the biggest obstacles to change; being a victim and fear. When we are confronted with a need to make significant changes, our first tendency is to resist by pointing a finger at others or our circumstances. We convince ourselves that our outburst of rage is justified because of what someone else has done. We convince ourselves that the torrent of name-calling or profanity is justified because we are stressed out. Some convince themselves that extra-marital flirting is acceptable because their mate is not doing his/her part in the relationship. We justify being grouchy, grumpy, and hard to be around because of difficult circumstances.
The truth is that in order to grow and mature, we have to realize that we are responsible for our words, attitude, and behavior regardless of what anyone else says or does. We are responsible to conduct ourselves in obedience to God’s Word no matter what our circumstances. As long as we blame others for our wrong behavior, we will be stuck in that rut. If your mate does something that hurts you, that does not give you a free pass to do something to hurt him/her. Instead, we should use self control to say and do things that will glorify Jesus. When circumstances become stressful and difficult, we are still expected to walk in love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, faithfulness, and self control.
The bottom line is that God sees my life and He is wanting me to conduct myself in a way that glorifies Him. The bad or sinful actions of others does not release me to act in a similar manner. I am still obligated to live for Jesus.The truth is that bad behavior leads to painful consequences and I should not want to conduct myself like that anyway! We are not victims who are forced along into regrettable responses by others. We are overcomers and more than conquerors through Christ!
When facing change, another obstacle is fear. We are creatures of habit. We cling to what we know and are comfortable with. So, when the Holy Spirit reveals that we need to make a change in the way we approach life, fear rises. We are afraid to try because we fear failing. We are afraid to try because we fear that the new way might be uncomfortable. However, the key to change into overcome the fears and press forward in faith. The key to this is to make a full commitment to the change and ask God to help us. When we put our faith in ourselves, there is reason to be afraid, but when we invite God to change us we can put our faith in Him and there is no reason to fear. he is faithful! So, I hope you will invite the Holy Spirit to transform you!
I Still Do, A Guide for the Marriage Journey is a devotional study put together to assist in the process of growth, self discovery, and change. It is a great tool to help you become a stronger marriage partner. Order yours today at nolareallife.org or at I Still Do on Facebook.

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