‘Purposing Change’ Meditations: 20. Change Possibilities
1 Tim 1:16 “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience.”
When we first embark on a project like this, we (hopefully) start with enthusiasm and, more importantly, faith. However as time goes on the new becomes less ‘new’ and if we are not careful our reading God’s word becomes ‘ordinary’ and ceases to impact us in the same way. Thus we need to pause and ask the Lord afresh to stimulate our faith through His word.
To apply what we’ve just said, early on we were excited about the possibilities that this might be a time when, at long last, the Lord was coming to bring the change in our loved ones, or our departed prodigals, or our unseeing friend.
When you start a journey there is always excitement about the days ahead, what might be coming, but once the journey gets under way we start taking in the new sights and in the thrill, perhaps, not be so careful with ourselves and we start becoming tired. If you are like me, you may even start looking forward to the end of the journey and getting back home again. But this journey is different for we don’t know how long it will be and once this first part comes to an end, there will be the new adventure of living with a saved partner, friend etc.
So we need to remind ourselves of some basics along the way and to do that we’re going to think about the apostle Paul in the early days as we see him in the New Testament. Now Paul had been set in his ways and in his thinking and became a thorn in the side of the Christians – and God took His time with him. After approving Stephen’s death and then launching a wave of persecution on the Church, I am sure all the believers in the scattered early church thought him a hopeless case – but not so with God.
No one is a hopeless case with God. If you can ever lay your hands on a book of Christian biographies, it is fascinating to note the number of people who came to the Lord whose former life was seriously lacking. Paul may have been really zealous for God but misguided and slow off the mark; he hadn’t realized that with the coming of Jesus, the Father was doing a new thing. In Paul’s case the change was dramatic and instant but in most cases that I’ve observed, changes start on the inside and they start slowly and are almost indiscernible.
So we need to remind ourselves of an important truth. As the Lord told Samuel, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7b) Don’t let what appears to be going on, on the outside, put you off, we just don’t know what is going on with those we are praying for. The apostle John wrote, “I, John, your brother and companion in the … patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos.” (Rev 1:9) I’ve taken out the words, “suffering and kingdom” from that verse because they can distract us, but the truth is that as believers there are times when, very simply, we need to be patient and we need to endure, persevere, just keep on.
So, don’t let the passing of the days, perhaps with little sign of change, put you off. First, as we’ve said, you don’t know what is going on inside. Second, you don’t know what God might do tomorrow. I am sure Paul had no idea that God was going to apprehend him the next day. Third, changing circumstances often open up a new way for the Lord to move. The desert road to Damascus was a better place to grab Paul’s attention than the busy middle of Jerusalem, so keep alert to such circumstances. Fourth, we never said how long this journey might take; we need to be prepared for anything – the Lord turning up today, or in three months’ time! So, keep praying, keep loving, keep blessing, keep expecting, keep watching. Let the banner of your faith fly high in the heavenlies – upset the enemy, and batten down the hatches for a storm! He’s a loser! Let him know you mean business – however long it takes!