Too Slow to Change

I have been thinking a lot about what healthy change looks like. There are many examples in scripture of an invitation to repentance and a response from either an individual or group. My question is: Is it ok if we delay? Are we allowed to take our time and deliberate, sustaining the old way of life for a time? Change doesn’t happen overnight, right?

The story of Jonah going to the Ninevites has always seemed humorous to me. God sends a prophet who rebels and doesn’t want to go. And when he finally does, his expectation is that the people will not repent and God will bring wrath upon them. He has little expectation of the ability of a sinful nation to respond quickly to God, especially in the face of his own rebellion.

But the response of Nineveh is actually the response the Lord is looking for. They turn from their wicked ways when God shows up and reveals the error of their ways. They don’t delay, but right away change their behaviour and cry out to God. What if they did delay? I think Jonah would have gotten his wish. He would have seen a city destroyed in the book of Jonah.

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

What happens when we are faced with our lifestyle contradicting the way of Jesus? What happens when the bible contradicts our beliefs and actions?

I have a tendency to be stubborn. You might at times call me bullheaded. I have a desire to dig in and fight when faced with something contrary to my beliefs or viewpoint. As I have matured, I have become quicker to repent, but at times I stand in my own way when it comes to being transformed into the image of Jesus. This stubbornness trait has a positive attribute alongside it, but for the sake of this article let’s look at the danger.

“27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””
John 20:27-29

Thomas, known to many as the “doubting Thomas” is known for his inability to trust solely in the words of Jesus. He needed visual proof in the risen saviour. I have heard people’s thoughts on the positives and negatives of this but I believe to always approach new revelation with skepticism is a sad reality. I remember someone teaching me once to always receive the revelation from God fully in faith, and then to test everything. This approach doesn’t start in opposition, but a desire to be in favor of that new reality. Thomas started with doubt and demanded proof to win him over. We see a patient Jesus in this scenario but Thomas is not praised for demanding proof.

The Rich young ruler gives us an example of a response of a man who saw the cost of change as too great. The change necessary to follow Jesus seemed impossible for him, so not only did he not quickly change, he decided to change was altogether too much. We have no insight into his future. He might have at some point bought in and given up everything for the kingdom of God. But again, that is not the point of the story. When Jesus told him to give up his possessions, that was the time to say yes.

A heart of repentance, or a heart after God, doesn’t put off the yes when he calls. A heart of repentance does not wait to bury our parents, or until we get that promotion. There is no ideal future for the yes, just the timing he has chosen. We have some stories of unrepentant people but so many other examples of individuals quick to change in scripture.

I love the story of King Josiah in 2 Kings 22. As the temple is being restored his people stumble upon the laws God has given the people of Israel. These laws have been disregarded for generations and the people of Israel are living in rebellion. When King Josiah discovers this, he cries out to God and changes his ways. He doesn’t stay on the same path or think about how difficult it would be to shift the culture back to what it once was.

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 19 because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’”
2 Kings 22:18-20

As the people of God, we are to be like King Josiah, eager to embrace the plan of God. When that requires change, we embrace it. Change can be for the better or worse, but when it is in obedience to God, it is always good.

Let us not be slow to change. Let us be a people who hang on the very words of God, being quick to jump to his call. I don’t want to miss out on the blessing God has in store, and I don’t want his voice to fall silent in my listening. So for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

5 thoughts on “Too Slow to Change

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