11 Sep My Stubborn Old Ways, The Unchanging God
Men are often looking to improve themselves, but it is not an easy feat is it? I hear this a lot from some of my youths. About themselves, about people around them. For example, a bad temper, a bad habit, a constant bondage to certain sins. We want to change our nature, our environment but they always seem to overwhelm or overcome us. And when this happens, feelings of helplessness and disappointment. Over time, it can cause one to feel that since we cannot change, let us just remain the way we are and let it be. Now, if this thought is in us, it will definitely cause us to continue living in more fears, shame, indifference and numbness in life. But what if I am really having difficulty changing some of my old ways?
Now in Malachi 3:6, the Lord tells us “I, the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” So if you are feeling despaired because of your old ways, firstly, you have to know that you might not be in this state always. And secondly, our God is an unchanging God. He will not leave us to our demise if we are constantly unable to amend our ways. His love and plans will not change on those He loves. Even though we have our personal circumstances to face and it is hard to believe how things may change when our thoughts and actions are still in sin’s way, but perhaps it is time to see if our focus is in the wrong place. We may be too anxious to change but we have yet to confirm this truth of our unchanging God within our hearts.
We must affirm that no matter how weak we may be, our Lord is not. No matter how limited our will and perseverance may be, the Lord has the absolute will. No matter how fearful we are, only the Lord can stand to the end. No matter how much we struggle, the Lord never fails. This is the faithfulness of the Lord, He works amidst us despite of the changes.
So we do not first look at where we cannot change, but to turn our eyes upon the unchanging God. If we focus only on what we cannot change, it will surely blind us from seeing the God that is at work in us.
Next, we have to return to the unchanging promises of God and the great commission He calls us into. Now, the disciples of Jesus had their own fair share of old ways, however what sets them apart at the end is that they continue to put their focus on God’s promises. Perhaps in our own living, some problems seem to remain at a standstill for a long while now, but it is in the process that we can better hear God’s voice and bring out His purposes on those He has called. For myself, I too have many areas of old self that are hard to change. I am prideful in certain areas, I also get into self pity when I feel unappreciated and such. But the more I go back to God’s promises for me through His word, it gave me a new heart and mind over time to look at my situation. This new heart and mind that is more and more willing to put down the things of the world and to know more about eternal matters, more concerned about men’s souls. This heart does not call us to lose heart, hope or strength. It also does not let us remain in disappointments of things we cannot change in our old self or being deceived by feelings of self pity. What we need to focus on is God’s unchanging promises as the pillar of our lives and prayers. The Lord will grant us wisdom, perseverance, reminders through the Holy Spirit, so that we may continue to see the light through the gospel.
Of course, this is not to say that having some changes are not necessary. For our old self, we will gradually have to experience some change, but this has to be placed on the strength of Christ. Philippians 4:12-13 says, “ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” What Paul is saying here is not that we can do anything we want or that we can rely on our self confidence to change. The strength that Paul is saying here is the strength that comes when we can enjoy Emmanuel. That is the secret that Paul could be content in any and every situation. He could be contented with God’s presence in His life alone. So how do we enjoy Emmanuel? That is, despite our unchanging old ways and self, we can rely on the leading of God that works for the good of those He loves. Despite our unchanging sinful ways and weaknesses, we can go back to God’s word to restore our strength to transcend it. Despite our same conditions, we can look to the glorious calling that God has for each of His children and see that all our conditions can be used by Him. Despite our stubborn nature and recurring bad habits, when we seem to be powerless, but we count on God’s extended helping hand and provision through different channels (be it a brethren, a church message and such). Even though our eye has yet seen, but there is hope within us. This is what it means by enjoying Emmanuel, the way Paul has, such that we can do all things through Him who gives us strength.
So brothers and sisters, let us not dwell in the misery of what we are unable to change about ourselves. Yes, it is true that “woe is me” and we should be aware and alert to our old self. But after that, let us all the more learn the importance and need of God’s presence and how He is the only One we can turn to and hope in to bring us into the transformation to a new self He delights in. The Lord is unchanging and He has a plan for those He loves. Plans that are bigger than what we have yet to overcome in our old ways. So may we continue to run this race that is guided by God’s promises, so that we can open our eyes to experience His abundant grace and power to sustain us in the calling He has set forth for us. For what we cannot change right now, through our walk of Emmanuel, God will help us to change in His time. God bless.