Summary: Some fear change, and others think it never really happens. But either of those approaches writes off what God can do. Embrace change, know who you are, and there will be joy.
Some of you look like you just woke up, so maybe I need to tell you that we have started another new year! We have crossed over into a new year. Maybe you marked it with prayer at the midnight hour, or a quick kiss with someone you love, or – well, we’ll not get into some of the less-than-Baptist ways you may have chosen to celebrate. But it is a brand new year, with all its promise out in front of us. The question is: will anything really change in this new year?
Will anything that matters really change? Will the world get any better? The shootings have already begun, and the District’s first victim of the new year was another teenager. Sounds like nothing is going to change. A car bomb blasted in the new year in Baghdad and killed eight people; sounds like the same old same old to me.
Will the world change in 2004? Or then will we change, will we be any different, in this coming year? Will any of us do any better than we do now? The evidence is not too persuasive at this moment: my doctor says I need to watch my diet and get that cholesterol down, cut down on the red meat. But the other day after I had done a hospital visit, seems that old car of mine, out of habit, turned itself right into the McDonald’s drive-through and, before I knew it, a couple of double cheeseburgers were right in these hot little hands! How did that happen? Can’t figure it out. Must be a case of “Mad Car Disease”!
No, you know the issue. You understand the problem. We get into patterns and we don’t easily get out. We get set in our habits and we do not do what it takes to move beyond. We make resolutions and break them almost right away. We promise ourselves that we will do better with our health, with our work habits, with our relationships, with our prayer life, with our worship attendance, with all sorts of things. But before the snows of January have deepened into the drifts of February, we too have drifted. We have drifted from high resolves back to deeply entrenched habits. We do not easily change.
And so my question again. It’s a new year. Will anything really change? Will anything that matters be different this year? I want to mention two different approaches to the issue of change. I want to lift up two ways in which we deal with this matter of change. But I also want to show you how, in the providence of God, we can do far more than either one of these approaches permits.
First, I want to speak about those who fear change and resist it. Then I want to speak about those who do not even believe that real change is possible. Finally I want to proclaim the good news about the opportunity that the Lord gives us to turn change to our advantage. I want you to hear good news this morning – that whether you fear change or disbelieve change, God is able. God is able to work through all that is coming and, as the psalmist says, to dig our feet out of the miry clay and set them up on higher ground. God is able to turn change into victory.
First, would you agree with me that some of us fear change? Some of us resist change. There are some folks who will stick with something that isn’t working, no matter how bad it is, but the devil they have seems better than the demon that may be out there, and so they stay put. They stay in a bad job. They live in an impossible house. They dabble at a hopeless relationship. They refuse to change.
We have a few dollars in the stock market. Back in the bubble years we bought a couple of stocks whose bubble burst with a splash. My wife and my son have been saying, “Dump those dogs.” But I have hung on and hung on, hoping that by some miracle they would go back up. It has taken more than two years for them to persuade me to realize I was into something that was not going to get better. But I just do not like change.
But the problem is that life is not that simple, and change is going to come anyway. Something is going to interrupt our neat plans and force us to change. And if we do nothing but cringe in fear, we will not be well prepared when change comes.
I think I understand this kind of person. In some ways I am like that. Once I set out my course of action, I do not jump the tracks. I’m preaching out of this particular copy of the Bible today because it is the one I was given when I was ordained, exactly forty years ago tomorrow, January 5, 1964. I tell you that not to elicit praise for myself or pity for those who listened to me for forty years, but just to point out that the life course I found back then is one I have never questioned, never felt it necessary to change, never considered setting aside. I am the kind of person who does not relish change for the sake of change. If you dislike change, I understand. I’m right there with you.