When you boil life down to the nubbies, the name of the game is change. Those who flex with the times, refuse to be rigid, resist the mould, and reject the rut—ah, those are the souls distinctively used by God. To them, change is a challenge, a fresh breeze that flows through the room of routine and blows away the stale air of sameness.
Stimulating and invigorating as change may be—it is never easy. Changes are especially tough when it comes to certain habits that haunt and harm us. That kind of change is excruciating—but it isn’t impossible.
Jeremiah pointed out the difficulty of breaking into an established life pattern when he quipped:
Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil. (13:23)
Notice the last few words, “accustomed to doing evil.” The Hebrew says, literally, “learned in evil.” Now, that’s quite an admission! We who are “learned in evil” cannot do good; evil habits that remain unchanged prohibit it. Evil is a habit that is learned; it is contracted and cultivated by long hours of practice. In another place, Jeremiah confirms this fact:
I warned you when you felt secure,
but you said, “I will not listen!”
This has been your way from your youth;
you have not obeyed me. (22:21)
All of us have practiced certain areas of wrong from our youth. It is a pattern of life that comes “second nature” to us. We gloss over our resistance, however, with the varnish of excuse:
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“I’ll never be any different; that’s just the way I am.”
“I was born this way—nothing can be done about it.”
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Jeremiah tells us why such excuses come so easily. We have become “learned in evil”...it has been our way from our youth. In one sense, we have learned to act and react in sinful, unbiblical ways with ease and (dare we admit it?) with a measure of pleasure. Admittedly, there are many times we do it unconsciously; and on those occasions, the depth of our habit is more revealing.
It is vital—it is essential—that we see ourselves as we really are in the light of God’s written Word...then be open to change where change is needed. As stimulating and invigorating as change may be—it is never easy. And when it comes to certain habits that haunt and harm us, change can be excruciating. But it isn’t impossible.
I warn you, the number one enemy of change is the hard-core, self-satisfied sin nature within you. Like a spoiled child, it has been gratified and indulged for years, so it will not give up without a violent temper tantrum. Change is its greatest threat, and a confrontation between the two is inevitable. Change must be allowed to face and conquer the intimidations of inward habit—and I repeat the warning that a nose-to-nose meeting will never be an easy one.
The flesh dies a slow, bitter, bloody death—kicking and struggling all the way down. “Putting off” the clothes of the old self (the old, habitual lifestyle) will not be complete until you are determined to “put on” the garment of the new self (the new, fresh, Christian lifestyle) [see Colossian 3:9–10]. The tailor’s name is Change, and he is a master at fitting your frame. But the process will be painful...and costly.
Change—real change—takes place slowly. In first gear, not overdrive. Far too many Christians get discouraged and give up. Like ice skating or mastering a musical instrument or learning to water ski, certain techniques have to be discovered and developed in the daily discipline of living. Breaking habit patterns you established during the passing of years cannot occur in a few brief days. Remember that. “Instant” change is as rare as it is phoney.
God did not give us His Word to satisfy our curiosity; He gave it to change our lives. Can you name a couple of specific changes God has implemented in your life during the past six or eight months? Has He been allowed, for example, to change your attitude toward someone...or an area of stubbornness...or a deep-seated habit that has hurt your home and hindered your relationship with others for a long, long time...or a pattern of discourtesy in your driving...or a profane tongue...or cheating...or laziness?
Perhaps a better question would be, “Exactly what changes do you have on your personal drawing board?”—or—“What are you asking the Lord to alter and adjust in your life that needs immediate attention?”
The tailor’s real name is the Holy Spirit. You can count on Him to dispose of your old threadbare wardrobe as quickly as He outfits you with the new. By the way, He’s also on call 24 hours a day when you have the urge to slip into the old duds “just one more time.” If you ask Him, He’ll help you remember what you looked like on the day you first walked into His shop. He has a mirror with memories—the Bible.
Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.