During the summer my wife Linda and I celebrated our 13th anniversary.
I’m not talking about our marriage you understand, but rather the length of time we’ve lived in Torquay.
For those of you who’ve called the Bay home for most or all of your lives, 13 years doesn’t sound long; but for us, this is by far the longest time we’ve spent living in one place in all of our married life.
Of course, none of us were here back in the early days of Torquay; it was over 800 years ago, in 1196, that the first major building, Torre Abbey, was built and occupied.
Six hundred years later, at the beginning of the 19th century, the official recorded population of Torquay was just 838 people. Things have changed a lot, haven’t they, in the past 200 years?
Actually change is something that is happening all the time. Times change; circumstances change; places change; so do people. This has always been the case.
Around 2,500 years ago the Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that ‘the only constant in life is change’.
I wonder how much you’ve changed in the past decade? How about in the past 12 months?
I looked in the mirror this morning and wondered what had happened to the handsome young man I used to be!
Although many of the changes we experience as we grow older are unavoidable and beyond our control, there are also plenty of times when we make deliberate choices and decisions to help facilitate positive change.
When the apostle Paul addresses this issue in the Bible, he tells us the transforming work that God wants to do in a person’s life doesn’t come without the Almighty’s help.
Paul writes in Philippians 1:6 that ‘God, who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion’.
I take great encouragement when I read those words because they remind me that not only is the Lord the instigator of change in my life, he is also keenly interested and involved in my day-by-day on-going personal development.
Elsewhere in the New Testament, in Romans 8:29, we’re told the template for any change we experience is Jesus himself. “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning,” writes Paul. “He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.”
The purpose of the alterations God wants to do in me is so that, in the way I speak and behave, I might more closely resemble the character of his son Jesus.
Of course, although the Bible tells me that God is the architect of any transforming work done in my life, I am not a passive bystander.
I need to be committed to seeing the changes I believe God wants to bring about, come to fruition.
In part, this involves self-examination, which can often be a rather painful and time-consuming experience, reflecting day by day on how I’ve spoken to and treated the different people I’ve come face to face with, and how I’ve coped in and responded to the varied, sometimes unexpected circumstances I’ve encountered.
Thankfully, those words of Paul are a helpful reminder to me that, although my ‘foot in mouth’ moments may have been plentiful, God will not easily give up on me.
His work of change in me, so that I might look and sound more like Jesus today and tomorrow than I did yesterday, is no quick fix.
Instead, it’s a life-long commitment.
I’ll leave the last word to that old Greek guy, Heraclitus, who astutely observed that ‘Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character’.