Navigating Change

All of life is change and involves change. Consider:

• the daily journey of the sun across the sky;

• the rhythms of the seasons;

• the steady progress of growth, maturing, and aging;

• the parade of people through our lives – births and deaths; transfers and moves; new neighbors and co-workers;

• the constant development of technological and medical advances;

and the list could go on and on.

But change is difficult. Even when we see the need for habit; even when we are part of the change and desire change; even when we are planning the change; even when we know change is necessary…the truth is that we are creatures of habit. We want others to change; ourselves, not so much.

So how do we navigate change? How do we handle ourselves when we find ourselves in transition? How do we maintain our peace and joy when the transition isn’t what we truly want?

Here are a few thoughts:

Pray. We all know this one. But sometimes we need to be reminded. God answers prayer. God is moved by the prayers of His people. When we are in transition, we need to be in prayer for God to move, to prepare the way, to give us wisdom, and to work in and through our circumstances. And when we have prayed, we need to…

Trust God. As my friend Rob Reimer often says, God is smarter than we are, and He knows things we don’t know. He holds us, and He also holds the future in HIs hands. He can and will take care of us. He will work all things together for our good. Even when we cannot see how that will happen, He does it. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “God is too good to be unkind, and He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.” And as we are trusting God, we need to…

Be patient. God’s perfect timing doesn’t always seem like it to us. We are stuck in the moment, often thinking of what we are dealing with right now. But God’s perspective is eternal. It can often seem like He isn’t coming through when we need Him to (think Daniel being arrested and put in the lions’ den; Joseph in prison; Abraham living decades with no son, for example). But God knows the what’s, why’s, and when’s better than we could ever hope to. So we need to wait patiently for His moment, the right moment. But in being patient, we also need to listen to God, and when the moment is right, we need to…

Act. God still does His work through His people. Trusting, praying, and being patient don’t relieve us of the responsibility to take action, to do what we can do. We need to hear from Him on the timing; we need to be careful not to rush ahead of Him, and not to lag behind. But we need to act. Carefully, wisely, deliberately – but we need to act.

Psalm 25:9 (NIV) says, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” May we pray, trust God, wait patiently, and then act – all with humble hearts, that we may hear from Him and receive His guidance.

684

684 Sundays.

That’s roughly how many Sundays there are until the beginning of the year in which I turn 65, and probably retire.

I know, that’s a long ways off.

But it’s not that far off.

And I won’t get to preach every one of those Sundays. I will be on vacation for some of those Sundays; I will have staff members who will want to speak for some of those Sundays; and I will have special speakers for some of those Sundays for things like Missions Conference or other special events. Over the course of those 13+ years, a conservative estimate would be that I would not preach 8 Sundays per year. That’s at least 104 Sundays I won’t be preaching, and that doesn’t account for emergencies or unexpected opportunities to have special speakers. So that cuts me down to 579 Sundays.

579 Sundays. That’s about 100 more sermon series, with a length of 5 – 6 messages. To those of you who have to sit and listen to me preach, it sounds like a lot of sermons.

But to me? That number is the number of grains of sand left in an hourglass, and they’re slipping through steadily.

Every week, that number decreases.

So for the time I have left, I want to be sure that every message counts,

The truth is that I’ve lived a significant part of my life in fear and anxiety. I’ve thought and worried too much about what other people think. I’ve tried too hard to please people, and tried to hard to avoid offending people so they wouldn’t leave the church.

But that kind of living is foolishness.

The truth is that no matter how hard I try, or how careful I am, I will always offend someone, somehow. I will always let people down and I will always disappoint some people.

So I’ve got to live my life according to what I think God wants from me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a license to offend, to alienate, to be inconsiderate, or to just be a jerk.

But I can’t let my leadership of others be governed by fear or by their expectations.

Leadership can be selfish and controlling – manipulative. But it can also be motivational – unselfishly leading people to a difficult place, on a difficult journey, that will ultimately be for their benefit.

684 Sundays. That’s my number. I’ve got to make the most of it. I’ve got to lead differently, invest myself more in young leaders, take more risks, take bigger risks, push other leaders to go where they may not want to go but desperately need to go.

My challenge, my mission, is to fundamentally change the culture and direction of our church so that we are fulfilling Christ’s call. Because right now, while we’re doing some very good things, the hard and honest truth is that we’re failing. And if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.

We have to change. I have to lead change. And I know what it will cost, because I’ve gone there before.

684 Sundays.

That’s my number.

What’s your number?

What are you going to do about it?