Albert Einstein has been credited to saying, “The definition of insanity is, doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” I am not sure he was the one who said this but I think it is true nonetheless. In fact, author Stephen Covey affirms this statement when he said, “If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting.” To some these statements may make some feel excited, and others this stirs up fear and anxiety. However, change makes you feel the reality is people and churches often resist change because change is hard, change is uncomfortable and change requires effort.
I don’t necessarily like change. About five years ago, I was in a morning men’s Bible study and prayer group. This was something we did for many years. We would share our thoughts, struggles and insights with each other often. It was a routine we had that was familiar, laid back and challenge and what I thought at the time as safe. Until one day one of the guys said, “I think we should all run a 5k together.” And he proceeded to tell us why he thought we should do it. It would be fun. It would build comradery. It would be healthy… blah, blah, blah.
The other guys nodded their heads in agreement and I vigorously shook my head NO! I spoke up and said, “This all sounds good but I am not a runner! I have never run more than one country block in the past 20 plus years and I don’t plan on starting. I HATE running… So, I am out.” He responded, “Maybe you see if this is something you should do. I have this cool running program called ‘from the couch to 5k’ that I think might work for you. Would you at least consider it?” I told him I would.
He gave me the outline of the program and as I read it I thought, hmm I can do this. However, this was going to be a big change and a huge commitment on my part. So, I contacted another friend who was one of the local high school football team coaches and asked if I could join him in his morning workouts at the school workout room. He agreed. I began the program he developed for me and I thought I was going to die after the first day. But I committed to staying on the program. I gradually changed my attitude towards running. I determined that instead of resisting the idea of running, I was now going to embrace it. Yes, it was hard work. It was not fun. I could have thought of 195 things that I would rather do on any given morning at 6 am other than running. I started by run/walking 1 mile, then 1.25 and after 4 months I was running 3 miles every time I ran. As time passed running became easier AND I was enjoying running.
Finally, I was ready. That following summer I ran four 5ks. To this day, I still run. I am not as disciplined as I was when I was training. But I still run and let me tell you something, I don’t really enjoy it, but I know it is good for me. Some days when I go for a run I am thinking the whole time, I hate this! It has become a mental thing for me. I know I can run 3 miles on any given day. Some days I can run 4 or 4 ½ miles but sometimes, physically and mentally I don’t want to run. Just the other day I was running and about a mile in I wanted to quit. I was tired. I was sweaty. I was thirsty. I wanted to stop and walk the rest of the way. I thought, this is hard and I don’t like hard. I prefer easy. Sitting home on the couch would be much more enjoyable for me. But I was reminded, running is the pits but it is beneficial for me today and will be beneficial for the future, so I put my head down and determined to run the full time and distance. When I finished my run, I was still tired, sweaty and thirsty but I was glad I stayed true to what I set out to do.
I tell this story because it reminds me of change in the Christian life. It reminds me that change begins with me, not others. There is a Peanuts comic strip where Lucy is at a fence with Charlie Brown and she says, “I would like to change the world.” Charlie Brown asks, “Where would you start?” She replies, “I would start with you!”
I have taken a lot of time telling stories and mentioning quotable quotes. So, what do these have to do with a message that is intended to show that God-initiated change is good and necessary. Change doesn’t just happen by chance. It takes effort and the effort is not just external, but internal as well. The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans in Chapter 12:1 – 2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
As followers of Jesus Christ our act of worship is in submitting to God and living in obedience to Him. When we determine to put aside our own wants, needs and desires and seek out God’s will in our lives and in our church, this is pleasing to Him. God wants us to give Him everything we do. He doesn’t want our leftovers. When we determine in our hearts and minds that we are not going to conform to the ways of the world (like seeking the easy way out, looking out for our own interests and living self-centered lives) but instead seeking to be transformed by God through the renewing of your mind. What does this look like? Pastor Tim Keller explains it well, “Paul is laying out a radical way of living. It requires a transformed mind to pursue it. Two patterns are held up: The pattern of the world and the pattern of God’s will. Paul tells us to recognize and reject the pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that characterizes the world, and to embrace God’s will for all character and life… Paul doesn’t really explain what this means (renewing of the mind) but it’s important, for it is the way in which we are to be transformed into the pattern of Christ… (this means) not just that we think true thoughts, but that the governing influence of our mind is reoriented. In modern terminology, one’s imagination is captured by Christ. Who he is and what he did fires the imagination and controls of our minds.” This reorienting of our minds and hearts changes us from the inside out. Self no longer becomes top priority in one’s life and worship experience, but pleasing God does. Once we find true pleasure, contentment and joy in Jesus Christ is when we can fully experience and know God’s will for both the church and our lives individually.
Where are we as a church body today? Do we believe that change is necessary for God’s will to be done? Do we acknowledge that our attitudes must be adjusted to God’s will and not our personal preferences? Do we understand and affirm that as members of this body of Christ we are not here to be entertained and coddled but called to go out and make disciples of Jesus Christ? Do we believe the Gospel has the power to transform lives? Are we hopeful for what God has in store for our future? Are we adopting an outward focus, looking beyond the walls of this church and bringing the message of hope to our city? Are we committed to being open and available to God when He is ready to move? If the answer to these questions is yes, then change is required and this is something we should welcome because this is where God wants us to be.