FREEDOM Part 4: Commitment to Change
For years, I’d tried to be a better person and stop sinning. Though I genuinely wanted to change, I couldn’t do it by just trying harder and committing to doing better. How many times have you heard this story from others? Maybe this is your story. My only hope was to be transformed God’s way.
There are many roadblocks to change and reasons why we fail. One common reason is that we think information produces transformation. Just because we know what to do doesn’t mean we can do it or will do it.
An all-too-common approach is the two-step process – get people under conviction with a sermon or scripture, remind them that they are bad, then tell them to “Stop it!” We mistakenly think If we can just get people to decide to change, the work will be done.
It is easy to think that our will power will always be enough. Simply trying harder and longer will produce the change we desire. Unfortunately, our will power is an exhaustible resource. Both our mind and emotions play a role and though we focus our rational brain on a goal that makes the most sense, we often fail in the long run because we can't keep our emotions on the path long enough to succeed.
If the change we want involves short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs, it will inevitably involve suffering and sacrifice. Because of that, we often “lose heart” and find it difficult to endure to the end. We lack the energy and “will-power” necessary to complete the race. To compound this, many of us don’t believe that suffering can be a good thing, and many of us go so far as to say that suffering is not good, and a good God would not require it of us.
We forget what the Scriptures tell us about the role of suffering in our lives. In Hebrews 5:7-9 we learn of the necessity of Jesus’ suffering, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although He was a son, he learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
The vibrant abundant life that God has called us to often requires difficult change. It may involve the ABCs of transformation: the A-ha moments, the Breaking free of strongholds, and Commitment to change. However, we too often try to start with the commitment to change, when what we first need is an A-ha, a revelation from God so we can align our beliefs with His truth. We may also need the power of God to break strongholds in our lives because of the deadly grip of sin. Our commitment to change is needed, but is only effective when God affects the transformation, and then we intentionally cooperate with Him to align our beliefs and behaviors to His will.
Applying the E.A.S.E. Model
When God fills us with a desire to change, to be transformed, He provides a path. We call it the E.A.S.E. Model. As Transformed Living life coaches, we often coach people who are eager and ready to make changes. They may have tried and failed many times, they may have made headway only to fall back on old habits and beliefs. We have found that they are missing some key ingredients that lead to lasting transformation.
The first E in E.A.S.E stands for Expectancy. There is a big difference between expectancy and expectation. When we start the process with specific expectations of how, when or why God is doing His work in us, we often miss His plans and purposes. Instead, we are told that God is faithful, that His ways are higher than our ways, that we can trust Him to complete in us what He has begun. (2 Timothy 2:13, Isaiah 55:8-9, Philippians 1:6). You can ask God to show you what He wants to change, what He is concerned about in your life.
As coaches we look for what God is initiating. We help our clients identify where God is at work. We sometimes ask this question to our clients, “What do you believe God desires for you?” or “What belief or behavior continually pricks your conscience?” It is not always the first thing that comes to mind, sometimes it is something we have hidden or are embarrassed to reveal. Sometimes it is not the thing that we want to change so we don’t want to bring it to the front of our list of priorities, but it may be at the top of God’s list.
When we have identified a place in our lives that needs changing, the Bible encourages us to apply Accountability, the A in E.A.S.E. With the vast majority of people this word causes a negative reaction, deservedly so. Most of us have not learned how to give or receive healthy accountability. It may have felt critical, impatient, demanding or judgmental without love or grace.
But even healthy accountability is rejected sometimes because it removes our ability to hide. By choosing to live in the light and give others access to our lives we deny ourselves the ability to pretend sin or wrongdoing isn’t there.
Healthy accountability can be structured in a way that helps achieve our goals and changes our behavior using positive peer pressure. The most productive kind of accountability is voluntary. We give access to someone we trust. It requires honesty, it is usually specific, and should be done in a way that is life giving.
Most of my life, I have hated accountability. But I have had to overcome my reticence to keep my commitment to change certain sinful areas of my life. I sought out relationships that drew the truth out of me and helped me continue on my transformational journey. My accountability manifested itself through keeping short accounts with God through ongoing confession and repentance, and by seeking out accountability partners and taking specific steps to change my environment and set myself up for success.
In addition to accountability, we frequently need Support, the S in E.A.S.E. We may require a variety of support systems and resources. It may be friends, family, books, sermons, communities, programs; it takes many shapes and forms.
In one instance where I was struggling with a longstanding issue I heard, through a friend, about a couple that helped individuals overcome past hurts and wounds. In my case, I was overwhelmed and prone to depression over a deep belief that I was a failure in God’s eyes. With their help I listed all the negative things I believed about God, myself, and others. This process was neither easy nor painless, but incredibly necessary. Then we began identifying the truth from God’s Word in response to the lies. In their presence, I began confessing my sin and speaking God’s truth over every single falsehood. Now, I was saying the same thing about myself and my sin that God says about it. Confession became a profound and powerful experience. For the first time I examined these things in the light, one by one. At times, I felt the burden of my failures and, at other times, the joy of being a new creation in Christ. Confession became the first step in my commitment to change.
Yet, the lies didn’t stay silent.
It took a partnership with Lea and a commitment to choose to speak the truth of God’s Word over myself, even when my actual beliefs betrayed me. Writing a list of scriptures and truths that I could recite over myself in the morning and before I went to bed at night helped validate them. Not only did I speak these truths over myself, but every night before going to bed, Lea spoke them over me as well. At times it felt a bit silly or hokey. But God honored His spoken Truth and as He convinced me of it, my life began to be transformed.
Now, set free from sin’s stronghold, God’s grace empowered me to choose daily to align my will with His will. That involved focusing on living according to different actions. It meant trusting God and others with myself. It was a commitment to be in relationship with those who loved, encouraged, and spoke into my life the truths I needed to hear.
The positive reinforcement was key to lasting transformation, we all need encouragement, the final E in E.A.S.E. Encouragement might include praise, reward, celebration or simply the joy that comes when we are free from sin and aligned with God’s design for us.
Encouragement solidifies and reinforces that "doing the right thing" - especially in difficult situations - is what matters most. Encouragement lets people know they're on the right track, and helps them to maintain positive, ethical and productive thoughts and actions.
James reminds us that faith without works is dead. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1: 22-25) Taking the time to change our beliefs and behaviors matters because it provides us with a clear conscience, it provides a witness to others, it bears fruit. God blesses obedience.
As you begin to use the ABC’s and the EASE model to move through your own transformation, or to help others in their process, remember the key to all of this is the grace of God. Hold fast to His promises and allow Him to do the work of transformation.