Transition: Curse or Blessing
My family loves the summer song of Cicada’s, Bull Frogs, and Crickets around our house. We could even do with an owl in the distance and be all the more delighted.
So, I just recently went with two of my grandkids and bought some tadpoles for the pond at my house. The tub that the tadpoles were in was small, over populated, riddled with algae, and the water was too warm. Many tadpoles were dead. There was not enough oxygen to sustain them all. I rescued five of them and released them in my clear, oxygenated, not too warm pond and they are thriving there and will grow into frogs and we will reap the benefit of having rescued them when we are blessed by their night song.
I shared this story to reflect for you how stagnation can be a killer, or at least stall the process of genuine transformation. This brings me to a thought I felt the Holy Spirit deposited in my spirit regarding transition.
Transition can tend to be perceived as both a curse and a blessing. It can feel like a curse at first.
Transition moves us out of familiar things that have become unhealthy; things that we have surrounded ourselves with for the sake of feeling safe and avoiding change. That’s right, I said avoiding change. As human beings on average we like things to stay the same, we like predictability, we are not too fond of disruptive surprises. But for real growth to occur, disruptive surprises are a necessity. So God the Father will often bring transition into our lives.
Once we make it through the initial change phase, we find blessing. We find there is more oxygen, the water is better, there is more nourishment, so to speak. Those who refuse to embrace change typically die like the tadpoles stuck in that over heated, oxygen depleted, algae infested tub. Did I mention how there were more dead tadpoles than living in it?
The Lord used that experience to give me a picture of some church life in America. There are some churches that are like that tub and they are filled with tadpoles that will never become frogs.
In a description of how things will be in the last days, Paul the Apostle made two statements to his son in the faith Timothy in 2Timothy3:1-9, and it captures the essence of what I find in this experience and picture God gave me.
2Timothy 3:1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.
Notice the phrases, “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” and “They will progress no further.”
In matters of spiritual growth, transition is an integral part of it. There is no growth without transition; because everything God the Father teaches us and works into us brings about a change in us.
Sometimes this process feels like a curse. Sometimes it seems as if we are being battered by the call to change on multiple levels, and we are unable to see how all these different points of change intersect.
This reminds me of a time in my life that to me felt to be the worst betrayal ever. During that experience I asked God why He allowed it to happen. I knew Him to be Sovereign and, as such, imagined He could at any time make things work out according to my liking. I prayed He would intervene in the situation and make it turn out the way I imagined it needed to in order for all to be right in my world. But in His wisdom He had a bigger plan, one that involved my further development, one that involved my filling up the sufferings of Jesus. Something akin to what Paul the Apostle spoke in2Corinthians 1:5 and the Apostle Peter spoke in 1Peter 4:12&13
2Corinthians 1:5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
1Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
You see, in the thick of my situation I was asking God why. I should have been asking God, “What are You doing, and what is it You want me to learn, and what or how do You want me to change? The only reason I was unable to ask that question quicker, was that I was full of myself and too busy feeling sorry for myself. If I had been valuing the relationship I had with Him as my Father first and foremost, I would have asked sooner.
I often wonder, if I had asked Him about the change He wished to bring, would I have been able to shorten the length of time involved in the process?
When my kids were little and would act out, we would discipline them. Often that discipline involved time. They would be confined to their room on their bed thinking about what they had done with a purpose of reaching a place of understanding as to why it was not something they should give in to. We usually aimed our correction at any attitude of selfishness and tried to instill a consideration of others. Learning this would lead to an apology if rightly understood and then a change in behavior as they learned to value and love others more.
Many of us perhaps need to embrace a transition in what we imagine love to be. Listen to what Jesus says about love in Revelation 3:19 when He appeared to John the Apostle.
Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
In other words through the process of discipline they were being invited to embrace transition. Repent means to change. It is spiritual transition.
Again, we are told in Hebrews 12:7-14
Hebrews 12:7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
Verse 11 is where I get my idea of saying transition is like a curse. Discipline is intended to bring about change and it says clearly it is not joyful for the present, but painful, but fruit will come on the heels of it. That is why verse 12 encourages us to fix our attitudes towards it. We are to strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees. We are to engage praise and prayer even in the midst of great pain brought on by transition. We are to set aside the distractions and become more determined to walk out what He gives us, that is what it means in verse 13 by saying make straight paths for your feet so that which is lame may not be dislocated but rather healed. Going in the wrong direction places us in harms way. Following God’s direction is far better for us.
Those who fail to learn how to embrace change struggle, they end up in stagnation and unable to function normally. They fail to impart life to others as they are struggling to survive as it is. They drown in a slough of despond created by their own self awareness and self preservation.
When we fight transition, we are often fighting God. As a Father, He is wanting to sow into us victory over whatever it is He is trying to bring us out of by conforming us into the image of Jesus.
A humble person is able to view transition favorably because they understand that perfection is present with God, but absent from them. They know that until the time of Jesus’ return we will be having to change often because we have not yet arrived.
You see only God has the right to say, “I am the Lord I change not.” He can say that, because He is God and He is perfect in all that He is. He has nothing He needs to change. We, on the other hand, have much that needs to change.
God does not save us and then leave us in the same place developmentally and spiritually. He does not just leave us in a mud puddle or stagnate tub. He places us in a community of believers where fresh water from His Spirit flows and in that place as the water flows strong He causes the other rocks to rub up against us and round off our rough edges. I love mountain streams and rivers. There is a lot that can be learned spiritually from them when God chooses to use them as examples.
I’ve noticed that sometimes there is a rock in the bottom of a stream that is fixed to the bottom. It sits in a dip created by resting there for a period of time. The only way for that rock to be moved is for a strong flow to come that begins by its sheer force to move other rocks down the stream until one larger bumps the one fixed, and dislodges it causing it to move as well. It takes that, or someone visiting the stream who sees the rock and reaches into the water and pulls up and places it somewhere else.
Let me bring this word picture into finer focus for us. As followers of Jesus we are referred to as living stones. So I am using the rocks to represent each of us. The river would be the Holy Spirit on the move. The river bed is life and community with other believers. When the Holy Spirit begins to move in a fresh way among a group of believers He starts moving individuals to a new place in an understanding of who He is, and in doing so He uses them to rub against others around them. The movement is based on how set each rock is in their current place. So those most willing to embrace a change of mind are the first to respond to the flow. The strong flow of His Spirit creates movement and the ones who remain stuck are the ones most fixed in their current understanding and place. They get bumped and rubbed by the rocks moving with the flow and the Holy Spirit uses it to dislodge them from the little dip they have become fixed in.
This is how He shapes us into being who He says we should be, and this is why you no one can truly grow outside of being part of a community of believers in Jesus. To argue to the contrary only reveals the deception and lack of humility that is operating in a persons life. When the Holy Spirit is stirring, it is because change is coming. Transition is a part of life and we need to learn to become familiar with it and freely embrace it. To do that we need God to help us grow in our trusting Him.
So, what will you do with the change God is wanting to bring to Harvest Church and each person who is a part of it?
Will you fight with God over the change He is encouraging and ask Him why?
Or will you ask what and yield?
God is bringing change to Harvest Church which means He is bringing change to individuals. This change is happening in every area to some degree or another. How long it takes and just how uncomfortable it is really depends on us. I invite you to be submitted to Him and learn to praise and pray your way through it. Learn to stay on course and not give up. Press through and you will reap the fruit of what He is doing. Submit to Him.