Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
When God speaks, revealing what He is about to do, that revelation is your invitation to adjust your life to Him. As you adjust your heart and mind to Him and to His purposes and ways, you are in a position to obey. You can’t continue business as usual or stay where you are and go with God at the same time.
This truth is clearly evident in the Scriptures. Enormous changes and adjustments were required whenever God’s people determined to obey His calling. Some had to leave family and country. Others had to abandon long-held prejudices and reorient their thinking. Men and women were willing to leave behind life goals, ideals, and desires. Everything had to be yielded to God, and their entire life adjusted to Him. The moment the necessary adjustments were made, however, God began to accomplish His purpose through them. Each one learned that adjusting one’s life to God is always well worth the cost.
His own Son gave up more than anyone. Jesus emptied Himself of position and glory in heaven to join the Father in providing salvation through His death on the cross. Jesus couldn’t stay where He was in heaven and be a part of the Father’s plan to redeem humanity on earth.
If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you have no choice. You will have to make significant alterations in your life. Following your Master means going where He goes. Until you are ready to make any change necessary to follow and obey what God has said, you will be of little use to God. Your greatest difficulty in following God may come at this point.
The only way to follow Him is to align our thinking and our actions with His ways. Before we can follow Jesus, we must be willing to make whatever adjustment is necessary.
Henry and Richard Blackaby
There is no question that the disciples and the Acts church faced major adjustments. The disciples who followed Jesus were forced to make incredible adjustments in their lifestyle, their belief system, and face all their preconceived notions about how God would interact with humanity. We read that their first adjustment was to leave their positions. Andrew, Peter, James, and John left their positions as fishermen to become “fishers of men.” No longer were their days occupied with catching fish but they were filled with people, needy people, hurting people, and hungry people. They had to change their way of belief. As Jews, their conception of the Messiah was a conqueror who would deal with Israel’s oppressors and restore the kingdom of God. Even after the resurrection they were still asking this question. They had to adjust to being with the very Son of God who did impossible things. They had never seen the lame walk, the blind see, lepers healed, and the dead raised. You talk about adjustments! It seems as soon as they became accepting to these things, change happened again. As soon as they could handle seeing the miracles and the multitudes following Christ, a change occurred and the crowds began to dwindle and the popularity of Christ turned into hostility toward Him. We must pause here and say the if they had been unwilling to change, they would have certainly left as well. Peter captures their feelings when he says, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
From the tomb of Lazarus and the experience of seeing a dead man raise, they travel now to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is arrested and they all abandon ship. No doubt, with horror, they watch their hopes and dreams go up in flames as they see Christ crucified. They must have felt it was over for Peter decides to go back to his old life of fishing and the other disciples go with him. In the midst of this dramatic change- the death of Christ and the return to the old ways- another change occurs. They meet the resurrected Christ. No doubt their hearts are filled with joy and they are thinking that they will take up where they left off. The cross and the crucifixion was just a cruel interruption to the plan. For about 40 days, they were with Christ. How their hearts must have sung and how they must have rejoiced that things had returned to “normal.” Then came the meeting on the Mount of Ascension and once again they experienced change. Christ was leaving them and yet they were to carry out His mission. They gathered in an upper room, all 120 of them seeking the will and plan of God and on Pentecost, their lives were powerfully transformed as they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This little group of 120 believers who most likely knew each other intimately were suddenly surrounded with 3000 new Christ followers. Let me pause for a second and say that while most congregations say they wish to grow, in actuality, growth is intimidating for adjustments have to be made and new people influence decision and direction. I remember one church where we went. That first Sunday there was about 12 people and that was the normal attendance. As they asked me to consider becoming their pastor, I asked them what their desire was and of course I got the standard, “We want to grow.” God gave us favor and within a few months the attendance was around 80 people. You would think the 12 would have been ecstatic for this was their expressed desire. But they weren’t for they feared they had lost their power and these new people would change the course of the church. I wonder if the 120 felt that way with the 3000 and then the 5000 that were added to the church. Growth brings change. Perhaps that’s why many churches do not In reality wish to grow. Individual spiritual growth brings change. Perhaps this is why many Christians aren’t growing spiritually.
As the Acts church adjusted to new growth, they also discovered new challenges. It had been easy to manage care for the widows and orphans when the congregation was 120 but now that it measured thousands it was almost impossible to continue with the old methods of the apostles managing the care. There arose a murmur between the Hebrew and the Greek widows. Each group was accusing the other of receiving favoritism. Imagine that😊. So the church made a change and created the office of deacon to provide congregational care that would free the apostles to preach and teach the Word and to prayer. In other words, the church called deacons to care for the congregation’s needs and the apostles to provide for the congregation’s spiritual needs. By the way this is still the most effective system for growth.
Fast forward and we find that this congregation, which was made up entirely of Jews, has now been commissioned to bring into it Gentiles. Peter has been sent to Cornelius’ house and has given the gospel and the Gentiles have received Christ and been baptized in the Spirit and water. Paul has been converted and he and Silas and Barnabas have made an impact upon the Gentile communities and the church is growing in these areas. Conflict arose over spiritual practices with the Jews insisting that the Gentiles follow Jewish law and we find Peter and Paul in contention with each other. This moment could have been devastating for the church. It might have been one that divided the church. But the church flexed and changed and new standards were set. There would be no requirement for Gentiles to be circumcised or to follow Jewish law. They were to not eat meat offered to idols- in other words they were to abandon their old practices of idol worship and fully follow Christ. Second, they were to no longer involve themselves in sexual immorality as had been the common practice in their old lives. What a dramatic change this was for the church.
Nothing has changed. When we wonder why the Pharisees rejected Christ we need to look no farther than this. They were unwilling to change. When we see the church declining and ineffective on reaching their community, we need to look no farther than this. They are unwilling to change. When we see individuals staying in the same place spiritually year after year, we can only conclude that they are unwilling to change.
Change is difficult but change is necessary. And you and I, my friend, are ok with change as long as it doesn’t affect us. Most of us are change-resistant for we honestly believe that what we are doing is correct and right. For many there is no other way for the current way is all they know. Finally, let me say that until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change, most of us remain.
No matter how we resist it, change comes. We know this to be true with aging. One day, the Bible says, we shall all be changed. I wonder if there will be those who will resist even then.
I feel compelled to balance this by saying that the worst change that can be made is change for the sake of change or desperate change that is reactive rather than proactive. One of the things I’ve observed over the years in both the corporate and the church world is that both entities believe that the lack of success is attributed to poor leadership. This may be true in some cases and if so it is due to the entity making poor choices in leadership. However, in most cases, the lack of success is a built-in resistance to change and a failure to read the environment. For example, IBM the computer giant has basically disappeared because they believed there would never be a strong home PC market and they refused to change. I think that many churches are not reading their environment and the changes that have occurred in their community. They are still thinking in terms of decades ago and they attribute their lack of success to community complacency or uninterest or the other church down the street that has better programs to offer or the expectancy that if they can hire the right person to do the work, then they could be successful without any substantial changes.
Imagine going to the doctor and you are given a choice. Change your lifestyle or face illness and death. What would you do? Most of us would say, “Change.” But when we face that piece of chocolate cake or not doing a favorite activity, we might say, “Well, I know I shouldn’t do this, but just this one time. I’ll start tomorrow.” And we continue on our path. It’s easy to talk about change and the need for change. It is another thing to change. For believers the matter is simple. Our choice is whether we will submit to God and allow Him to change us or whether we will choose to follow our own ways.
Dr. John Thompson