Last week we started a new series called game changers, because if we are going to make this year better than last year, and better than every year we have lived so far, we need to make some changes. Nothing gets better if nothing changes, and sometimes to make the needed changes in our lives we need some game changers. A game changer is a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way.
A game changer can be a new way of looking at things, new habits that we introduce into our lives, or a new way of living that will lead us to something better. Last week the game changer we learned from the disciples was that we can overcome fear by understanding that Jesus is bigger than our fears AND Jesus is always with us. When we begin to live with this kind of confidence and conviction, we will be able to cross over from our fear and move from what is comfortable to what is courageous, from what is predictable to what we are passionate about, and from what is safe to what is deeply satisfying.
Today’s game changer helps us see that anything new we introduce into our lives doesn’t take place quickly. We see this every time we start a new activity, or buy something new, there is always a learning curve we have to go through. For example, we all love new cars and that new car smell, but it takes a while to figure out how to actually drive that new car. Where do we put the key? Wait, what, you don’t need a key? How do I use the back-up camera and GPS system? What is Bluetooth anyway? And the first time behind the wheel it feels different, maybe awkward, and while we love what is new, to get to the place where that new thing actually feels better, takes time. There are no shortcuts. A new life, and a better life, comes when we take small steps, feel awkward and unsure, but then keep going.
If you have ever started a new job, learned to play an instrument, tried out for a new sport, or experimented in any form of art, then you know this truth: our first day is never our best day. My first day trying to run after I turned 40 was not pretty. I couldn’t go more than a few hundred feet before I had to stop and walk, and I often wanted to throw up. It wasn’t my best day. My best day came years later when I ran my first half marathon and over the course of those 13.1 miles I didn’t have to stop at all or throw up. Our first day riding a bike is never our best day, in fact, our first day often looks like this. (video)
I’m thankful there were no cell phone cameras when I was learning to ride a bike. My first ride probably wasn’t much better, but it wasn’t my last ride. We’ve all been there. The first day doing anything new feels awkward and uncomfortable. We are afraid and we are not sure we are doing anything right, but we keep going.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone and the new is here. But this new creation, this new life, doesn’t transform us immediately. We are changed over time not overnight, and it can be a long, slow process. So here is the game changing concept we need to embrace if we want to get to that new and better life – “new” comes through a long obedience in the same direction.
New habits, new faith, stepping out in new directions, embracing new opportunities, entering into new relationships, anything new we introduce into our lives takes time and commitment to make it work. We can’t be great in new things at the very beginning, we have to commit to this new life over the long haul.
One of the reasons new things are often so hard to work through is because we are replacing something old. That new car works differently and we are used to the old one. For years I drove a car with standard transmission and every time I visited my parents and drove their car, I was always trying to push in the clutch. Of course there wasn’t a clutch so I would just slam on the brakes. I was used to one way of driving and now was trying to wrap my head around something new, or rather something old, because I knew how to drive their car. Learning something new takes time.
Let’s go back to the idea of riding a bike and watch this –
Knowledge is not understanding. Just because we know something doesn’t mean we understand how to do it, or have the ability to do it. This is definitely true when we look at our faith and what it means to follow Jesus. The principles Jesus taught us and the life he lived was new to the people of his day and while they knew what he was saying, they struggled to live this new life. The disciples were often getting things wrong, not fully understanding what Jesus was talking about, and failing to live up to the new life, and the better life, Jesus was showing them. We find a great example of this in Mark 9:30-37.
Jesus had been teaching and leading his disciples for months. He had been showing them that the better way to live was to love others, care for others before yourself, and serve others first. Jesus even told them that he was going to lay down his life for others, but then the disciples started arguing about what? Who was the greatest? Jesus is trying to show them a new way to live. He is trying to elevate the values of sacrifice and service, love and mercy, and while they might hear this and know what he is saying, they don’t understand it and they are not living it out.
This new way seems strange and foreign to them. This new way is not how they have always lived. They have always been taught to try and get to the top – fight for your position of prominence and power. They had to unlearn this principle to embrace a new and better one. What I love about this passage is that Jesus doesn’t condemn them, he teaches them. One more time, he teaches them the priority, the value, the better life that comes through humility and service. (9:36-37 again)
Their experience is still ours today because while the teachings of Jesus may not be new in our world, it is definitely different from how people live around us and what we see from the world.
Jesus taught people to forgive always, and while this is not a new idea, it is not how we see people living around us. There is not much forgiveness in our world. In fact what we tend to see is that it is fun to try and trip people up in their hypocrisy. We look for people’s failures and are quick to point it out and hold on to it. While Jesus teaches about mercy and forgiveness, it is not something we see, and if we try and live this life of grace, it can feel awkward, we think it doesn’t make sense, and so we give up.
It’s not just forgiveness, think about selflessness and sacrifice. Jesus was telling his followers that putting the needs of others before their own was the better way to live, but again, that is not what we see, and it is not what we are taught by the world. So if and when we practice this new way of living, it feels different and we find it difficult. In so many ways, following Jesus means we have to live a new life and while Jesus promises that this new life will be better, living this new way isn’t going to be easy.
Knowledge is not understanding. Knowing that we want to live a new way doesn’t mean we understand how to live that way, or have the ability to do it. When it comes to following Jesus, just knowing what that means doesn’t equal having the power to do it. Knowledge does not equal understanding. Knowledge doesn’t equal new life, there has to be something more. To get to that new and better life there has to be some game changing step, and here is it. Watch this. Video Clip
What did Destin have to do to learn to ride that new bike? He had to start small. He had to be ok with knowing he wasn’t going to be good at it the first day. He had to allow the entire process to feel awkward, he had to endure the teasing and ridicule of others, he had to literally fall off and then get back up again. He had to start small, take slow steady steps, and keep going. He said it took him 5 minutes a day for 8 months to develop the ability to ride this new bike.
Old pathways have to be unlearned and new pathways have to be established. This is what the Apostle Paul said, the old has gone and the new is here, but this is a process that takes time, feels awkward, and requires small, steady steps in the same direction. This is what we see in the disciples as they walked with Jesus. They had to unlearn old ways of living so they could embrace the new ideas of Jesus. To get the new life Jesus offered they had to commit to a long obedience in the same direction. They had to commit to following Jesus day after day after day.
Whether we want a deeper faith, or have better relationships, a healthier lifestyle, or develop new habits that can lead us to a new life, new only comes through a long obedience in the same direction. It comes by unlearning the old and truly learning and practicing the new. This simply takes time. Better relationships take time. Learning new habits and improving in any sport, art or skill takes time. If we want the better life that Jesus offers, it takes time and a commitment to keep moving in that new direction.
If it is a deeper faith that we want in this New Year, we need to introduce small daily steps that will lead us to where we want to be. One step might be the 5×5 we are encouraging people to do. If you haven’t been with us these past few weeks, the 5×5 is reading God’s word 5 days a week and praying 5 minutes a day. This is a slow, steady process of unlearning an old way of life – living just for me – and learning a new way of life – putting God first and making time with God a priority. There will be moments of triumph and failure, but the key is to keep going.
Maybe the deeper faith and better life will come through service. What small step can you take to serve God? Can you give some time next Saturday to the Habitat Work Day? Can you offer your time to serving in the church or work with your family at the Faith Centre and Food Bank?
Maybe the deeper faith and better life will come through forgiveness and love. Who is it that you need to forgive? Who is God asking you to love and extend to them grace and mercy? Maybe the deeper faith and better life will come when we can let go of the pain of being hurt by someone and find some peace.
New and better comes from a long obedience in the same direction and God has promised that if we can make this our way of living, He will lead us to new life. Philippians 1:6 says, I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. In other words, the new life we want is a lifetime of small steps with God.
It is important that we work to make it a lifetime of intentionally living this new way because once we stop focusing on this new life, once we allow ourselves to slide back to the old life that old life returns quickly. Video clip.
It took him 8 months of constant, daily, slow training to unlearn the old way of riding a bike and embrace the new way, but it only took him a few minutes to return to the old way. New habits and lifestyles only stay with us as long as we are focused on them, if we give them up – the old ways return quickly. I haven’t run for some time so when I get back out there this spring, I will be closer to my first day then my best day. While we often see and experience this in things like sports, my hope is that we won’t allow this happen to our faith.
When we stop reading God’s word, stop praying, stop serving God and others, stop worshiping, and giving ourselves in love to others, our life of faith suffers terribly and it will quickly fade away. The game changing truth we need to remember is that the new we want, the better life, our best year yet, comes from a long obedience in the same direction. A constant, intentional, daily living of new life that will lead us to something better.
Game Changers – New Life
Game Changing Concept – new life comes from a long obedience in the same direction.
1. Identify an activity in your life where your first day was not your best day. What steps helped you move from that first day to your best day? How long did that process take?
2. In our faith, following Jesus often means unlearning how we currently live. What thoughts, priorities, and activities have you had to unlearn to more faithfully follow Jesus? What thoughts, priorities, and activities do you currently need to unlearn to more faithfully follow Jesus?
3. In what ways can you see in your own life that Knowledge ≠ Understanding? What do you know about following Jesus but struggle to live out?
4. In what area of your life do you need to apply this game changing concept?
- New work ethic
- Learning new skills
- Diet and/or exercise
5. What would a long obedience in the same direction mean to you in the areas you want to change?
6. Support, encouragement, and accountability are essential for long term change and growth.
Who can support you in the changes you want to make? Who can hold you accountable – in love?