Change

Isn’t change brilliant? Who doesn’t love change?

  • We changed our phone number when we moved to Wolverton 3 years ago. I still don’t know the new number. (I can remember the old one though)
  • A recent survey found that 25% of us are unsatisfied with our current bank, but only 5% of us will actually change to another one.
  • Has anyone really come to terms with ‘Opal Fruits’ becoming ‘Starburst’?

You see even if we are not outwardly hostile to change, most of us are at least deeply suspicious of it. But Change is inevitable and unavoidable. We all experience changes of varying magnitude on a fairly regular basis

  • Our relationships are constantly changing and evolving as we meet new people and over time loose contact with old friends
  • We live in a world where there is no longer such thing as a job for life. The average worker has 6 jobs across their career and will face redundancy at least once.
  • Technology changes the way we interact and work. Whenever I bring a new piece of technology into our house Esther always seems to look at it with a suspicious expression that borders on hatred. But two weeks later, she is happily using it to watch Master chief on iplayer.

Over the course of our lives there will be some really dramatic changes which feel like they change everything. They can be good things like the birth of a new child, a marriage a new job. But they can also be bad things; a death of someone important to you, a relationship breakdown, an illness.

In John 14 Jesus is talking to his disciples at a time when he has just announced to them that he is leaving.  This is a massive and unsettling change for them. Don’t forget that most of them have given up everything that they know to follow him.  How would you feel if you’d walked out of the family business to follow this guy, who then turns around and tells you that he is leaving? You can understand why they might feel like the bottom had just fallen out of their world.

That’s why Jesus begins our John 14 with the words ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled ‘(v1). This chapter is packed with encouragement for the disciples to hold on to when the time comes that they will find themselves without Jesus.

I‘ve done a lot of extensive research into change management (i.e. I Googled it and read a random blog), so I can say with complete confidence that the key to successfully managing change is to be clear about the objectives and the reasoning for the Change. And this is exactly what Jesus does. He gives the disciples 2 very good reasons why this change is necessary.

Firstly he explained that this change was necessary to bring his followers into relationship with God

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14 v 2 & 3)

Jesus is saying, to put it bluntly, that he has to leave so that his disciples can be in heaven with him and the father when they die.

As Christians reading this in the 2015, we know exactly what he is talking about. We know that his death on the cross is the centre piece of Gods salvation plan. We know that only because Jesus died for our sins once and for all on the cross can we be forgiven by God and come into relationship with him. But the disciples didn’t know this.  They didn’t understand the Jewish scriptures in the same way that we do because they didn’t have the luxury of knowing what happens at the end of the New Testament.  They would only have heard the words ‘going away’.

And whilst from our vantage point in 2015 we can understand some of Gods Purposes in the gospel narratives, there are still moments in our lives when we don’t have that high insight to know how God is going to use an impending change to draw nearer to us and deepen our faith.

How often do we hear testimonies from people whose transition to faith has come about because of a major change in their life?

I was reading an article about Jonathan Aitkin the other day.  He was a cabinet minister who found himself in prison for perjury and perverting the course of justice in 1999. He had been attending an alpha course since 1997 but it wasn’t until God brought about a change in his life, sending him to jail that he started to really seriously study the bible and consequentially it was whilst he was in prison that he became a Christian.

But this principle isn’t just reserved for people who don’t know God. Those of us that are already Christians can still find God draws near to us and deepens out faith through times of change.

One of the biggest changes in my life so far has been becoming a father and through this change God has taught me so much. I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with my dad, but becoming a father has given me a completely different perspective on the father child relationship.

I didn’t really properly understand how God could love me ‘just because’ before. But on the day that Millie was born and the day that Lena was born I just loved them. They hadn’t done anything to earn my love at that point. They hadn’t really done anything except eat, poo, sleep and cry, but I still loved them.  – This showed me how God loves me and how I don’t need to earn his love.

So those massive changes in my life gave me a completely new understanding of God’s love and consequentially my relationship with him became deeper and more fulfilling.

So change is an important way of God drawing near to us and deepening our relationship with him.

The second important reason that Jesus gives his disciples for the upcoming change is that it will empower them.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14 v 12

Jesus is sharing his power with the disciples, but in order for them to fully embrace that power he needs to leave. It’s like when you learn to drive; legally you need to have someone who has held a full driving licence for 3 years sitting next to you right up until you have passed your test. At that point you need to go out on your own in the car to gain that driving experience and grow in confidence.

That I think is the reasoning in this passage, but it is also worth noting that immediately after our passage Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, which is another way that the disciples will be empowered by his departure.

And so it can be with us, that God can empower us through change.

I mentioned redundancy earlier, which is a horrible change that I have been through twice. It’s really not nice to be told that you are redundant and your work is no longer required. It’s a horrible feeling to think that you can’t provide for your family, but I found that it can also be liberating.

I remember grabbing some quiet time after work the day that I was made redundant for the second time. I was worried about how I was going to support my young family. I was frustrated that my hard work was unappreciated and deemed surplus to requirements. But at the same time there was this voice inside my head saying ‘You could do anything now! – you could join the circus!’

I didn’t join the circus, but I did find myself in a new career. A career which makes much better use of my skills and personality. That redundancy ultimately empowered me to grow and develop as a person by finding something that I was good at to do for a living.

And God can use even the most horrific change to empower his followers.  I don’t know if you remember the Columbine shootings  in 1999?  Two teenagers took guns into school and murdered a total of 13 teachers and classmates before killing themselves.

The first person to die that day was a 17 year old girl named Rachel Scott.  Rachel was a strong Christian who kept very detailed journals of her thoughts and prayers.

After her death her father and stepmother found her journals.  When showing them to her friends and class mates they realised that the journals had a profound impact on them. The Scott family reasoned that her story and passion could inspire others to make their world a better place. So they founded ‘Rachel’s challenge’, a charity which works in American schools .

In the last 3 years, Rachel’s Challenge has received nearly 500 unsolicited emails from students stating that after hearing Rachel’s story they reached out for help as they were contemplating suicide.

If their daughter hadn’t died in the massacre would her parents have had the drive and the passion to start a charity like this? I think probably not. Does that make the massacre and her death a good thing? Of course not, but it does show how God can use change, even if it is a bad change, to empower his followers to do wonderful things

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