Last week I quoted the refrain of an old hymn, “All may change, but Jesus never,” and I talked about the consistency and reliability of Jesus. Today I want to talk about the first phrase in that refrain: “All may change.”
Like the air we breathe, change is all around us, inevitable, unavoidable, mostly good. We experience change in a multitude of ways. We read a book, or scan a website, and with a flick or a click we change the page.
There are changes in the weather. We experience a change of speed, direction, temperature, pressure, weight. Yes, weight. Those “Covid carbs” signal ominous changes that have been creeping up on us for a year now.
We may experience a change in circumstances, employment, fortune, or luck; a change of scenery, a sea-change or tree-change, a change of address, clothing, hairstyle, hobby, citizenship, religion, or theological grid.
Then there are large and small changes in my behaviour, habits, and personality; a change of heart, a change of mind. These can be the most difficult of all – to initiate, to accept, to embrace, to go on living with.
As well as changes in geography, and the weather, the New Testament writers often speak of change in moral terms: from bad to good, from vice to virtue. Take John the Baptist, for example, no shrinking violet when faced with what he saw as a need for change:
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:7-8).
Or the amazing story of Zacchaeus meeting Jesus for the first time, and the transformation that followed, recorded in Luke 19:1-10.
Or the glimpse we get of one element of Paul’s missionary strategy in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” (1 Cor 9:19).
Some changes happen to us in response to external forces or decisions; other changes we are obliged to make for ourselves. Many important changes in our lives, ones that lead to growth and maturity, arise from acts of the will.
I suppose the greatest of these is repentance toward God on account of our sin, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ in response to the amazing grace and mercy he shows to us through his incarnation and the redemption he purchased at ultimate cost.
Apart from the miracle of salvation, the changes we make that will never happen by themselves require an investment of time, effort and strategy. They are rarely instantaneous, and their fruit may take weeks, months, years to become visible. They require patience, and that can be hard.
These changes take effort: they are not automatic, and they aren’t going to happen by way of someone else’s decisions. They require perseverance.
And these changes often require strategy: a plan, a set of steps, and the ability and willingness to take the first step, and the second, and so on.
Relational change, career progress, economic independence, educational attainment, spiritual transformation – all require that mix of time, effort and strategy. The Christian life itself is one of transformation, not stasis. Like healthy trees, we are designed by God to grow and mature and change.
And in doing so, we come to possess the experience, the resources, and the wisdom to share with others, enabling them to discover the possibilities of healthy change in their own lives, come what may from their environment.
That’s one of the blessings of living and working in a community such as Moore College: together we share truly enormous resources for navigating the winds of change well, supporting each other, and growing together to maturity in Christ our Lord.
Let us pray.
Holy God, thank you for placing us in the time and space of your choosing. Thank you, too, for giving us freedom to choose and to change so many aspects of our lives.
Give us wisdom and courage, by your grace, to make the best choices, for the right reasons, that our lives and livelihoods may bring you glory, and serve your kingdom well. Amen.
Rod Benson is Research Support Officer at Moore Theological College, Sydney. He enjoys preaching, cooking, snorkeling, and reading a good book. This talk was presented as a staff devotion on 15 February 2021.