A man was once invited back to his old school for a 40-year reunion. For months he had saved up to take his wife back to his high school—the place and the people he had left four decades ago. The closer the time came for the reunion, the more excited he became. He thought of the wonderful stories he would hear. It would be great to catch up with his old friends, the changes, accomplishments, all the news.
The night before he left, he pulled out his old ‘Year Books’, read the silly statements and ‘good wishes for the future’ that students write to each other. He wondered what ‘number 97’ from his old football team had done with his life. He even guessed what some of his friends would look like—what kind of careers they had chosen, and families they had.
The big day arrived. He had a friend drive him and his wife to the airport. He was very excited. His friend would return to the airport Sunday night to pick them up. Sunday night came, and they flew back home. But something was wrong. His friend noticed how sad he looked—he wasn’t cheerful. In fact, quite the opposite. “How was the reunion?” his friend asked and the response surprised him: “It was one of the saddest experiences of my life.”
But what happened? “It wasn’t what happened—but what didn’t happen. It’s been 40 years and they haven’t changed. They simply looked older, put on weight, changed clothes, and got jobs. But they really hadn’t changed! I experienced one of the most tragic things I could ever imagine about life. I don’t understand it. It seems as though some people choose not to change.” There was a long silence as they walked back to the car.
On the way back home, the man said to his wife: “I never, never want that to be said of me. Life is too precious, too sacred, too important. If you see me go stagnant like that, give me a swift kick where I need it. I hope you’ll love me enough to challenge me to keep growing.”
Life: Growth and Change
I thought this to be a great story. The American author Gail Sheehy wrote: “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” It’s true some people choose not to change. They are content with the status quo—they coast through life. Surely it’s a good thing to make our life count and make a difference. There are times when we need someone to challenge our viewpoint—to broaden our thinking. Life can be a learning opportunity if you let it, and each day you can learn something new about yourself or others..
Change is not easy. Many won’t change to what they know would help them look and feel better. And for those who do make an effort to change, the change is often through spurts of willpower, habit-forming techniques being often short-lived. For example, more than 90 percent of people who lose significant weight will gain it all back, much to their distress. And then there’s the issue of making excuses.
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“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)
Our Creator God has built into us the capacity for change and offers us help for much greater change, leading to a higher level of existence. This comes through ‘conversion’, a synonym for change, to a new way of life. And it is far more than just overcoming bad habits and feeling and looking better. It’s the basis of the Christian faith that says You can change to the person God wants you to be. You don’t have to stay the way you’ve always been.
The Apostle Paul wrote to members of the Church in Rome: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The word used here in the original Greek is a form of metamorphoo, from which we derive ‘metamorphosis’. It means to change into another form.
God’s Plan for Your Life
A vivid example of the magnitude of this kind of change is the transformation of a caterpillar into an adult butterfly. When the caterpillar has been changed into a butterfly, it becomes what God always intended it to be. You can be transformed by God’s Holy Spirit—and embrace God’s plan for your life.
His plan is that you know his Son Jesus Christ, be like his Son, and enjoy him for all of eternity. Anything that hinders that plan isn’t part of God’s intention for your life. In other words, God wants you, and he wants to change you. So is change possible? Absolutely, but you must believe that Jesus is the only pathway to everlasting change and eternal life.
God wants you to follow Jesus and experience a great life. Not to change you into a person you were never meant to be. The New Testament says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” In Christ, we become new people—the old is gone, the new is here. This happens in Christ, that is, in relationship with Jesus, as we know him, love him, follow him, and live in him. The relationship is first—the newness follows.
God intends that we will slowly but surely be transformed into the image of Christ:
- It will not happen by accident.
- It does not happen overnight.
- It cannot happen without the Holy Spirit.
- It happens when we make a personal commitment.
- It happens with the godly encouragement of other Christians.
Day by day we can be changed by God’s grace. It takes a life time—not just one day. At the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, there is the burial site of Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Graham. Engraved on her tombstone are these words: “End of construction. Thank you for your patience.” Allow God to change you every day. And he will, just as he promised to do.