Guest Commentary: Change in Confidence in God

September 18, 2015
(Rev. Chip Hale) - Our world has greatly changed. For every adult generation, unexpected changes have made part of our pasts disconnected from our present and our future. As Christians, perhaps we have words that can mitigate fear and worry regarding the future.
When I was a child, my mother hung the laundry in the backyard, the family washed the dishes together after supper, and we watched one of the three channels on television. If we needed information, we referenced our volumes of the World Book. The radio and vinyl records of my childhood gave way to eight-track, then tape players and boomboxes, to cd’s. Music can now be listened to on our cellphones. Our industries and professions have changed remarkably: banking, medical, real estate, entertainment, and even the church. In the days I grew up, churches were major denominations, people worshipped in buildings with steeples, and most churches had one service, Sunday School, and weekly covered dish dinners. Whatever Methodist Church a person might enter, the worship service was basically traditional. In that culture, the church was the major influence in people’s lives.  Our world is always changing, and change we must embrace. However, God has not changed.
In a wonderful way, the human experience can be both temporal and eternal. This world is temporal; that has always been true. The world to come is eternal.  We must understand the distinction between what, in our lives, is changeable, and what is permanent.  In referring to “change,” The Bible often uses the word “temporal.” The dictionary definition of the word “temporal” is lasting only for a time; transitory; temporary; not eternal. This world is temporal, in that it is limited by time, and the dictionary makes a clear distinction between worldly and eternal. The human understanding is that things of this earth will not last forever. If we accept, and even expect, that everything around us is in a constant state of flux or change, then we become more comfortable with our ever-evolving lives. 

The problem, of course, is maintaining our balance in an ever-changing world. Many of us were carried kicking and screaming into the modern technological age. I simply loved the world the way it used to be—books, not tablets; newspapers, not iPads; conversations with real, live people, not text messages. Today, businesses everywhere are trying to go “paperless;” during our lifetime, we may see an end to daily mail service, as people transact their correspondence online. Change is inevitable, but it is not to be feared or dreaded. If we rely on our faith in God, we may discover many reasons to embrace our futures.

The Bible is replete with words about change. Genesis 35:2 tells us that as Jacob prepared to return to Israel, he knew people in his household had worshipped gods that were not Yahweh—foreign gods—and forbade their entry into the Promised Land. Perhaps we think we do not worship foreign gods or idols, but let the Stock Market fall, or a loss of job occur, or, most recently the secrecy of a website be published, then we realize that we are worshipping the gods of money, career, or reputation. As we prepare for a closer relationship with God, let us strive to remove our idols.
In Leviticus 27:10, we understand that in ancient times they made offerings that did not follow the directives of the Old Testament. Old Testament people were supposed to offer, for instance, a young, perfect lamb for sacrifice. The people of long ago might offer, instead, a deformed or old lamb. We, like those people, give our best selves to other things besides God. We offer God not the best we have, but what is left over or secondary. God expects us to change and offer Him our best sacrifice or our best selves. In Proverbs 24:21, God calls us to change from our rebellious ways, to turn towards righteousness, and to walk the path of faithfulness. The prophet’s words in Isaiah 9:10 remind us that we replace what is less substantial for what is best. In Biblical times, it was desirable to take out a scrub tree and replace it with a cedar, a highly regarded tree. Similarly, we are constantly admonished to weed out less valuable qualities or actions, and to replace them with what is superlative.
God can make positive changes in our lives. If we allow God, as it says in Lamentations, He takes the mud which represents our bodies as spoken of in Genesis, and turns it into gold—the gold that is eternal. As believers, we exchange what is secondary and, through the grace of God, we are changed into what is supreme.            
I Corinthians 15:50-52 reminds us of the sudden change when we leave the temporal and enter into God’s kingdom. The Scriptures announce:

“I declare to you, my brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will be changed—in a flash, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised, imperishable, and we will be changed.”

Our ultimate change is when the temporal becomes the eternal. That change, for us as Christians, is incredible. As our earthly lives end, our heavenly lives are just beginning.
Change is not just cultural; it also is personal. In the changing aspects of our lives, we must remember that all cold winter blasts lead to flowers in the spring. Human lives have their share of suffering. Yet we claim our faith; we claim that we trust God to work out our lives. As we interpret the events of our personal lives and perhaps the world, as Christians, we never forget the lens of what is eternal. Come what may, we claim our faith. Psalm 18 contains David’s praise to God: “I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Whatever the future, no matter the changes, we must claim our faith in our eternal God Who holds the past, the present, and the future in His hands.