The second tool God uses to change us is the Holy Spirit. When we commit ourselves to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to empower and direct us (Rom. 8:9 – 11). The Spirit of God gives us new strength and vitality and the desire and power to do what is right. As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.
Now, whatever you learn from this chapter, remember this above all else: God’s number one purpose in your life is to make you like Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make the child of God more like the Son of God. And what is Jesus like? His life on earth embodied the ninefold fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
God Uses Circumstances
God’s ideal way of changing us is to have us read the Bible to find out how we should live and then depend on his indwelling Spirit to enable us to do it. Unfortunately, most of us are stubborn, and we don’t change that easily. So God brings in a third tool to work on us — circumstances. Problems, pressures, heartaches, difficulties, and stress always get our attention. C. S. Lewis once said that “God whispers to us in our pleasure but He shouts to us in our pain.”
In the Phillips translation, Romans 8:28 – 29 reads, “To those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. God … chose them to bear the family likeness of his Son.” Nothing can come into the life of a believer without the heavenly Father’s permission; it must be “Father-filtered.”
The interesting thing about how God uses circumstances is that the source of the circumstances makes no difference to him. We often bring problems on ourselves by faulty decisions, bad judgments, and sins. At other times our problems are caused by other people. Sometimes the devil causes things to happen to us as he did to Job. But God says the source of the circumstance is irrelevant. “I will still use it in your life,” he says. “I will fit it into my pattern; I will fit it into my great plan for your life, to make you like Jesus Christ.” So there is no circumstance in life from which we cannot learn if we’ll just have the right attitude.
Proverbs 20:30 has some more good news: “Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.” Perhaps you have experienced the truth of this verse. Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. In other words, we are not as likely to change when we see the light as when we feel the heat! Why? Because we change only when the fear of change is exceeded by our pain.
I wear shoes for comfort, not for style. A few years ago I had a pair of black shoes that I wore almost every day for over a year. Eventually the soles got holes in them, but the shoes were so comfortable I continued to wear them. I wouldn’t cross my legs when sitting on a platform because I didn’t want people in the congregation to see the holes. I knew I needed to buy new shoes, but I kept putting it off. Then it rained for an entire week. After four days of soggy socks, I became motivated to change and bought some new shoes. The first step in change is usually discomfort!
God speaks to us through the Bible and by the promptings of his Holy Spirit, but if he can’t get our attention, he will also use circumstances. For example, the Bible says that we should be humble, and the Holy Spirit enables us to be humble. But if we don’t humble ourselves, he will use circumstances to humble us.
God can use every situation in our lives for our growth. That is his part. So what is our part?
Rick Warren, God’s Power to Change Your Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
We have just released a new Bible study on based on Rick Warren’s book God’s Power to Change Your Life.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #1
The Power to Change Your Life
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #2
God’s Part and My Part in Changing Me
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #3
God’s Power to Make You More Loving
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #4
God’s Power to Make You More Joyful
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #5
God’s Power to Give You Peace
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #6
God’s Power to Develop Your Patience
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #7
God’s Power to Develop Your Kindness
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #8
God’s Power to Develop Your Goodness
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #9
God’s Power to Develop Your Faithfulness
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #10
God’s Power to Develop Your Gentleness
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #11
God’s Power to Develop Your Self-control
God’s Power to Change Your Life, Lesson #12
A Productive Life