CAN YOU CHANGE YOUR LIFE?
This week I hope you had quality time with those people who are special in your
life. Joyce and I have our holiday the Saturday before Christmas. Saturday our
children and grandchildren who could visit gathered in our home. Commonly, by
Christmas, everyone is gone. Joyce and I spent Christmas together just as a couple.
This year we did something different for us. We rented some movies. Among
them was Castaway, which we had not seen. Near the end of that movie, Tom Hanks'
character explained to a friend what it was like to be marooned alone on an island for
more than four years. He said, "I was in control of nothing." He explained that he
could not even control his death.
"I was in control of nothing." Does that sound strange to you? Or does that
sound real to you?
The conviction that we are in control is an illusion.
- Once there was a man named Jacob who, it seems to me, was convinced that
he controlled his destiny.
- His destiny would be what he made it!
While working for Laban, the man who became his father-in-law, Jacob was
deceived (Genesis 29:21-30).
- Though he was the second born of twins, he would gain for himself the
coveted birthright [a larger portion of the inheritance; dominance as leader of
the family after his father's death] (Genesis 25:27-34).
- He caught his brother in a moment of need and weakness.
- Esau, his twin brother, came in from hunting weak and extremely hungry.
- He asked Jacob for a portion of beans he saw Jacob cooking.
- Jacob told Esau he would feed him if Esau swore he would give Jacob his
- Foolishly, Esau sold Jacob his birthright for a meal.
- Later, with the help of his mother, Jacob stole the family blessing from Esau
- When his blind father wanted to give Esau the family blessing, Jacob
deceived his blind father into blessing him.
- Isaac told Esau he would bless him with the family blessing after Esau
killed a deer and fixed Isaac his favorite meal.
- While Esau was hunting, Jacob [with his mother's encouragement and
help] dressed in Esau's clothing, brought a meal of goat meat, and
deceived his father.
- Jacob was so successful in his deceit that his father pronounced the
family blessing on Jacob.
- Esau was so angered by Jacob's deceit that he planned to kill Jacob as
soon as Isaac died, but Jacob fled to his mother's people before that
- He worked seven years as a herdsman for Laban as a bride price for Rachel.
- Laban promised him that after seven years of work Jacob could marry his
- Instead, Laban gave Jacob his oldest daughter, Leah, in Rachel's place.
- Their wedding customs were quite different from ours, and the wedding
took place at night.
- Jacob did not discover Laban's deceit until the next morning.
- A week later, Laban allowed Jacob to marry Rachel with the promise of
seven additional years of work (Genesis 29:25-28).
- Marrying sisters, one whom he loved more than the other, began a life of
horrible conflict and rivalry filled with intrigue and deception within Jacob's
- Many years and many deceptions later, as an old man, Jacob had an
audience with the king of Egypt.
- That Pharaoh inquired about his age, Jacob gave an insightful answer.
- This is what Jacob said:
Genesis 47:9 "The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and
unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my
fathers lived during the days of their sojourning."
In one more day, another year ends, and traditionally it is the appropriate time
to do some reflecting.
- The ending of a year has different effects on all of us.
Christians, reflect a little with me just over the past 12 months.
- Some of us look with great anticipation at another year ending.
- Probably most of those with great anticipation are teens and college
- What age is it "that you just cannot wait to reach?"
- Have you realized that you will be that age only a short period of time?
Your "ideal age" is not permanent!
- Any year you name that you "would love to be" only lasts twelve
- Once you pass twenty, you cannot image how fast you will reach
thirty--just ask any 30-year-old.
- For some, the passing of a year is a matter of relative indifference.
- For those who are not phased by the passing of another year, you
probably feel like you have a lot of years left in your life.
- You are pretty much satisfied with your age and figure you will be there
for a while.
- When I was in my twenties, thirties, and early forties I could not
understand why retired men did not spend their time hunting and fishing.
- I never hunted or fished as much I wished.
- Retired people had the time and could afford it.
- I did not have the time and could not afford it.
- I also thought 65-year-olds and 70-year-olds physically feel the way
- I did not have a clue! I do now!
- The time will come when you look back and quietly ask yourself, "Was I
ever that age?"
- For some of us the passing of a year is a matter of sober awareness.
- We are aware that "middle age" is history for us.
- We are very much aware that we are foolish for assuming anything about
- It is disconcerting to look ahead or to look behind.
- Using each day well as it comes takes on a whole new meaning to us.
Would you let me meddle in your life, and mess with your mind?
- In the past twelve months, what do you think were the best choices you
made? the best things you did? the wisest moments you had?
- In 2001, what was the best decision you made?
- What was the best act of friendship you performed?
- What was the greatest kindness you did that no one but you knows
- What was the finest family thing you did? [Name things you did for
specific family members if you wish.]
- What was the wisest business decision you made?
- What was the wisest choice you made about your personal life?
- In the past twelve months, what do you think were the worst choices you
made? the worst things you did? your dumbest moments?
- Of all the decisions and choices you made in 2001, what was your
dumbest, most stupid, most ignorant decision or choice?
- What was the most hurtful thing you did to a meaningful friendship?
- What opportunity for good did you let pass by that you most regret?
- What did you do that brought the greatest hurt to your family?
- What is the dumbest business decision you made?
- What is the most ignorant, ridiculous decision you made about your
- If I asked you these same questions at the close of 2002, would you give
basically the same answers? At the end of 2002, will nothing have changed?
- As time rolls on in your life, will very little change about you as a person?
Let me state what I am not trying to do, and then state my challenge to you.
- This is not what I am trying to do.
I am challenging you to do the same thing Paul challenged Christians at
Ephesus to do when he wrote:
- I am not merely trying to get you to abandon some bad habits.
- I am not merely trying to get you to exchange some bad behaviors for some
good behaviors or some bad habits for some good habits.
- I am not merely trying to get you to confess to yourself that some things need
to change in your life.
- I am certainly not trying to convince you to wear a religious cloak once or
twice a week.
Ephesians 4:22-24 "... in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old
self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be
renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God
has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."
I am challenging you to do the same thing Paul challenged Christians in
Galatia to do when he wrote:
Galatians 6:7,8 "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this
he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap
corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."
I am challenging you to do the same thing Paul challenged the Christians at
Colossae to do when he wrote:
Colossians 3:8-11 "But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander,
and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside
the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to
a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- a renewal in
which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised,
barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all."
I am asking all of us, including myself, "Change who you are as a person."
- "I am who I am!"
- No, you are not!
- God knows you can change as a person; He gave Jesus to make that
- You do not change yourself as a person by being religious.
- You change yourself as a person by being Christian.
- You let God teach you how to think and in that way give you a different
- You let Jesus teach you how to feel and in that way give you a different
As a person, how would you like to be different in 2002? I am not asking you what
physical changes would you like to see in your body. I am not asking you what good habits you
would like to form or what bad habits you would like to break. I am asking you something more
basic. I am asking you do you have the courage to let God change you as a person? That means
changing the way you think. That means changing the way you feel.
You cannot control another person--not a best friend, or parents, or a husband,
or a wife, or children, or coworkers, or business partners. The only control you have is
over the person you are. And you really do not have control over that. You decide who
determines who you are as a person: Satan with evil or God with righteousness. If you
decide Satan, he will do all he can to move you toward being your worst person
possible. If you decide God, He will do all He can to move you toward being the best
person your are capable of being.
The issue is this: what kind of person do you want to be? Do you have the courage to
allow God to help you be the best person you are capable of being?
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 30 December 2001
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