Coping with change
Change is difficult. Especially when it involves someone we love.
We are all going to miss Pastor Erik and Bethany as they leave to fulfill God's new calling upon their lives.
I know that in the new few weeks, you will want to join me in expressing your love to and for them.
Let's talk about how to handle change.
There are now over 2000 classified fears in the medical encyclopedia.
Many of them are well known but some you’ve probably never heard of. For instance: butterphobia – the fear of peanut butter sticking to the top of your mouth. That is a legitimate fear for some people. Or, Photophobia – the fear that you don’t ever look good in pictures.
Some fears we’re very familiar with and some are more obscure.
For instance, we all know about agoraphobia – which is the fear of open places. But, some of you don’t know about angoraphobia – which is the fear of soft, fuzzy sweaters. We all know about zoophobia, which is the fear of animals. But have you heard about Furbyphobia – the fear of weird talkative toys that are impossible to turn off? And how about the fear that you are going to spend too much on Christmas – that’s called ho-ho-ho-phobia.
But all of us have this fear – and it’s a big one – the fear of change.
There are some changes that we love.
But when we lose a loved one, or get fired from a job, or experience some changes in other areas of our lives, we cry foul. There are so many changes that come into our lives that we don’t like.
We resent change: We don't like it; but we don't do anything about it. We just get upset. We seek for someone to blame. I mean, "How can Erik and Bethany leave us, surely something must be wrong." "Surely someone is to blame."
Well, if we are to blame anyone, it would be "God" for leading Erik and Bethany into another form of ministry.
We resist change: we fight it and oppose it.
We run from change: We go in the opposite direction.
What are the positive results of change?
1. It causes us to grow.
2. It takes us places we would never go.
3. Change gets us out of a rut
4. Change gives us a new sense of God's direction
Experts tell us that the most successful people (churches) are the ones who learn how to cope with change.
Change can cause frustration in our lives. Stress. Pressure
Change can cause fear in our lives. We wonder where we are going and that's scary.
Change can cause fatigue in our lives.
How do you deal with the fear of change?
Disclaimer: Most of the rest of my blog is a lengthy quote.
"There are at least three changes taking place in America that are causing a great deal of anxiety and tension today. Let's try to identify them and then look at what God has to say about some antidotes to help us cope with change.
1. Everything is moving faster.
The pace of life is speeding up. Progress, in general, always causes things to go faster.
If there is one one that defines our modern, technocratic age, it is acceleration.
We’ve become a quick-reflexed, channel-flipping, fast-forwarding people.
It's like the story of a man who was out in his front yard mowing his grass when he saw his neighbor come out of the house and head straight to the mailbox. He opened it, then slammed it shut, and stormed back into the house. A little later he came back out of the house and again went to the mailbox, opened it, and slammed it shut again.
A couple minutes later, he came out again, marched to the mailbox, opened it, and slammed it harder than ever. The neighbor was puzzled, so he went over to the man and said, “Is there something wrong?” To which he replied, “There certainly is. My stupid computer keeps saying, “You’ve got mail!”
Things are changing, aren’t they?
I read this week that King George of England wrote in his diary on July 4, 1776, “Nothing much happened today,” because it took weeks for him to discover that the colonies were in rebellion and there was a full fledged American revolution going on.
Today, King George would hear it instantly on CNN and be flooded by emails and "twits".
And everybody else would be aware of it, too.
Things are moving faster.
Everything is moving faster.
2. Every decision is getting complicated.
Even simple decisions are very complicated in our lives. There are a couple reasons for this.
One is that technology has connected everything. The world has gotten smaller. Things that happen on the other side of the world affect my life today.
But more than that, the real reason life has become complicated, is that we are being inundated with multiple choices.
Do you know that there are twelve different varieties of Edge shaving cream? There’s Normal Skin, Fragrance Free, Tough Beard, Regular, Skin Conditioning, Sensitive Skin, Menthol, Medicated, Extra Moisturizing, Extra Protection, Extra Refreshing, and Extra Soothing.
And, do you know what? No matter which one I buy, I still cut myself, get razor burn and miss whiskers when I shave!
There’s a third thing we’re seeing that’s causing great stress.
Not only is everything moving faster, and every decision getting more complicated, but also every value is being challenged.
3. Every value is being challenged.
We see this everywhere. Right is being called wrong. Wrong is being called right. There are people today that don’t even believe there is such a thing as right and wrong. Every value we have had in America is being challenged by some group in some way today. Political correctness has created all kinds of crazy ideas. We now live in a society where everything is plausible and nothing is certain.
Did you hear about the new web site where you can bid on which model you would like to be the mother of your children?
For an opening bid of $50,000 you can arrange things so that your child will hopefully look like a beautiful model when he or she grows up. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d want the personality and character traits of some of Hollywood’s finest to be evident in my children.
How are we supposed to live in this kind of environment? When things are getting faster and life is getting more frantic, when things are getting more complicated, and when all the values that have held families and society together are now thrown out the window, how in the world are we supposed to live?
Alvin Toffler, who wrote the best-selling book Future Shock says that when people go through rapid times of change they need what he calls, “islands of stability”. Those are things that do not change in your life.
God made human beings to be very adaptable and flexible. But, when everything is flying off the wall, coming unglued, and the hurricanes of change are blowing through our lives, we need to have something that does not change. As we face the 21st century and the new millennium, we’ve got to be able to say, “I know a lot of things are going to change around me, but I know these things for sure. I can count on this and this and this.”
Is there anything like that in the world? Are there any islands of stability? My guess is there are probably some things in your life that you thought were unchangeable two or three years ago but have already changed. And they weren’t reliable. Is there anything that never, ever changes?
The Bible says that there are three things that won’t change.
1. GOD’S LOVE NEVER CHANGES.
In Malachi 3:6, God says, “I, the Lord, do not change.” There’s a theological term for that called the immutability of God. That means He’s always been the same, He is the same right now, and He will always be the same. Why does God never change? Is it that He can’t? Is it that He doesn’t want to? Is it that He’s stuck in His ways? Why does God never change?
It’s because He’s perfect. And because God is perfect, He can’t get any better – and He can’t get any worse. If you’re perfect there is no reason to change, because you are perfect. So God says, “I never change.”
In Jeremiah 31:3, He says this “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” You were created as an object of God’s love. You were made to be loved by God. You want to know why you’re here on this earth? You were created to be loved by God. His love is continuous. It is everlasting. It is consistent. The Bible says that God is always unchanging in His love toward us.
That is such good news. Because while God is consistent, I an incredibly inconsistent. The Bible teaches that God loves me just as much on my good days as He does on my bad days. He loves me when I feel it and He loves me when I don’t feel it. He loves me when I think I’m close to Him and doing the right thing and He loves me when I’m not close to Him and I’m not doing the right thing. His love is not based on my performance. His love is based on His character.
It is consistent. It is continual. It is everlasting.
No matter what happens to you in the year 2000, or even tomorrow, there is one thing you can be sure of: God is not going to stop loving you. No matter what you go through, nothing is going to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 119:159 proclaims, “Your love never changes.” You can count on God no matter what happens in the new millennium, or even tomorrow, because God is never going to stop loving you.
The point is this: We always get into trouble when we doubt God’s love. Always. I never need to doubt His love for me. There are a lot of things I could worry about but I don’t have to worry about that one. No matter how I feel, no matter what I’ve done, or what I’ve thought, God’s love is based on His character.
Romans 8:38 is a marvelous verse. Listen to it in the Message translation: “Nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, thinkable or unthinkable -- absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love.”
That means you can go to bed tonight, confident of the fact that tomorrow morning when you get up God is not going to have changed His mind about you. You will never be loved by God any more than you are at this very moment. You will never be loved by God any less than you are at this very moment. God’s love never changes. That is something I can anchor my life to.
2. GOD’S WORD WILL NEVER CHANGE
In Isaiah 40:8 God says, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God shall stand forever.” It’s timeless, enduring, and eternal. It never withers; it’s always fresh. It doesn’t get stale. God’s Word is never out of date.
We believe God’s Word is eternal – it will guide us today and it will lead us into the new millennium.
Psalm 119:152 says, “Long ago I learned from Your statues that You established them to last forever.”
God’s Word will last forever because it is eternal. Jesus said it like this: “Heaven and earth will pass away but My word will never pass away.”
Did you catch the cover of a recent U.S. News and World Report? Alongside a dramatic painting of Adam and Eve, the title of the cover story asks, “Is the Bible True?” Based upon some new archaeological evidence, the article answers the question with a confident, “Yes!” Brothers and sisters, we have nothing to fear from scientific inquiry into the Bible. We should welcome it. Why? Because the Word of God is true and will never change.
When the American astronaut Alan Shepherd was getting ready to go up into space for the very first time, a reporter asked him “What are you depending on in this flight?” His answer is classic: “I’m depending upon the fact that God’s laws will not change.” Great answer.
These laws do not change because God’s Word does not change. What would happen if gravity worked every other day? Would that put a crimp in your lifestyle?
In the same way, God has established some moral and spiritual laws for the universe. God gives these parameters for our good. When we ignore these spiritual laws, we don’t break them – they break us. We get hurt. Every time I ignore God’s laws, I hurt myself. They’re there for my benefit. When I go against what God says, it causes stress. It causes worry. It causes guilt. It causes anger. It causes conflict in relationships.
God says to you and He says to me, “I want you to listen to My word.” Do you know what the most basic fundamental temptation is? It’s the temptation that Adam and Eve had and it’s the same one you have every single day of your life: the temptation to doubt God’s word. We hear it like this: “Did God really say, don’t do that?”
If Satan can get you to question God’s Word, you’re going to fall for anything.
Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:24: “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Jesus is saying if you want to have a stable home, you’ve got to build it on an unchanging foundation. You’ve got to build on a rock.
The same is true for your life. If you want to build your life in a way that is solid and significant and handles the stress and the changes of the 21st century, you’d better build it on the truth of God’s Word, because it is bedrock. It is not going to change. Popular opinion is going to change, psychology books are going to change, what the talk radio hosts talk about is going to change. Everything else changes. But God’s Word does not. So if you want stability, build your life on God’s unchanging truth.
Here’s a secret stabilizer from personal experience: if you want to lower the stress and raise the confidence in your life, memorize scripture. That is probably the most significant habit that I can encourage you to develop in the 21st century. As you read the Bible and you find a verse that really speaks to you, take out a pen, write it down on a three by five card and memorize it.
Some of you say, “I can’t memorize.” Actually, we memorize what we’re interested in. I know guys who say they can’t memorize but they remember every baseball statistic for the last ten years.
3. GOD’S PURPOSE FOR MY LIFE WILL NEVER CHANGE
That’s the third thing I can understand and know confidently. God’s purpose for my life will never change. 1 Samuel 15:29 teaches that: “God is not a man. He doesn’t change His mind.”
I’m really glad for that verse. Long before you were born, God planned you. And that plan has never changed. He created you for a purpose. You were made for a reason. If you are alive today, God has a purpose for your life.
Have you noticed that your plans often get changed? Why? There are at least two reasons: One, you can’t see the future. You don’t have foresight. You don’t have the perspective. None of us can know what’s going to happen tomorrow, much less ten years from now.
The other reason your plans often get changed is you don’t always have the means to pull them off. You may have a great plan, but you don’t have the time or you don’t have the money, or you don’t have the energy or intelligence or the opportunity or the power to pull it all off.
Contrast that with God. God never has to change His plans. Never. Why? Because God is all knowing – He’s omniscient. And God is all-powerful – He’s omnipotent. So God never has to change His plans. He already knows everything that’s going to happen and He already has the power to do anything He wants to do. So He doesn’t ever have to change His plans. His plan for you has never changed – and it never will.
Since God says, “I made you for a purpose and that plan doesn’t change,” that brings up three very important questions:
1. Can I miss God’s purpose for my life? Absolutely. Of course you can miss it. Millions and millions of people miss God’s purpose for their life all the time. You can miss it by neglect. You can miss God’s purpose for your life by arrogance – by doing your plan and not God’s (we learned about that last week). You can miss it by disobedience, by rebellion, and by laziness. You can live your entire life and never fulfill the reason you were actually put on this earth. That’s a tragedy, but God never forces His purpose on us. It’s a choice where you say, “Jesus Christ, I want You to be my Lord. I want to follow Your plan and purpose for my life.”
2. Can I get back on track after wasting years of my life? Absolutely. Psalm 33:11: “His plans endure forever. His purposes last eternally.” That means that no matter what has happened in your life to date, God’s purpose for your life has not changed because He’s unchanging. His purposes never change. Some of you may say, “But you don’t know about that moral blowout I had three years ago or ten years ago. You don’t know about that sin, that stupid decision I made where I took the wrong turn in life and wasted ten or twenty years or more. You don’t know.” I say this: Regardless of what has happened in your life up to this point – God has not given up on you. And He never will. No matter what’s happened.
Let the truth of Proverbs 19:21 penetrate your life: “You can make many plans but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
That brings up the third question:
3. What about all those dumb things I’ve done? What about all those stupid decisions and bad choices? Those things that I regret and wish had never happened and I’d like to go back and do over?
Romans 8:28: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose.” We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. It doesn’t say in some things. It doesn’t say in the good things. It says in all things.
It does not say that all things are good. No, not all things are good. There is a lot of evil and heartache in the world. I’ve experienced some of it and so have you. It says in all things God works for good. He can take evil and tragedies and turn them around and bring good out of them. He loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections.
The Bible says, in all things God works for the good. For everyone? No, this is not a promise for everybody in the whole world. It is a promise for those who love Him, those who are called according to His purpose. Only when you say, “Jesus Christ, I want to be Yours. I want to take all the pieces of my life and let You give me Your peace for my pieces. I want to give You all this.”
Think about the biggest disappointment or hurt you’ve ever had. Or think about the thing you regret most in your life. Think about the dumbest thing you’ve ever done, your most unwise choice. Think about the most hurtful thing somebody else has done to you.
God saw it all before it ever happened. And He has found a way to weave it into His plan and purpose for your good, for your growth, and for His glory. What a God! He is good – all the time. No matter what you’ve gone through, whether it was your fault or somebody else’s. God can use it for good if you give Him the pieces.
What are you afraid of? When you think about the future, what’s your stomach in a knot about? When you think about the changes that are coming in your life, what is it that causes your back muscles and neck to tense up, or your face to feel flushed, or your mouth to go dry, because you wonder, “I don’t know if I can handle this or not.”
Regardless of what it is that’s got you stressed out this morning, why don’t you do what David did in Psalm 56:11: “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?” Why should I be afraid? I trust in God. Then he says this, “God is our refuge and strength, a tested help [He’s proven reliable] in times of trouble. And so we need not fear even if the world blows up [or Y2K causes some problems] and the mountains crumble into the sea.” The truth is I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know what the next millennium holds and either do you.
But I do know three things. And I know if I build my life on these three unchangeable facts, on these three islands of stability, I can handle enormous stress and change in my life.
I know this:
• God will never stop loving me, even when I feel unlovable.
• God’s Word is always true. It may not make sense. It may seem unreasonable and unpopular, but it is always the truth.
• God’s purposes are greater than my problems.
Any time I start doubting these things – these three grand truths – I get myself in trouble. When I start doubting God’s love, I start disobeying Him. When I start doubting God’s Word, I tend to do my own thing. When I begin doubting that God has a purpose, I start saying “Why are all these problems happening to me? Why me? What’s going on?” And I start doubting that God really is in control.
So if you want to face the future confidently and cope victoriously with change, all you need to do is respond. You see, it’s not automatic. God offers us stability, but we must respond in order to activate His power in our lives.
• Accept God’s love
• Believe God’s Word
• Commit to God’s purpose
Can you pray with me, "Dear God, I realize there are many things in my life that are beyond my control. You know that sometimes I have a difficult time adjusting to all the difficult changes around me. I need Your stability in my life, Jesus. I want to start focusing on the things that will never change. Thank You that You will never stop loving me. Thank You so much. Today I accept Your love through Jesus Christ. Thank You for Your unchanging word. Help me to learn it and live by it. Thank You for making me for a purpose. In this next year, I want to get to know You better and Your plan for my life. I ask You to forgive me for the years that I’ve wasted, but I want to get back on track today. I open up my life to You, dear Lord. Come in and take control."