A Choice, Not a Prayer Request

By Mark A. Taylor

I’ve written before about a friend in ministry who was dealing with some difficult people. “Why don’t you show them why they need to approach this problem in a different way?” I asked her.

“Because people don’t change,” she said. “My telling them another way is better won’t make any difference. They’re going to do this the way they want to do it, not the way I say they should.”

If she’s right, how do we ever see change happen?

At least a part of the answer comes in the excellent essays by Casey Tygrett  and Becky Ahlberg . To lead change, I must change. In a complicated world with setbacks and dysfunctional situations that threaten to overwhelm us, the only thing I can change is myself.

There’s peace in this. I’m not responsible for all the progress my kids or my church staff or my minister should make. All I can change is myself.

There’s strategy in this. When I see all the ways I think God wants to work in any situation, my first question is, “What can I do differently to make this better?”

There’s progress in this. I can start with a list of areas where I know I need to improve and then tackle at least one of the items—today.

09_eddy_JNI can decide to quit eating dessert. I can decide to take the steps instead of the elevator. I can decide to get up 15 minutes early to pray. I can decide to compliment and encourage a Christian leader for what he’s doing right (even though I think he’s doing some things wrong). I can invite a non-Christian neighbor to dinner. I can decide not to watch television one evening a week and devote that time to reading or a service project. I can do something kind for my critic while I choose to seek criticism from a few I know I can trust.

With God’s strength and by his grace, I can change. But it’s foolish to think God will change me against my will or that he’ll impose his will on anyone else. He may create pressure that will motivate a person to decide to change. But sometimes that pressure only hardens the sinner’s resolve.

The psalmist prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). God answered the prayer, after David had decided he needed to repent. And so, as I’m thinking about change, the first step is to consider, Where is the different direction I need to be headed? 

And here’s the interesting part. Seeing you change may be the catalyst that leads someone else to make a change himself.

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