Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation ~ 2nd Samuel 14:20a NIV
I am currently reading through the book of Exodus.
I recently got to the point in the narrative where Pharaoh and God engage in what can only be described as an epic smackdown.
Most of us know the story.
God instructed Pharaoh (through Moses) to let the people he had been enslaving go free. For obvious economic and probably some not so obvious personal reasons Pharaoh, rejected God’s call. God responded to Pharaoh’s insolence by sending some unusually nasty disasters in an effort to convince the Pharaoh to comply.
Pharaoh was not a man easily motivated to change.
At one point Pharaoh’s own advisors reminded him that Egypt was pretty much ruined already. They begged him to do as the Hebrew God had asked before further disaster was brought on the land (Exodus 10:7).
Rather than changing his behavior, Pharaoh doubled-down on his policy, fought God and rejected the change God wanted to bring into his life. Like all people who fight God, he eventually lost. The slaves were freed and Pharaoh found himself pushing up daisies due to his own idiotic and unrelenting stubbornness (Exodus 14).
As I was reflecting on this story I have to confess that I found myself thinking some rather smug and judgmental thoughts regarding Pharaoh. I couldn’t help but wonder why a person would fight so hard against change when the benefits of doing something different were clearly obvious even to the most hard-headed of fools.
Then I had one of those lighting-bolt moments.
There is an issue that has been generating what can only be described as weird chaos in my life for three years. In recent weeks I have made some massive modifications to the way I am handling said issue. As a result there has been an almost miraculous turnaround in an incredibly short period of time. Sadly, the truth about what needed to be done was right in front of me the whole time. However, it took me 1095 days (give or take) to come to my senses and make the changes that now seem painfully obvious in retrospect.
So much for having life all figured out.
As I was reflecting on my own folly, it occurred to me that no rational person WANTS to stay stuck in a sinful pattern of behavior, counter-productive relationship, or bad situation. However, even many Christian people find themselves stuck in such situations.
Three issues hold us back from the freedom that change brings.
Fear of the future keeps many from making needed changes. Humans fear what they do not know and there is no way of knowing what life is going to look or feel like if we let go of a bad situation, negative pattern of behavior, harmful relationship or sinful coping technique.
Secondly, at the heart of a refusal to change there is almost always an idol of some sort. An idol is anything we put before obedience to God and His commands.
Drugs, alcohol, control, sex, power, relationships and money are just a few of our modern-day idols. Wanting to be loved, and fear of being rejected, is probably one of the most common (and least discussed) idols in the church. Fear of being disliked or rejected causes otherwise intelligent and even spiritual people to tolerate situations and participate in activities that are clearly sinful and stupid for much too long.
And finally there’s pride. In order to make necessary changes we must first admit that we were going about things all wrong in the first place. Owning that fact sucks, it’s embarrassing, and it also offends our misguided sense of self.
So we hang on to our sin.
Change can only occur when we humble ourselves and repent.
Repentance is more than simply admitting we were wrong and moving on. In order for the change that comes as a result of repentance to be permanent we must come up with a prayerful strategy for the future.
We must suck up our fear, swallow our pride and admit we got it wrong. Then we need to let go of any idol that is holding us back and work out a plan for handling the future. Finally, we need to pray like crazy so that we will have the power necessary to do what needs to be done.