"Riding the Wave of Change" part 1
Keeping Your Balance
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
September 13, 2009

Memory Verse:

Romans 8:28 (NLT)
And 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.


I’ve lived through the seventies, eighties and nineties, and now in the first decade of a new millennium. And I know some of you have me beat. But even in my lifetime I have surfed many waves of change. I’ve seen in my lifetime room-sized computers get shrunk to the size of a deck of cards. I remember the heyday of disco. There was a time I had to get up to change the channel. But that’s okay… there weren’t that many channels to choose from. I even remember life prior to post-it notes. Post-it notes didn’t come on the scene until 1981. What did we ever do before we had post-it notes? 
I’ve seen people by the millions get on the Internet. I’ve seen a lot of changes. And right now, some of you are thinking, “You think you’ve seen changes? Well, let me tell you about changes, you young punk.” And you’re right.
Just think about some of the changes in the past 70-80 years. Electricity and plumbing and telephones in every home. Televisions weren’t introduced in Canada until the 1940s, colour television a few decades after that. (In the U.S., introduced in the 1930s - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television) Today we have email, cell phones, Blackberries. We can communicate pretty much anywhere on the planet at anytime, and we can do it all wirelessly. It’s amazing.

Change happens. In fact, I think the only constant in life is change. This morning we’re beginning a new message series called, “Riding the Wave of Change”, and I think this is something every one of us here can relate to. We’ve all seen change, and we’ve all experienced change.

Like when you started that new job, or went to a different school, when you went away to college, when you moved to a new house in a new city, when you got married, when you retired… no matter who you are or how long you’ve been around, you know what change is all about.

The biggest change in my life in the past couple years has been the birth of my son. And we have another change coming in a couple months when Nate’s little brother is born. Even Nate… he’s 19 months old, and he knows what change is about. In fact, he’s changed 6, 7, 8 times a day.

Okay, that’s a different kind of change. But we all experience change, sometimes big, sometimes small.

And through the course of this series, we’re going to talk about different kinds of change. We’re going to talk about the changes that we don’t plan for… changes like when we suffer a lose or like when life just seems to be falling apart. We’re also going to talk about our changing world… how our culture seems to be a constant state of fluid motion, and how we can navigate through these changes. We’re going to talk about the changes that God wants to work in us personally… the complete transformation of our character.

And we’re going to kick it off this morning talking about life changes… about how we can keep our balance when we go through times of transition and enter into new life-stages.

For example, the school year started this past week for students across the city. Most of them are starting a new grade, with new teachers, new classmates, perhaps even a new school. Those are big changes for them.

Tomorrow, just down the road here, about 4000 students will be settling in for a new semester at UPEI. Many of them are coming from outside of town, perhaps outside the province or even outside the country… perhaps they’re moving away from home for the very first time. That’s a major change and can be overwhelming.

Some of you have gone through major changes…
Like Rosita, who just a couple years ago went back to school and is now in a new job.
Or Kathy, who started her own business a few years back.
Or Ian and Jen… who moved here last year from the other side of the country.
Or Loretta, Karen and Lynn who just got classrooms full of new students and you’re not quite sure what to expect of them yet.
Maybe for you, even walking through the doors here and coming to a Worship Celebration was a major change for you.

We all have these changes in our lives, often planned or expected, but not always… these changes that kind of upset the balance of our lives, we’re a little afraid or intimidated by them, we’re stressed out over them, and we’re not quite sure how to handle them.

Those are the kinds of changes we’re talking about this morning. And we’re going to get to other kinds of changes in future weeks. But for today, it’s about making life changes. And when you’re making those life changes, I want to offer you four words of advice.

When Making Big Life Changes:

1.    Seek God’s direction

This is kind of a catch-all that you might expect to hear in church, but really there’s a lot of wisdom to it.

Because for you and me, when it comes to making major life decisions we really have a limited perspective. I mean, even when we gather as much information as possible and try to account for all available options, and even when we’re pretty confident in our decision making abilities, we still don’t see the big picture. But God does. God is all-knowing, His wisdom has no limits, He’s full of love and compassion, and He wants the best for you and for me.

1 Corinthians 1:25 (NIV)
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom…

Which is basically saying that God knows better than we do, even on our best day and His worst day. We can trust His judgment, we can trust His direction. It’s 100% reliable.

So how do you do this? How do you find out what His direction is? Does it mean you have to stop and pray before every little decision? Does it mean you have to spend days fasting, seeking for God to text-message you from Heaven?

Well, I think prayer and fasting can certainly help with some decisions and are valuable spiritual habits.

But when I talk about seeking God’s direction, I’m talking about in all of life. I’m basically talking about walking in step with Him. I’m talking about getting to know Him, reading His Word, talking with Him regularly… just as an ordinary part of your life. Learn about His character and His priorities and His values. Start living according to the clear principles found in the Bible.

And then, when it comes to making those big decisions in your life… you’re already walking in step with God. And you begin to intuitively sense what decisions He would have you make.

In the passage that Sandra read earlier, God clearly gave direction to Abram, who we know better as Abraham.

Genesis 12:1 (NLT)
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.”

Pretty big change for Abram, and pretty clear direction from God. Wouldn’t it be nice if God verbally spoke to all of us when we had a decision to make?

Well, when you have a decision to make, I don’t think you’ve going to see sky-writing about what to do – though it’s certainly nice when that happens. But you can develop a relationship with God where you begin to think God’s thoughts after Him, and you become sensitive to His promptings.

Psalm 119:105 (NLT)
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

So just in general, when it comes to making any decision, seek God’s direction. Because His direction is always best.

2.    Use common sense in making decisions

Now that’s not too earth shattering, is it? But it’s amazing how many people don’t seem to use common sense and think things through.

You know, in the Bible, you don’t always see people praying before making big decisions. Again, that should be a normal part of your life, where you’re consistently living in communication with Him under the influence and sensitive to the promptings of God. But I also believe that God gave us the ability to think and He gave it to us for a reason. I wholeheartedly believe that there are decisions He trusts us to make.

This whole idea that God has one perfect plan for your life… I don’t buy it. Oh, there are definitely times when He does give clear direction and He does want you to make a particular choice. But I think there are also times when different options are equally valid. And you just make the best decision you can make based on the information at hand.

Think about the Apostle Paul. Paul was essentially a traveling missionary. He went from city to city, telling people about Jesus, and establishing communities of Christ-followers in every city as he went.

Well, there were times that He would sense God’s leading to go to this city or that city, or when to stay for a while, but there were also times when it appears that he just made the decision on His own. For example…

Titus 3:12 (NLT)
I am planning to send either Artemas or Tychicus to you. As soon as one of them arrives, do your best to meet me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to stay there for the winter.

So Paul’s traveling around, but winter’s coming when it’s not going to be as easy or as safe to travel, so he’s going to hold up in Nicopolis for the winter. Seems like a perfectly reasonable and logical decision that Paul was able to make on his own.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks writes about making a decision to get married. He advises people, “If you’re not married, then don’t feel you have to get married. If you’re content being single, stay single.” But then he says, “If you can’t handle being single and want to get married, then get married.”

So what I take from that is, sometimes you just have to make a decisions. Sure, pray about it. Gather some information. Ask for some advice. But then decide.

3.    Look back fondly, but move forward

And hey, I’ve had problems with this. You’ve had a major life change – maybe it’s something you planned for, maybe it’s a decision you made, or maybe it’s just something that happened to you – and you start to look back thinking, “Oh, if only I could turn back time.” And you kind of become anchored to a reality that no longer exists. You’re just living in the past, and it paralyses you from moving forward.

Look, whether your past was great or it was terrible, it’s still the past. And as Zig Ziglar is famous for saying…

“Yesterday ended last night.”
~ Zig Ziglar

The disciples of Jesus spent three terrific years with Him. During that time, they saw things they had never seen before and learned things they never would have imagined. I’m sure they would have been happy for that to go on for the rest of their lives.

But the time came when Jesus knew He would be leaving them. And so He was trying to prepare His disciples for that to happen, and they weren’t exactly happy about it. They didn’t want Jesus to leave; they couldn’t imagine going on without Him. And that’s when Jesus told them…

John 14:12 (NLT)
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

So Jesus tells them, “Listen, we’ve had some great time together. We’ve done marvelous things, you’ve seen the power of God at work, and you’ve grown a lot. But there are even greater things ahead. Life is about to change, but don’t dwell in the past. Keep moving forward.”

How many people do you know who live in the past? Do you even find yourself doing that? For those of us who struggle with this, we need to heed the words found in…

Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

I can look back fondly, grateful for the positive experiences of my past. But my focus must be forward.

4.    Trust in God’s goodness

It starts with seeking God’s direction, and it finishes with trusting God’s goodness. Now, you’re involved, too. But it starts with God and ends with God.

Going back to that passage that Sandra read, Abraham was told by God to leave his home, leave his relatives, leave his country… and go where God would lead him. And Abraham had no clue where that would be. He was just told to go. Major life change, and he had no idea how it would all end up.

So what did he do? He packed up and went.

Genesis 12:4 (NLT)
So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed…

He didn’t even take his GPS – he just trusted that God knew where he was going and that God knew what was best for him.

After I graduated from college, I moved to South Dakota to work in my first church. I was single at the time, didn’t know anyone there, but off I went because I trusted that God knew what He was doing. Well, there were some great people there, and I’ve recently been able to reconnect with some of my friends from there on Facebook. But things didn’t work out as I expected there, and a couple years later I moved to Bedford, Nova Scotia. That’s where I met my wife, and then five years after that we moved here to begin Sunrise.

This is important: If you are a follower of Christ, then you can trust that God can and will work things out for you. It may not always go as you planned or expected, but it will always be for the best.

Romans 8:28 (NLT)
And 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.

Charles Spurgeon was a Baptist preacher in the 1800s who became known as “the Prince of Preachers.” It’s said that during his life he preached to 10 million people and as often as 10 times a week. Even today, about 120 years after his death (1892), its claimed that no other author of any kind has more material in print than Charles Spurgeon. And probably my favorite quote of his is this:

“God is too good to be unkind, He’s too wise to be confused, and if I cannot trace His hand I can always trust His heart.”
~ C.H. Spurgeon

So even when things don’t work out the way you expect… Even when the life-change seems to be for the worse… you can still turn to God and trust Him to lead you through it. God promised in the Old Testament book of Isaiah…

Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)
I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

And as Jesus told His followers…

John 14:1 (NLT)
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”

So when you face those big changes in life… you getting used to new surroundings, you’re adapting to new situations… and it’s easy to be overwhelmed… remember that you can trust God. He knows what He’s doing. He loves you and wants the best for you. And you can trust.

Let’s pray.

[Romans 15:13 (NLT)
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.]



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