The Word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from the region. – Acts 13:49-50. From the time we’re born we see the truth.
From early in life we see that nothing is constant except change. Change never stops, yet it is only as wet babies in diapers that we like change. In Acts 13:49-50, we read that the Jews, instead of accepting the change being brought about by the truth of the Gospel, stirred up opposition to it and ran Paul and Barnabas out of town.
Have you ever wondered why, when people are confronted by a disturbing truth and the need for change, they often refuse to change, turn away from it and refuse to listen?
Like an oncoming train, change is always heading towards us. We shouldn’t ignore it. We should embrace it by taking a new direction and preparing ourselves for the inevitable.
Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions wrote about change in their hit song of the 1960s, People Get Ready. In the song, they in fact compare change to an oncoming train: “People get ready/There’s a train a-coming/You don’t need no baggage/You just get on board/All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming/You don’t need no ticket/You just thank the Lord.”
When God’s Spirit points out needed changes in our lives, we must listen to Him. Otherwise we may be pushing away the truth and, thus, insuring truth no longer affects us.
The truth is the Gospel can only change us if we believe Christ can forgive us our sins and we are freed from guilt and shame. While many judge themselves unworthy, others are glad to hear the Gospel’s saving power.
Becoming a true follower of Christ may mean changing direction. Such was the case with the Magi (Matthew 2:12). These wise men sought Christ expecting him to be in a palace and found Him in a manger with only His mother as His attendant. Expecting a change in the world, they presented the Child King with their precious gifts and trusted Christ to use them as He pleased. Christ grew and framed their gifts to His liking, then gave Himself up for our sins and became our Savior forever.
After the Magi found Jesus and worshiped Him, they were warned by God not to return through Jerusalem, which was the way they came; they were to change directions. When we find Christ in life, our lives often take a new direction, one that is more responsive and obedient to the Word of God.
How does one get ready for change? First we stop and do a self-assessment. Mayfield in his song said, “People get ready/There’s a train to Jordan a-comin’/Picking up passengers coast to coast./Faith is the key, open the doors and board em.’/ There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner/Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own.”
In a time of change, Paul told young Timothy (2 Timothy 1:13-14) as he got ready for his first church, to assess himself by looking back and remembering, that he had everything he needed to face the future, if he would just hold tightly to the Lord’s resources.
When it comes to accepting change, the hope of the true Christian rests on the same foundation as that of the Apostles. We must ask ourselves three questions: “Are we willing to be led in a new direction? What is the foundation of our faith? What gifts has the Holy Spirit given us?”
Mayfield was right. There is a “train a-comin,” coming on the day our souls will be required to change and to get on board. And, as he also said, we must, “have pity on those whose chances grow thinner, for there is no hiding place against the Kingdom’s Throne.” And we mustn’t think we can get ready for change or get on board by our own power. Rather, it will be by the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. Change will not be gained by those who trust in their own hearts and lean to their own understanding. Are you ready for change?
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org