A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH, January 9, 2022.
For the “Live in Church” version of this message, click here.
There have been a number of years, especially as a young child, where I looked forward to the end of the year because of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for good reason. It was more than just the food and the gift giving, of course. Thanksgiving and Christmas represented family time. After our busy schedules, it was time to slow down a little and enjoy time at home with my parents and my brother as we hunkered down for the holiday season. Now, as I got older, this took on a slightly different spin with marriage, children and visiting relatives, but it was still all about anticipating the end of the year and getting ready to celebrate the coming of the New Year.
And then, something happens to alter normalcy.
In the last couple of years, we were altered by the pandemic. Thanksgiving was not supposed to be a big get-together, and neither was Christmas. Just about all of us stayed home. It became more complicated as people got sick and were quarantined, and under the worst of circumstances, we are all too familiar with spending time with loved ones for one moment, and in the next moment, they are no longer here.
Each of us has had moments like this one where our worst fears becomes evident, and there is a long adjustment process that we must go through during these moments of transition. We already know that the special days with loved ones who move on will be marked all over the calendar from now on, and there will be moments of emotional speed bumps.
Life has a series of transitions, and these are challenges that lead to new beginnings.
Your new beginning involves the aspect of change. The change can be gradual and anticipated, or very sudden and unexpected. In either case, your experience is a new beginning.
This message is about developing your ability to deal with the many changes that you will experience throughout your lifetime. With the recognition that not everyone handles change in the same way, or even very well, there are valuable lessons that are embedded within these experiences. It’s up to each of us to recognize them. This does not mean that you will not have moments where you scuffle emotionally, and you will even scuffle with Jesus. Because if you do have a relationship with Him, you will definitely be involved in a number of deep-dive discussions with Him. After asking “Why?” and the “How come?” questions, your challenge is to allow God to comfort you as you navigate through the change. He desires to have a deeper relationship with each one of us, and that is under all circumstances. It’s not just the good moments, but also the hardest ones, including the moments when we’re grieving.
Change leads to a new beginning.
A new phase of life.
A new place in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
I will do my best to present information to support facts that the more you rely upon God’s perspective through these changes, the more that you will feel His supernatural presence in the midst of the change and the extraordinary ability to successfully navigate through these changes with the guidance, strength and support of the Holy Spirit.
So what does this mean for those of us who have a difficult time with change? It’s one thing to be completely surprised and caught off guard with a situation, and it’s another to see it coming, but our responses can be strikingly similar in both instances. Whether you know something is coming or not, we are to draw upon the peace and comfort of Almighty God as we meet these challenges.
I will cover four fundamental points about change. Two of them are obvious to each of us, while the last two are dependent upon the response of the individual. Before exploring these, consider Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Change is rooted within the passage of time.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 CSB
1 There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to give birth and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to uproot;
3 a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to tear down and a time to build;
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
6 a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
8 a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.
Here are the fundamentals about change:
- Change is inevitable
- Change is necessary
- Change is perspective driven
- Change is an opportunity
First, change is inevitable.
Without change, nothing else happens. From the time of God’s creation of the world through the passage of time to the world that we see today, the world has changed.
Psalm 102:25 CSB
Long ago you established the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
God is the author and orchestrator of all change.
James 1:17 ESV
Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
From your own perspective, you have changed physically from the time you were born and through your stages of childhood into adulthood. You have acquired knowledge as a preschooler through kindergarten, elementary and high school and through your job or profession. All of this involved change. Even most importantly, all of these changes had to occur to make you into the person that you are today. The next verse that shows the wisdom and value of seeking knowledge speaks for itself.
Proverbs 18:15 ESV
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Next, change is necessary.
When you are young, you need to grow in knowledge and learn about life in order to survive and function well. Many achievements over time are based upon performance, and require focus and effort in the short and long term. Note the biblical truths that convey this message, especially when it comes to your growth as a believer in Jesus Christ:
1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Growing up is a requirement if you plan to be successful, and growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary in your spiritual growth. When change occurs, your growth and maturity will equip you with the ability to trust and rely upon the Holy Spirit with confidence, and especially when change occurs.
Change does lead to a new beginning, but it can be, more often than not, very uncomfortable.
The new beginning may indeed be uncomfortable and put you in a place of unfamiliarity. The unfamiliarity of the situation can lead to discomfort. When we are used to being in places of comfort and familiarity, change can be very difficult, and when you couple it with loss and grief, it can be extremely difficult.
The way to address this is to meet Jesus in this situation. If you call on Him, He will meet you where you are. Ask Him to provide you with all of the comfort care that you need in these moments of change. He will help you with the new beginning as you seek Him in prayer for direction, for peace in our discomfort, and—most importantly, trusting Him in the results through faith.
I don’t want to give the impression of glossing over this. The words here reflect truth for each of us who have experienced grief and mourning. It is the experience of God’s peace in a difficult time that brings you through to a new beginning.
“It’s always darkest just before the day dawneth.”
–Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)1
Your new beginning after change relies upon faith in Jesus Christ and reliance upon His daily presence.
Hebrews 11:1-2 CSB
1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For by this our ancestors were approved.
Romans 4:20-24 CSB
20 He (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, he was also able to do. 22 Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, 24 but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
Philippians 4:6-8 NIV
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:19 NIV
And my God will supply all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV
For we live by faith, not by sight.
Now, let’s look at where change, whether it is positive or negative, is all about your perspective. The new beginning that comes with change is inevitable, but how you process the change sets an important tone as you move forward.
If you are unable to reconcile with the reality of change and its inevitability, you may get stuck in the moment without seeing the blessings that occur during and after the change. I can’t stress enough that in moments where change is taking place, and there is movement from one situation or circumstance to the next one, the believer in Jesus Christ must continually seek God in the process beyond the mere change to receive the full effects and the benefits of God’s presence in the midst of the development.
Ask God to show you, in the midst of change, what He wants to you to see in it instead of focusing only on your own perspective.
Psalm 145:18-19 ESV
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
Romans 8:28 CSB
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.
(Our maturity in faith should take us to the place where we understand that the “good” referenced in Romans 8:28 does not mean “enjoyable” or anything like that. It has more of a meaning of “contentment” or “the ultimate good” as you draw near to Jesus, stay close and remain in Him.)
Our responsibility in the change we experience is to remain loyal and faithful to God, and He will make known His presence in all things.
Micah 6:8 CSB
Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.
To recap, we acknowledge that change is inevitable, it’s necessary, and it is perspective-driven. Now let’s explore the opportunity that is in the midst of change.
With change and a new beginning, the opportunity presents itself to see things from a new perspective that you would not have observed without the change, and this includes how you see others that are also part of the change that you are experiencing. This can lead to greater personal insight about yourself and opportunities for discussion as to how God has been in the midst of everything that has occurred.
In Acts, Chapter 8, Philip listened to the direction of the Spirit and spoke to the Ethiopian about the Scriptures he was reading as to their meaning, and he was able to use the opportunity of that moment to lead the Ethiopian to Jesus Christ.
Acts 8:29 CSB
The Spirit told Philip, “Go and join that chariot.”
Acts 8:35-39 CSB
35 Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with that Scripture.
36 As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water. What would keep me from being baptized?”* 38 So he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any longer but went on his way rejoicing.
*Some manuscripts include v. 37: Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
The key points here are not just the conversion, but how Philip was listening to the Spirit and his availability to follow the Spirit’s direction.
Don’t miss the importance of hearing the Spirit speak to you during change. It may not necessarily lead to converting someone to Christ, but it does mean that God will show you how to be a better person and a faithful witness for Jesus Christ. Your greatest attributes will shine before others as you remain faithful to God. Your words of encouragement and affirmation will be well received, and it will lay the groundwork for opportunities to witness and testify about Jesus, both in the short and long term. This is why we, as believers, need to be ready for those moments—they can happen at any time.
1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
To summarize, change is constant and inevitable, and it can be good or not very good for the person who is going through it; however, it is not to be feared or dreaded. It leads to a new beginning.
As the Lord remains present in your life, you are to move forward in your new beginning after change with confidence of His goodness, His peace and His grace.
Your perspective of change goes a long way in your ability to manage it, and it starts with seeing the change through God’s perspective. If you trust in Him completely, He will show you where you need to go and provide you with what you need to grow, learn and endure the experience. He will also show you how you can be a positive testimony for Him before others.
A new beginning after change awaits you. Live in the moment in His loving presence.
Copyright © 2013, 2022 Melvin Gaines.
1 It’s always darkest just before the dawn. (n.d.) Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. (2015). Retrieved January 8 2022 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/It%27s+always+darkest+just+before+the+dawn