The Change Game is a toxic game we play in our relationships where we secretly try and change the other person to become more like us. This never works because no one likes being manipulated, both sides are miserable and the change never lasts. Romans 14:1 gives us a better way forward when it says to accept one another without quarreling over disputable matters.
So if we’re honest and realize that we’re playing the Change Game, how do we stop? How do we stop manipulating people on disputable matters and embrace them like the Bible tells us? Here are five steps to start:
1. Cultivate humility. It starts with realizing that maybe, just maybe, you don’t know everything, and maybe, maybe, there’s more than one right answer to something. Humility is always a safe place to start. In Matthew 5 Jesus starts the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” happy are the humble.
2. Walk in the Spirit. How do you know when a matter is disputable or indisputable? How do you know when something is just a preference or a hill for you to die on? Ask God. James 1 says if you need wisdom, ask God for it and he’ll give it to you. If you ask and listen, the Spirit will tell you when a matter is disputable or not.
3. Be curious. Seek first to understand, then to be understood, as James Covey wrote in 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Person. Seek to understand the other person’s viewpoint and why they are the way they are. This will give you a new and better perspective.
4. Model the change you want to see. You can’t change someone else, but you can change yourself. Many times the change you want to see in someone else is a cue for what God is trying to do in your life. So change yourself. Make your life so incredible and appetizing that the other person wants what you have, not because you’re forcing them or manipulating them, but because your life inspires them to hope that there is a better way to live. So model the change you want to see and pray like crazy that God gets a hold of their life.
5. Embrace the messes. On disputable matters, which is by far the vast majority of matters, embrace the other person. Accept them. Don’t just hold them at arm’s length. Bring them closer, bring them to your heart, just like Jesus has accepted you, mess and all. That’s how we stop playing the Change Game.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
In honor of Valentine’s Day, on top of showing love and affection to your spouse, here are five things you can pray for your spouse on Valentine’s Day and every upcoming day:
1. Pray that they would find their ultimate fulfillment in God. Your spouse is going to be who they need to be when they’re right with God and find their ultimate fulfillment in Him.
2. Pray that God would protect them from the evil one. Jesus specifically tells us to pray this in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6). Pray that God would protect your spouse from addiction, temptation, and other snares that can trip them up.
3. Pray that God would produce the fruit of the Spirit in them. Pray that their relationship would God would naturally overflow into love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Everyone wins if this happens!
4. Pray that God would place strong Christians around them. You already realize there are somethings you can’t say to your spouse because they wouldn’t listen. Pray for godly friends and mentors to surround your spouse to encourage and challenge them alongside you.
5. Pray that you would be the answer to your prayers for your spouse. Pray that God will give you the strength to be the kind of spouse your spouse is praying for. Pray that God would show you incredible ways to be the best spouse in the world for your wife or husband.
We’re big about tithing (giving 10% of your income) at our local church, not because it funds the church but because of what God does when we tithe. The principle of firstfruits in the Bible states that we are to give the first portion of our income to God as an act of worship. When we take a step of faith and trust that 90% of our income blessed by God will go farther than 100% of our income without the blessing of God, then God shows up in consistent ways.
I’ve been experiencing the faithfulness of God for years as I’ve tithed, and it’s just as exciting to see God show up in church members’ lives. A few weeks ago I got an email from a couple in our church seeking advice. They had just signed up for our 90-Day Tithe Challenge (which is: tithe for 90 days like God tells us to in Scripture, and if after 90 days you don’t see God’s blessing of Malachi 3:10 in your life, the church will refund all the money you’ve given, no questions asked). Anyways, this family lives off of two middle class incomes and with a growing family, this truly was a step of faith.
So in their email they asked my advice: an acquaintance of theirs needed some financial help and they felt God asking them to jump in and help, but they couldn’t afford to help the friend and tithe at the same time. So the question was: did I think it was okay for them to use their tithe money to help someone out? Me, following in the footsteps of Jesus, refused to answer their question directly, challenging them to go and ask the Holy Spirit, knowing that if their hearts were right whatever answer they chose would honor God.
Well, this past Sunday they came up to me with a report. They asked God and decided to split the difference. They kept tithing on one of their incomes and used the other portion to help this person in need, which was fine with me. But the best part was watching the wife’s face light up as she told me the rest of the story. By the end of the week that they had decided to help someone in need and still half-tithe, the wife was offered a promotion at work and they were offered an opportunity to make extra income in addition to their jobs.
For them, the lightbulb was on and shining brightly. In their words, “This really does work!” God’s promises aren’t just words written on a page. When we trust God and step in faith, He sovereignly shows up in our world and proves His faithfulness again and again. Trust God and live out his promises, for He is faithful.
If you want to know why your evangelism is awkward, it’s usually because there’s no action that precedes it. We think if we just bombard someone with truth, then that’s all that’s required of us. But when you see the early church, they took a different approach to evangelism entirely.
Look at the example in the book of Acts. Whenever you see a sermon in the book of Acts, it’s never the disciples just randomly walking up to strangers and throwing truth bombs. Sermons are always in response to something supernatural that just happened, in response to the disciples walking in the Spirit and loving others sacrificially. Don’t believe me? Go look for yourself.
In Acts 2, Peter preaches the first sermon of the Christian church, but he did it in response to the fact that the Holy Spirit just came down with tongues of fire and everyone was freaking out because people could hear them in their own language. There’s another great sermon by Peter and John in Acts 3-4, which was in response to a supernatural healing of a lame man sitting on the way to the temple. The apostles again share Jesus in Acts 5, but the Bible notes right before that that the apostles were performing miraculous signs.
In Acts 7, you have the famous sermon by Stephen, the first martyr, which was preceded by the statement that Stephen performed signs and wonders. Look at the ministry of Paul, who preached in the second half of the book of Acts and saw a genuine movement of God. He never preached in a vacuum, he was always walking in the Spirit, demonstrating the Spirit’s power and loving others sacrificially.
Interestingly enough, the one time that Paul just preached to preach was in Acts 17. He was hanging around Athens, some guys wanted to start a discussion and invited him to preach, and so he preached on Mars Hill. There was nothing that preceded it, no relationships, no acts of sacrificial love. He just presented the gospel. And look at what the result was:
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Acts 17:32-34
A few people got saved. Now, anyone getting saved is great news, but compared to the rest of his ministry this was a bit of a dud. You can have random conversations with people and sometimes that works, but if you want to see genuine revival take place, it’s going to happen when it’s prefaced by a demonstration of the Spirit’s power resulting in an act of sacrificial love towards others.
If you don’t walk in the Spirit and love others sacrificially, then your witnessing isn’t going to have the same power. Sometimes it works. Sometimes you can talk to people and they’ll get saved based off the intellectual arguments for God, but those are few and far between. If by the end of this year you want to be able to look back and point to people that are going to heaven because of your influence, it will be because your witnessing has power and effectiveness.