As a new year approaches, it is typically accompanied by a review and analysis of what transpired in the closing year and the anticipated challenges, opportunities, and outcomes of the approaching year. It is amazing how changing one page of the calendar can produce such an intellectual and emotional exercise of contemplation and anticipation.
Keeping this in mind, perhaps there is no more appropriate word for us to begin this new year and decade with than the word “change.” The type of change that I am referencing is that which King Solomon notes in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Solomon then illustrates his observation through a series of comparative examples that demonstrate life’s ebb and flow and give and take (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8).
“Change” is not a static word. It evokes unique responses, depending upon the circumstances in which it is applied. Some change is life shaking. Change can come packaged as an unwelcome diagnosis. Or, it may be defined by a job transfer or plant closing. It may be the severing of a special relationship or the loss of a loved one through death. It might simply be a change in what has been routine or what has become mundane. However it may be packaged, change can be unsettling and may result in an unrealized dream or a great disappointment.
This past year was certainly one of significant change for my family. After a five-year, faith sustaining battle with cancer, my father entered the presence of His glorious Lord and Savior early in the year. I have imagined many times what my dad’s experiences “living by sight” with Christ must be like as the rest of our family marks the special events that each day of the calendar may bring in our earthly existence of “walking by faith.” The past year has also given us the privilege to walk with family members, friends, and churches as they have faced tremendous challenges and/or rejoiced in wonderful blessings from our gracious Heavenly Father.
The new year will once again illustrate this. Significant changes may be a part of God’s sovereign plan for us as the new year unfolds. And the impact of those changes will bring with them the potential of spiritual opportunities. God will sovereignly allow special situations to stretch our faith and produce new levels of endurance in our spiritual walk. In fact, the changes that God will allow in our lives will not only impact us as individuals but also produce ripple effects that have the potential to impact many people around us (cf. 1 Peter 3:8-17). This will no doubt be true for the precious servants and churches who partner together in our association of churches.
While the word “change” has its standard definition in the dictionary, may I suggest that a Biblical definition or synonym for it is the word “growth?” Indeed, each of us will be led by God to face unique scenarios that are designed to stretch us and produce new growth. As Hebrews 11 recounts, the biblical story of Israel’s 40-year pilgrimage from Egypt through desert territory to the Promised Land becomes a metaphor for all of God’s followers. We are all caught up in the story. We are all on a journey by faith that is designed by God to produce spiritual growth.There are times when we prefer a life with minimal change. We don’t like to be disturbed, so we carve out routines. We would prefer to move back to the familiar, even if it takes us to Egypt (I.e., Exodus 14:10-14)! Sadly, we approach the new life that is ours in Christ as a threatening hinderance rather than a joyful experience. What should produce spiritual growth and excitement comes to be seen as normal and mundane. And the spiritual life that should produce fruit for God’s glory becomes dreary.
The Christian with the renewed mind is replaced by the dull man or woman who hasn’t entertained a new spiritual thought for an extended season of time. Instead of demonstrating critical thinking as defined by God’s Word, a person is just plain critical and tends to complain that things are not the way they would like or as they used to be.
The mind that has been divinely designed to think on the “excellent and praiseworthy things of God” (Philippians 4:8-9) is content to merely reminisce about the “good old days” and harbor resentment regarding that which has been lost. Individuals, families, or churches that set their feet (or minds) in concrete are hiding from Biblical reality.
Change will most likely present its share of challenges; but it will also offer many opportunities. Change offers the potential to learn new things. It introduces us to new people. It forces us to make decisions and choices based upon the wisdom principles of Scripture. And it directs us to prayerfully seek the counsel of an all-wise God and allow Him to wrap us in His compassionate, all-powerful embrace. The Apostle Paul wisely admonishes, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
God calls us to live actively in confident faith and hope, not fear. Like our Biblical forerunners, He asks us to trust in the fact that He is already present in the places that are new and untested for us. God is faithful to His people. We can walk daily in the coming year with the joyful confidence that God is already where we are going, no matter what changes may come.
You have His Word on it! (KEF)