Change the Way You Change
Have you ever been hit by a paintball? Take it from me, it hurts! It hurts a lot! How do I know? Two weeks ago I attended youth camp with an awesome group of teens. We did a lot of things, including playing paintball. And yes, I was hit, fortunately only once!
This was “not my first rodeo.” I’ve played paintball for years. But it was the first paintball experience for some in our group. A lot of them had played laser tag, but their experience wasn’t as much help as you might imagine. The two games look similar but are very different, something they quickly discovered!
In laser tag there aren’t many reasons to avoid being hit. After all, it’s just a beam of light. The opposing player scores points for “hitting” you, but there’s no pain. Paintball uses paint-filled pellets that sting on contact…pellets that can leave a bruise and sometimes even break your skin.
When we first started playing, most of the teens had a “laser tag mentality.” They didn’t think about their position or where to find protection. Then the hits came, and they were shocked!
Eventually they changed how they played the game. But change came slowly as they learned what worked…and what didn’t.
After our game I began to think about how much paintball is like real life. More often than we want to admit, we make choices that expose us to pain....much of it unnecessary. We promise ourselves that we will make better decisions but often don’t know what to do. Consequently, change comes slowly.
Followers of Christ are not exempt. We all deal with attitudes and habits that try to pull us back into our old lifestyles.
If any of this seems familiar, take heart! Some pretty influential people have struggled in this area. Paul…the guy who wrote much of the New Testament…was one of them. He wrote
I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
Romans 7:19 (NLT)
To break out of the cycle we need to change the way we change. This requires a couple of steps.
The first is to change the way you think! Why? Because most battles are won or lost in our minds.
As he followed Jesus Paul learned how important it is to develop appropriate thought processes. He said it this way…
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Before we can change our actions, we need to ask God to change our thoughts. That’s were real transformation begins. By changing our thoughts, we automatically change the things we do.
Next, it’s critical to change where you look.
To be effective, we need to understand change is not about what we’re turning away from, but about who we’re turning to!
Paul wrote this about his experience…
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? [This is where it all came together for Paul!] Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7:21-25a (NLT)
Paul was really frustrated until the Holy Spirit showed him that Jesus was the answer to his dilemma! By himself Paul was like a boat on rough water. But Jesus gave him stability.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)
From a practical perspective, how do we build upon Christ’s character? Praying, reading the Bible, and listening to him are great starting points. As you're listening it's important to be open to go where he leads you, and to spend time with other believers.
If the rules you’re following in the game of life are leaving you open to unnecessary pain, perhaps it’s time for you change the way you change. This summer is a great time to do it!