Change Needed – or Stuck in the Mud?
How can we make real changes in our lives? Consider the Bible story of Saul/Paul to better understand the benefits and blessings of making lasting changes in our lives.
Categories: New Year/Change, Paul
Just when family life seems "on track" and things are going smoothly, suddenly there is a collision of aims or activities. Do we have to suffer through collisions, or are there practical and peaceful ways to absorb and adjust to them? Let's consider the amazing Bible story of Saul/Paul to better understand the benefits and blessings of learning how to make valuable changes in our lives.
His story is told in the book Acts of the Apostles, starting in chapter 9. Briefly, Saul, a well-educated young man, starts out as an anti-Christian, plotting the death of disciples. On the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, he is struck blind, eventually accepts Jesus as his Savior, and ends up as the prime spokesperson for Christianity. A big change, right?
How did he do it? The same way we all can -- by upgrading and uplifting our thinking and then our acting. This process can be the central topic of one or two family discussions this month - a month when many folks are resolving to make changes for the better in their lives. Although such resolutions are often abandoned in a few weeks, this Bible story is about a major life change that is permanent and good at the same time.
Paul starts out plotting against disciples, with the idea of threatening, capturing, and slaughtering. Now, your family members may not be that violent, but it's nonetheless important to discuss how we feel about those whose activities and beliefs differ from ours. Paul later describes evil thinkers as "lovers of their own selves,...disobedient to parents...truce breakers....false accusers." Do we ever put ourselves ahead of everything and everyone else? How about when we don't honor other family members, create havoc rather than peace, and even speak evil? In those moments, we are actually blind to better ways of living our lives.
And at this point in his own life, Paul is struck blind and hears the voice of Jesus gently leading him, changing him. Jesus notes that it is hard for Paul to fight his evil tendencies. But he persists and in Damascus, Paul is told that he has been chosen to do great things - even to sharing the idea of the Christ with other nations. With your family, discuss "blinding" - how we may not see the goodness and Truth right before us. Are we chosen to do great things? We all are, if we but listen! See if you can list some great things you might look forward to doing this new year.
Paul is healed of his blindness and immediately preaches about the Christ. But the disciples can't believe this and plot to kill him. (His capture is a fascinating story, starting in verse 23.) Sometimes when we sincerely make a change for the better, others don't believe or understand, and we find ourselves alone and not trusted. Is this a time to return to our old ways? Resistance didn't stop Paul; he knew his mission. Do we, as family members have an unavoidable mission? What is it? Are we determined to fulfill it? Missions can be as simple as improving a grade, mending a broken relationship, finding time for Bible study, or being more open and appreciative of family members.
The changed Paul now changes the world as he and his associates travel throughout the Middle East, starting churches, performing great healings, and boldly speaking about following Christ Jesus. A good discussion could consider how bold we are at sharing our beliefs with others. Can family members recall lives they have changed for the better? Was there someone who bravely encouraged the change?
Of course, Paul's story continues in many New Testament books: his travels, his healings, his capture and imprisonment. He is constantly in touch with Christliness and how it brings about individual change. In fact, his words inspire and guide his travel companions as well as new friends he makes in other countries. One of these friends is a young man named Timothy whom Paul mentors. Timothy's story is worthy of your study because it demonstrates how Paul's ideas reach across time and space to inspire and guide each one of us, right here, today.
As we make changes for the better in our lives, it's important that we remember a piece of advice Paul gives Timothy: "Neglect not the gift that is in thee..." (I Timothy 4:14.) The key word here is "neglect." It is so easy to continue in the same way of doing things without changing even a little. But this ignores the great gift from God - the gift of being His/Her example of joyful living, creative thinking and acting, peaceful problem-solving. The world would be very different if Paul had been complacent and not changed from murderer to master Christian. Are we willing to start right now with little and big changes?
List a few possible changes and tuck the list away for a month or more. Then look at it and see if your family is moving heavenward in everyday life.