Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus is not an individual many of you may be familiar with, but you are probably familiar with his assertion that “change is the only constant.” While there indeed may be “nothing new under the sun” in God’s eyes, we live in a culture that is ever-changing, that is always in motion.
The concept of change has been a prevalent topic this year due to one of our presidential candidates whose campaign platform is built upon the notion of change. Barack Obama uses the slogan: “Change You Can Believe In,” and on February 5, 2008, he made his now famous quote: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” In this statement, he’s combining and paraphrasing calls to action made by other influential leaders. I think Hopi spiritual elder Thomas Banyacya coined the phrase, “We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for,” and Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi said, “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Creating or Reacting to Change
Too often, we do not live the change we want to see around us. Like Heraclitus says, “Change is the only constant.” The world around us changes day by day whether we want it to or not. It changes in ways we may like or dislike. Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles Darwin, Socrates, Pablo Picasso, Herman Melville, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe, Gustav Mahler, Francis Crick, Jackson Pollack, Bob Dylan – these and more are the game changers. They are “the crazy ones” as an ad for Apple Computer once put it. Regardless of how you personally feel about any of these individuals, they are world changers. Rather than being shaped by change, they did the shaping.
Unfortunately, we often respond to the idea of change in one of two ways. We might be “tossed to and fro” as the Christians in Ephesians 4:14. In other words, we might be unable to discern between good changes and bad changes and we just go with the flow. Alternatively, we might be more like the children of Israel as Moses was leading them to the promised land – grumbling all the time but effectively doing nothing to help. We are the perpetual armchair quarterbacks, calling shots to people who do not hear us, who will not feel the consequences nor the benefits, but fooling ourselves into believing we’re helping.
One thing all of those individuals named earlier had in common was they didn’t get anything done by sitting around on their couches and griping. Every one of those people changed the landscapes of their specific disciplines and the world because they stood up to be noticed. They took risks. They suffered indignities, ridicule, and some died for their causes, but they made a difference. Can we say the same, or are we content being swept about by change or merely complaining about it to those who already agree with us?
Living Change In the Bible
The Bible, Old Testament and New, is filled with individuals and groups of individuals who stand out as heroes to us because they lived the change they wished to see. Where others shirked, they charged forward. In this lesson, we’re just going to take a look at three isolated examples and some results of their actions.
We are familiar with the events of Numbers 13-14, even if we tend to forget the events belong to this book. This is the initial inspection of Canaan by the spies of Israel, and, in chapter 13:27-33, an overwhelming majority say the land is unconquerable. Caleb tries to persuade the people that they can overcome the odds, but he is quickly shouted down. In chapter 14:6-10, Joshua attempts to rally the people, reminding them the Lord is with them. As a result, he is very nearly stoned.
Joshua has already seen how the people reacted to Caleb. He could have just gone with popular opinion. He could have been caught up in the fear, uncertainty, and doubt all around him. He could have also just kept quiet but complained to Caleb and Moses later about the stubbornness of the people – if only they had faith in God. He could have done these things, but he doesn’t. He tries to make a difference, and he continues this pattern for his whole life. The result? Judges 2:7 records that the people serve the Lord under Joshua and under the elders who outlive him. He makes a difference that impacts a whole generation of God’s followers.
I Samuel 17 records David’s confrontation with the Philistine warrior Goliath, a man described in gigantic proportions and armed to the teeth. In verses 8-11, Goliath challenges Israel to send out a champion to challenge him, but King Saul and his soldiers cower in fear. Finally, the young shepherd David answers the call, but his brother ridicules him. The king tries to dissuade him, but David is adamant, and, in verse 37, he states confidently that he believes the Lord will deliver Goliath into his hands and change imminent defeat into victory.
We know David finds success with only the most humble of tools, but would it not have been easier for him to view Goliath as someone else’s problem. After, David is not a soldier. His place is in the fields. He could have just turned around and gone home, trusting that somebody would take care of the problem. Likewise, David could have sat around asking, “Why doesn’t someone do something?” “Why don’t we just throw all of our troops at him. That will end the problem quickly.” He could have done that, but he doesn’t. He put his faith in God and makes a difference. As a result, he is remembered as a man after God’s own heart, he is in the lineage and a shadow of Christ. He is a hero of the Old testament because he tried to live the change he wanted to see.
The Early Christians and Apostles
We wrap up with a group instead of an individual. These are the people who, in Acts 8:4, continue preaching and teaching even as they flee persecution. These are the people who, like Stephen in Acts 7, stand before the Pharisees and proclaim Christ, even unto their deaths. They are people like Peter in Acts 2, who stands and preaches Christ to the very people who had participated in His crucifixion – a mob that could have quickly turned on him as well. They are the ones praying by rivers, teaching in synagogues, enduring imprisonment, stonings, and torture while continuing their ministry. We know Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Silas, Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos, and others while many remain nameless. All of these, however, persisted in living the change the world needed and still needs.
Any of these could have dropped out at any time. I’m sure some did. I believe Paul and Peter both knew what fates awaited them should they continue to preach Christ. It would have been easier for Stephen to just give up and placate the Jews who accused him of blasphemy. Paul would have avoided many stonings had he just reentered Pharisaic practices. Peter and John could have avoided further imprisonments had they only followed the decree to stop preaching Christ in Acts 4:18. These individuals and more continued to work for change though, and the result is recorded in Acts 17:6 when the rioters cry out that these men “have turned the world upside down.”
Our Life of Change
Our goal should be nothing short of the accomplishment of those early Christians: turning the world upside down. We should be wanting to change the world, but it begins within ourselves. We cannot wait for change to sweep us off our feet, nor can we sit idly by griping about things we allow to be taken out of our hands. We need to take charge of our lives, and be the change we want to see. We can’t wait for others to do it. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Change is constant. We can either be victims of change, or we can be instruments of change.