Seasons Change, God Remains

I can’t believe we have entered the first week of August! This summer has certainly flown by! In just another week and a half school will begin, and before you know it, it will be time for Thanksgiving and Christmas! As I say that, I’m anxious, saddened, and excited all at once!

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon tells us: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (selected verses).

Of course we all understand this. We go through seasons of life – some good, some bad, and some “normal”. But we know that whatever we’re going through is just for a season. Seasons change and so do our circumstances. That can be encouraging when we’re going through hard times, and that can be disheartening when we’re in the happy times.

No matter what is happening in our lives, Scripture tells us that we are to “be joyful always, pray at all times, and be thankful in all circumstances.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). True joy is not mere happiness and smiles, in fact, sometimes you can be joyful and profoundly sad at the same time. Joy has to do with our attitude in the midst of our life experiences. No matter what we are going through we can choose to rely on God and trust in his plan for our lives.

A counseling professor of mine, Dr. Greg Delort, drilled into us that the question, “How does that make you feel?” is a very bad question to ask. The reason? Nothing has the power to MAKE us feel anything. No matter what we’re experiencing, we ALWAYS have the choice to make about how we will respond. As a Christ-follower, I can take comfort that God is always with me, so no matter what I’m going through, I’m not alone.

But how do we find true joyfulness, a true attitude of joy, in the midst of suffering and pain? The answer is in the second and third parts of the passage. We are to pray and be thankful.

Prayer is our direct link to the Creator. It’s the primary way we have fellowship with God. When we pray, we speak with God, telling him our hearts, and we also listen to God, asking him to speak to us through the Holy Spirit. Often we think that prayer is only the time we are actually talking to God, but in reality, some of the most rewarding times of prayer are times spent being still, simply listening for God’s voice. As we pray, we connect to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the giver and sustainer of life. Through this connection we start to get a picture of the eternal matters of God’s heart. When we are able to recognize what’s really important through prayer, we begin to be thankful for the many blessings God has given us. That can give us the encouragement we need to make it through whatever season we may be going through.

Transformation

Journey to Mexico's butterfly sanctuaries and stand among hundreds of millions of monarchs as they complete their remarkable migration.

To describe my passion in ministry, I’d have to talk about transformation. In my opinion transformation is the key aspect of any effective ministry. Put simply, when one comes to Christ he or she should then be transformed or changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a more Christ-like person. Paul says this:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. – Romans 12:2 (NLT)

The world encourages us to do certain things, think certain ways, and believe certain viewpoints. But God wants us to set aside the ways of the world and focus on his ways. His ways include caring for the sick, poor and orphans. His ways include serving those who are in need. His ways include sharing the life-giving message of the gospel with others. His ways include prayer and Bible study. His ways include attending and participating in a local church.

Yet these values, “Kingdom Values” if you will, are not what the world teaches us. In order to truly follow Christ, we have to set aside the worldly values and focus on the Kingdom Values.

My passion in ministry, therefore, is to help people align more closely to the values of Jesus. Every time I share a message from God’s Word, I try to bring it to the point of, What am I going to do as a result of hearing this message? How should the truths being learned change me as a follower of Christ? What change do I need to make? If you can’t answer those questions, then I don’t think you have a very good message to share!

After all, we are supposed to become more like Christ. Therefore everything we do should help us along that goal. If we’re not working toward becoming more Christ-like, then we are not fully living the Christian life.

Personally, I feel that I have a long way to go toward living like Christ. There are characteristics of my personality, behaviors and thoughts that keep me from hitting the mark. I have to pray about those things and ask the Holy Spirit to do his work in me. But in the same breath that I’m lamenting my lack of progress, I can look back and see real progress throughout my life. Seeing that progress, however, does not cause me to sit back and feel proud – rather, it encourages me to keep moving forward.

While becoming more like Christ may seem at times like a losing battle, it is helpful to know that my battles in these areas are not conditions for my salvation. My salvation in Christ is secured by his death, burial and resurrection. I am still a sinful person, and the only chance I have is to rely on Jesus’ grace that was given to me through his work on the cross. That same grace is available to all who ask.

So if you’re struggling with transformation, don’t be discouraged. God loves you the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Through prayer, Bible study and perseverance, you can live a life more like Christ. Transformation is never easy, but it is a necessary part of following Jesus.