Back in 1999 I heard God speaking to me very clearly about change. I had the same message twice in one day via two very different preachers in two different churches. We were taking a family holiday back in Guernsey at the time. In the morning we worshipped at a tiny chapel with about twelve other people (including the eighty-six year old preacher and the organist). In the evening I went alone to a livelier and much larger church where a young man of seventeen was preaching for the first time.
I was stunned by the clarity of what God was saying to me via both messages. There was going to be change in my life. All sorts of things came to mind during the rest of my holiday, as I made sure that God was aware of the list of changes I envisaged. I probably talked God’s ears off, to coin a phrase from my blogging friend Jessie Clemence. The only problem with talking is that it makes great use of the tongue, while seemingly shutting down the ears.
Using the wonderful science of hindsight I can look back over almost sixteen years and begin to understand what God meant by change. The hoped for change of career has not happened. I am still living in the same house with the same challenges of paying the bills. I am still facing the same seasons, which are as fickle as ever. And so the list goes on, and nothing much seems to have changed. Whatever was God talking about?
By change I expected a new career. I was hoping for a full time job in Christian circles. I felt that a sudden input of cash would be timely so that the mortgage could be paid, while leaving enough for the family to still return to Guernsey each summer, and perhaps venture a little further on occasions. God had something different in mind. The change was to be in me. I can read about it in the journals I have kept. I can see it in the walk I now have with Him. I know that there is still significant work to be done, but I am amazed by the unexpected difference God has made in my life over the last sixteen years.
The problem is that when we think we are listening to God sometimes we hear what He is saying to us the way we want to hear it, not how He said it or meant it. As I reflect on change I am drawn to what Jesus said about a little bit of yeast making a difference to the entire batch of dough. We can make a similar difference to our families, our friends, our churches, our colleagues, and even our neighbourhoods. But they can’t change if we don’t or won’t change. God never intended us to stand still. Following Jesus means just that. And sometimes we get left so far behind that we have to run to catch Him up.
Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”
He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Luke 13:18-21 NLT)