Trusting God in Life’s Changes
During the month of February we’re going to begin a new series on Trusting God in Difficult Times. I want us to begin with Trusting God in the Changes of Life.
This morning I have included in your bulletin an insert that I want to encourage you to use. There may be something that you hear this morning that you want to remember and so I hope you will use this sheet to write it down. Because here is what I know when it comes to change: 3 things:
One, I know for certain that change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same. On this planet everything changes. God even told us this was going to happen, way back in the first book of the Bible. In Genesis 8 the Bible says this, verse 22, “As long as the earth remains, there’s going to be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.” In other words, God instituted change. Things don’t stay the same. It gets hot, it gets cold. It gets summer, it gets winter. There are seasons in life. Things change. There’s day and night every twenty-four hours. Change is inevitable.
Two, not all change is good but God can use it all for good. In your life not all change is good but God can use it all for good. Getting laid off is not a good thing. Going bankrupt is not a good thing. Getting cancer is not a good thing. But God can even use the bad things in your life for good if you’ll give them to him. Regardless of where change comes from – you choose it, other people chose it, consequences or circumstances, we do have this promise of God. Romans 8:28 “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The third thing, change is always a test. Of what? Of faith. It’s always a test of your faith. When you go through any change, positive or negative, marriage or divorce, birth or death, graduation or flunking out, it doesn’t matter – change is always, always a test of your faith. Big changes, little changes.
1 Peter 1 says this in verse 7 “The purpose of these troubles [that you’re going through] is to test your faith as fire tests how genuine gold is. Your faith is much more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory, and honor to God.” So God says it’s inevitable, but I can use it all for good and through it all, through all the change I’m going to test your faith and strengthen you through it.
So what should be my attitude in the face of life’s changes? Trust. So what I would like to do is share with you eight principles I’ve gleaned from Scripture that I believe will help us trust God in life’s changes.
1. Look for God in the change.
Look for God in the change that you’re going through. Mother Teresa, when she was asked, why do you help the poorest of the poor? She said “Because I see the face of Jesus in the poor and I want to help him.” She was right but what I discovered is you can find the face of Jesus anywhere if you look close enough. Even in the worst situations.
Jeremiah 29 says this in verse 13 “If you look for me in earnest, [God says] you will find me when you seek me.”
You know what our problem is? When change comes we look for everything else except the Lord. We look for a quick fix. We look for an easy solution. We look for a way out. We look for comfort. We look for relief. What you need to look for is the Lord. You need to look for God. When you’re in the middle of a problem you don’t go, what’s the quick fix? How do I get out of this? How do I save my skin? How do I turn things around? That’s missing the whole point. You look for the Lord. Don’t seek the comfort. Don’t seek the relief. Seek the Lord and you’ll get all these other things – the solution, the answer, the relief, the comfort, the strength and all that you need. You look for God in the change.
2. Ask God for wisdom.
When you’re going through a change that you didn’t plan, you didn’t want, you don’t like, you say, “Lord, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do in this situation? My plan didn’t work out. It’s obviously not going the way I intended. So what do you want me to do? How do you want to redirect me? How do you want to correct me? How do you want to inspect me? How do you want to perfect me in this situation?”
James 1:5 says “If you need wisdom, if you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him and he’ll gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.” Jesus said you have not because you ask not. You need to stop and say, Lord, what do you want me to do in the situation?
3. Listen for God’s whisper.
God speaks to those who take the time to listen. But you have to be quiet.
I have found this to be true in my life. The brightest insights will often come during your darkest days. If you humbly listen to God in quiet trust. If you’re listening to the tv and you’re listening to the radio and you’re listening to everybody else you’re not going to get those insights. But your brightest insights will come in your darkest days if you say, God what do you want me to do? And you be quiet and you listen.
A good example of this is in 1 Kings 19. It’s the story of Elijah. Elijah was up on the mountain, nursing his wounds, having a pity party, hiding in a cave. And God needed to get his attention. It says in verse 11 “Then the Lord passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks−but the Lord was not in the wind… Then there was an earthquake−but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After that there was a fire−but the Lord was not in the fire. But after the fire there was a soft whisper of a voice. When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and he went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. [He knew this was God talking.] The voice said to him, ‘Elijah, what are you doing here?’”
God speaks in the still small voice. In a whisper. So what you need to do when you’re going through change is you need to slow down your mind. You sit and you just listen. You be quiet and you let your mind slow down. You read the Word of God and you talk to him in prayer. You stop and you just be quiet.
Look for God in the change, ask God for wisdom, listen for God’s whisper.
Then the fourth thing I’ve learned about change is this…
4. Don’t ask why but what.
What do I need to learn? That’s the question you need to ask. Don’t ask why. That’s the question of explanation. Ask what? What do you want me to learn? That’s the question of education.
In fact, every situation is an education. It’s an opportunity for you to grow. You’ll either grow better or you’ll grow bitter depending on your response. What you need to do is don’t focus on the circumstance; focus on your character. Don’t focus on the problem; focus on your personality. Don’t focus on what’s going on around you; focus on what God wants to do in you. That’s the difference.
Romans 5:3-4 says this “Even in our trials and troubles− these very things… will develop mature character.” The trial, the problem, the circumstance, the change you’re going through right now, God wants you to grow up, to develop mature character.
You see here’s what I know; pain is a good thing because pain’s a teacher. It teaches us what’s wrong in our lives. It teaches what needs to be changed. I can tell you from personal experience the greatest lessons I’ve learned about relationships I’ve learned from relational pain. The greatest lessons I’ve learned about finances, I’ve learned from financial pain. The greatest things I’ve learned about health, I’ve learned from physical pain.
God is saying I want to get your attention. Don’t ask why, but what.
5. The fifth thing you need to do when you’re facing a major change is focus on what never changes.
Don’t focus on the situation; focus on what never changes. And what never changes? Three things. God’s love, God’s promises, God’s purpose. God’s love for you is never going to change. God’s promises, his Word is always true. It’s never going to change. God’s purpose for your life is never going to change.
Jeremiah 31, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Psalm 33, “His plans endure forever. His purposes last eternally.” Isaiah 40, “The Word of God shall stand forever.” God’s love, God’s truth, God’s purposes for my life are never going to change. That’s what you focus on when things are flying through the air.
6. Don’t face it alone.
Don’t face the change alone. Accept help from others. This is the exact opposite of human nature. Our tendency when we’re in pain is to pull into a shell. Our tendency when things aren’t going well in our lives, we retreat in fear to our castle. Big mistake. That’s not how you get through the change. And that’s not how you grow through the change. You need other people. That’s really the beauty of the church. Because as I shared with you a couple of weeks ago the church is meant to be that kind of community where people gather in fellowship and love and mutual support to do life together; to encourage one another; and to assure one another that we do not face the challenges and changes of life alone.
Ecclesiastes 4“Two are better off than one… If one of them falls down, the other can help him up… Two men can resist an attack that would defeat one man alone.” We need other people in our life. God wired us in such a way that we need each other. No man is an island; no person ever made it on their own. When I humble myself and I share what’s going on in my life with some other people and they can pray for me and encourage me… a burden that is shared is halved and a joy that is shared is doubled. It happens every time.
7. Become a promise person.
Build your life on the promises of God. There are over seven thousand promises in the Bible. They’re there waiting to be claimed. They’re like blank checks where God says “If you do this, I’ll do this... if you do this, I’ll do this…” you need to memorize them. You need to bank on them. You need to claim them.
When you build your life on the promises you can stand enormous levels of stress. Because you’re not looking at circumstances, you’re looking at the Word of God.
One of the great promises God makes us in the Bible is that God says, “I’m not going to give up on you. I’m not finished with you.” Listen how the apostle Paul describes this in Philippians 1:6. He says, “I am sure of this: that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished until the Day of Jesus Christ.” What God starts he finishes in your life.
God did not bring you this far just to leave you where you are. The story is not finished. He says what I’ve started in your life I’m going to complete if you’ll let me do it. 1 Peter 5:7 “You can throw the whole weight of your anxiety on him for you are his personal concern.”
Did you know that? Did you know that you are God’s personal concern? He says you can take all that stress you’re feeling, all that worry, all that anxiety, all that insecurity and just dump it on me.
And what happens when you do that? Philippians 4 tells us this. It says, “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The peace that passes all understanding. How would you like to have that kind of peace? I want that kind of peace in my life so that no matter what happens, the peace that transcends understanding. How do you get that kind of peace in your life?
Here’s how you get it. By trusting God in the situations you don’t understand. When you trust God in the situations you don’t understand you get the peace that transcends understanding. When you say to God, “God, I don’t get this. I don’t like it. I don’t understand it. It stinks. I don’t like what’s going on right now in my life. But I’m going to trust you.”
Then you get the peace that transcends understanding. Because instead of looking for an explanation, you get strength. You get the strength of God.
Let me say this. You can bank on this truth. God will have the last word. And it is good. In your life, if you have placed your life in the hands of Christ, God will have the last word and it is a good word.
Here’s the last step and it’s the most important one of all. When I’m going through change I don’t like…
8. I tell God I’ll trust him no matter what.
Even if it’s not the storybook ending, even if it doesn’t turn out the way I want I’m going to trust God no matter what because God is a good God. He loves me. He made me. He knows what’s best for me. He created me. He has a plan for my life.
Job did this. When Job lost everything in his life. Job 13 “Though he [God] slay me, yet will I trust him.” He said, God even if this is the end of the road, even if I don’t live another day, even if I don’t make it, God, I’m going to trust you. If you decide to take my life right now, if it’s over, if my life is over, I’m still going to trust you because I still have heaven. That’s the ultimate test of faith.
In closing I want to share with you this testimony:
“Like millions of Americans I experienced a job loss as the result of this recession. I had worked for a company for thirteen years when I was told that I was going to be laid off. While it was not good news at least I had some advance notice. After the initial shock, I asked myself, why is this happening to me? Those two months went very quickly but I found myself becoming increasingly bitter and vengeful in my thoughts. Obviously I was a productive and dedicated employee who deserved better than this. Looking around the workplace there were other co-workers who did not work half as hard as I did. But in the back of my mind I had prayed for a change in my career. When you pray for a change God listens and gives you what you ask for.
The long hours and job stress though were getting intolerable. That’s the reason I was asking for that change. I dreaded getting out of bed each morning. Looking back on this now, the salary was good. I had lots of vacation time. But it was killing me, my family and my relationship with God. When I got at home night I was often irritable, easily agitated. The job was bringing out the worst in me not the best. So I decided to try and right my ship, take stock in what I did have, update my resume and get on with my life.
Unfortunately my challenging journey was just beginning. Just two months later my dad was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. It was devastating and shocking news to me and my family. Although my dad was eighty-six and had lived a full life, my life at that point was almost becoming surreal.
Since I was unemployed at the time I was available to take my dad to radiation treatments and doctors appointments. But out of tragedy rises triumph. As I got to spend some much needed time with my dad for the first time in my life I realized that I had the opportunity to reflect on my life with my dad and spend some special time with him. Had I still been working I would not have had that time. And probably trying to stretch myself between taking him to appointments and doing a good job it would have been crazy. But we were able to bond, I felt, for the first time in our lives. That was a special moment. As a result my relationship with my dad grew into something much deeper. But unfortunately he died six weeks later.
I was at a low point as I felt I had lost my job, I had lost my dignity, my pride and now my dad. I felt like God had let me down. But then I realized that if I had still had a job like I said before, I never would have had that precious time with my dad. God gives and God taketh away.
Sometimes when you’re unemployed – I can relate to a lot of you out there where the demons come in the middle of the night. You wake up, your heart is pounding through your chest and a trickle of sweat rolls down the middle of your back and you let your mind start racing. It gets away from you. Then you pray to God to come to save you and he usually does. But I can relate to all of those people who are unemployed for such a long time. The what ifs, or what if I have to be homeless, what if I have to live out of a car, what if all these circumstances cause me to lose everything I’ve ever had. But you always still have God. You need to keep that in mind. That’s your fall back. God is your only fall back. Nothing else is guaranteed.
I’m sure by now you’re wondering does this story have a happy ending. It was almost a year since my dad’s passing when the magic phone call came. A job offer! I was driving so I pulled over as the tears were starting to flow. I thank God for this opportunity.
I have just finished my second week at work and realize this is the perfect job for me. Looking back there are so any things I’ve learned through this season that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. I know that my heavenly Father was taking care of me. Even in the moments when I didn’t feel it. If my dad were here I know he would be so proud of me, how my character has grown. For all of you searching for a job, I wish you the best. And remember that God has a plan, a job for each one of us.”