Be honest: do you have an invisible checklist of ways you think you should change or ways you should behave—and don’t? Or maybe you have an inventory of achievements you hope to accomplish, if only you could . . . (fill in the blank).
The problem is, motivation for that sort of change comes from the wrong sources. Listening to a nagging inner voice (or a family member!) that says “You ought to do this” or “You should do that” won’t empower you to make lasting changes. And being driven to change based on a desire to be more attractive or richer or successful is just, well, self-centered.
You’re hoping the payoff for all your effort will finally be a sense of acceptance or accolades from peers, a good-looking mate or a better job, or happiness and fulfillment. But being motivated by guilt or insecurity or personal gratification is pretty short-sighted, shallow, and ultimately doomed.
Your Creator has a different idea about motivation. God really doesn’t not care much about whether or not you can drop from a size fourteen to a size six dress. He doesn’t value you based on whether you can hang multiple diplomas on your wall or spend Sunday afternoons polishing your expensive sports car.
No, when God talks about change, it’s about becoming more like Christ. His focus is always on our hearts, not our appearance or accomplishments or acquisitions.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Our Lord’s focus is on our inner lives as we allow the Holy Spirit to transform and change us. That means the transformation comes not by trying harder or by punishing failure, but by acknowledging who God is, accepting how deeply we are loved, and living hopefully based on that truth. From that deep-seated belief and all that it implies, will flow the life of Christ and His fruit.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food, means to live, etc.] will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
So, where do you begin? What if you want to be reading the Bible but you can’t do it more than about two days in a row? What if you’ve made a bunch of unfulfilled promises and your marriage is on the rocks or your children won’t talk to you? What if you have a drug or alcohol or sexual addiction? What if you don’t know where your next rent money is coming from? Or what if you have an eating disorder? Or you just eat a bunch of junk and you don’t want to but you keep doing it?
Where do you go from here? What do you do when you want to make big changes? Start with your relationship with God. If you get that one in line, you will be amazed at the transformation. God can solve your financial trials, your work challenges, your marital conflicts, your issues with your sense of self.
It’s easy to lapse into whatever we’re feeling at the moment, isn’t it? No doubt about it. But as you take yourself into training and you do things God’s way—motivated by God’s love and a longing to be like Christ—you’ll develop the spiritual muscles to sustain, motivation, and endurance over the long haul.
It won’t be easy but it will be wonderful. Because God wants to make you like His Son a lot more than you really want to be like His Son.
Effective and lasting change comes from having a right relationship with God. Learn more from the series “How to Change for the Better” from Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip