Summary: An expository teaching on when to change and how to embrace change. The key passage is Ruth chapter 1.
Change happens all the time, be it natural or man-made.
Ruth 1:1-5 details a list of changes – there was a change of climate, a change of environment when Elimelech and his family moved to Moab, a change of leadership in the family after the death of Elimelech, a change of culture when Mahlon and Chilion each married a Moabite woman, and a change of inheritance when the two sons died.
In our Christian walk, we have to embrace change. Jesus preached on repentance (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15); to repent is simply to change our way of thinking and moral values. Jesus continued to explain that repentance is more than the activity of the mind. Repentance requires actions; we need to come after Jesus, deny ourselves, take up His cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).
So when do we need to change? When do we need to repent?
Here are 2 principles on when to change (Ruth 1:1):
#1 Change when we find ourselves trapped in ‘the days when the judges ruled’
In the days when the judges ruled, the people of God experienced a unhealthy spiritual cycle (Judges 2:11-23). It was a cycle of Rebellion-Retribution-Restoration-Reverse.
i) Rebellion - they went against God by worshipping and serving other gods; they did not walked in the way their fathers did.
ii) Retribution - they kindled the anger of God and God punished them justly for their unfaithfulness; they were delivered into the hand of their enemies and ended up in distress.
iii) Restoration - but God had pity on them and raised up judges to deliver them; they were saved from the hand of their enemies.
iv) Reverse - whenever a judge died, they returned to their old ways and became more corrupt than their fathers.
Note that repentance was not mentioned at all. There was no change in their thinking and moral values; they remained captives in the cycle.
But Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18-19); through Jesus we can break free from the cycle and live victoriously.
#2 Change when we find ourselves trapped in a ‘famine’
Elimelech and his family were Ephrathites from Bethlehem. Ephrath means ‘fruitfulness‘ and Bethlehem means ‘house of bread‘; both imply that the land was resourceful and plentiful. But they left the land when it was no longer productive; the famine had caused barrenness.
Jesus asked us to bear fruit and bear more fruit; bearing fruit proves that we are His disciples (John 15:1-10). This is the fruit that we should bear - fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These attributes should be revealed in and through us, lest we are very likely still trapped in barrenness and fruitlessness. The key to bearing fruit is to get back to Jesus – abide in Him and He will abide in us.
Note that a man-made change starts with making a decision to change for the better, and is followed by appropriate actions.
There is a need for us to respond to and embrace change positively. We can learn from Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 1:6-18); here are 6 principles in embracing change.
#1 Know that God is working behind the scene
Naomi heard in the fields of Moab that God had visited and fed His people in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:6). She did not see the move of God, but that did not mean God did nothing. In seasons of change, we should keep our ears open and look for positive reports; God is still sovereign and at work.
#2 Return to praise
Naomi and her daughters-in-law returned to the land of Judah (Ruth 1:7). Judah means ‘praise‘; they returned to praise. Similarly in Judges 1:1-2, after the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked God on what to do next regarding the conquest of Canaan. God said, “Judah shall go up” – praise shall go up because the land has already been given into their hands.
#3 Be kind
The daughters-in-law showed kindness to Naomi during those difficult times (Ruth 1:8). Likewise we should do the same to people going through change including ourselves. Ephesians 4:32 encourages kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.
#5 Be loyal
Ruth remained loyal to Naomi in spite of Naomi persistently asking her to return to her people and gods; Ruth clung to Naomi (Ruth 1:14). In seasons of change especially when things do not go the way we think they should, it is easy to give up on a God-given vision, a dream, a person, or a church. It is important that we remain loyal to what God has given us.