Can People Really Change?
Part II
by Mike Masso

Based on our understanding of God’s perspective of ourselves—our true identity, as we discussed in last month’s issue, God’s Word is the only true reference point for the foundation upon which we can begin to combine our passions, talents and experiences with a “cause” or life mission. So where do we go from here? Exactly! The next step is to define our destination. In other words, identify what we want to achieve. There are many options to explore and some that may have yet to be conceived. Many tools are available to help us assess our “resources” with divine opportunities. Along with good counsel/mentoring and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our destiny discovery process begins to take tangible shape. Our vision becomes much clearer as we move along this journey. Sometimes we think we have a clear vision only to find out that God has only revealed a part of the plan, which may take on a different look than what we first thought. Usually for something much more rewarding than we ever imagined.
After gaining as much clarity as possible of our mission, it is time to chart a specific course of action—detailed action steps that we can immediately take to move towards our goal. There will be a mix of very manageable steps along with tasks that may involve overcoming a heavy dose of obstacles. Now the pressure is on! This is where our ability and willingness to change is tested. These obstacles of resistance take on many forms–bad habits, fears, financial debt, stressed relationships, difficult people we want to avoid, people we don’t avoid but should, selfish distractions, laziness, addictions and the lack of time to deal with it all. Here is where the rubber meets the road. Our character, values and faith are challenged and put to the test. This process is similar to the way God designed our bodies to grow stronger when they are under pressure. In the Army, my loving drill sergeant enjoyed afflicting me repeatedly during our physical training with muscle failure–the point where your muscles fail to push out another rep; you “hit the wall” so to speak. As a result of this torture, I was in the best physical condition of my life. These obstacles of resistance, whether internal or external, are your opportunities to change for the better—growing stronger to achieve the great things you are destined for.
What a formula for success! Our job is to fail, to “hit the wall” and let God provide the increase! It’s during these times that we depend more on God’s Spirit and grow deeper in our love for Christ. The Apostle Paul explains it well in Romans 5:3-5.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Amazing! It’s these kinds of sufferings which create a special bond of fellowship, one that can only happen when going through struggles together. Can you imagine the bond of those 33 Chilean miners that found a way to survive for over two months after the collapse of the mine last year? Think back to the band of brothers who battled together in WWII or even the high school football team in the 50s as illustrated in the movie Remember the Titans, who fought together against the opposition of a society that was full of racial prejudice and hatred. So be encouraged and even joyful when things become difficult. Don’t cheat yourself and try to take the easy way out thinking it will make you happier, because you will miss what this beautifully difficult life-process is all about. Don’t get distracted by chasing “happiness”. Remember, as a Christ follower, your ultimate goal is not happiness; it is an intimate relationship with Christ for yourself and others. This kind of destiny goes way beyond happiness, it is called joy! Joy doesn’t get shaken; it is strength from within and only comes from God. Happiness is dependent upon good things happening, and we all know how our “good things” turn bad, usually leaving us with empty regret—a story that doesn’t end happily ever after.
As you are intent on making progress, be very careful to not “break the rules”—which means not to violate any of God’s principles or your personal convictions along the way. This will inevitably lead to the detours of consequence and will circumvent the process of positive change and growth. The ends do not justify the means. You may have a God-inspired destiny, but it can be sabotaged by foolish decisions on how to get there. Some common ill-advised tactics would be acquiring more debt, ignoring warning signs from reputable counsel, exaggerating things (lying) to gain favor or advantage, neglecting current responsibilities/commitments and/or trying to move forward while holding on to un-forgiveness. Trying to stack the odds in your favor or skirt around things that need to be taken care of is a sure sign you will end up with nothing that resembles the favor of God or His Glory. The damage that occurs without “curing” the foundation properly or following the appropriate plan is like trying to run through a carnival fun-house maze of mirrors, where the floor is shifting causing you to face-plant into the glass doors that won’t open for you, leaving an ugly imprint of your greasy face (trust me, its not really “fun” and it hurts!). One reason change becomes so difficult is because our lives become obscured, like a maze of mirrors, by the deceptive reflection of the trials and failures that try to label us as unable and unworthy.
There is a lot to consider regarding change and progress in a person’s life. That is the reason we should not underestimate the ordained value of spirit-filled mentoring. These Godly mentors can help us recognize whether or not we have a true picture of ourselves and a clear understanding of God’s perspective for our life? Mentoring (or coaching) is the Godly art of cultivating an honest, safe environment for the Holy Spirit to work in and through us each step of the way, while providing loving accountability as we navigate through the changes necessary to achieve our God-given goals and destiny. A mentor will be there to help you remember how critical it is to understand that change is not just about transition, its more about transformation!
Just to summarize… discovering your starting point, clarifying your mission, identifying the obstacles, developing your plan of action to fulfill your purpose, vision, mission, destiny (or whatever you wish to call it) is only part of the process… the ULTIMATE GOAL for CHANGING is not WHAT you are trying to achieve, but WHO you want to become! It’s when we lose sight of this that we lose heart for change. Yes, people really can change. Yes, there are forces which we allow to either change us for the worse or to change us for the best. Yes, change, one way or the other, is inevitable. I encourage you to align your life with the One who created you for a glorious transformation, and not to take the path of least resistance, avoiding your true destiny. As the Apostle Paul so divinely stated..
“..we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.” ~Romans 8:28-30

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