by Tom Brown
are inevitable. To be successful and flourish you must embrace and work
with the transition God brings into your life. Transition involves
change. The change might be moving to a different city, joining a new
church, getting a new job, being newly married, receiving a promotion,
starting a new business, going into the mission field, being pregnant,
attending a new school or anything that brings change from your normal
We are naturally creatures of routine. We like the way things are and it
upsets us when change takes place. Change wakes us up. It makes us
realize that we must change the way we are living. God is into change. Not the change of morals, but the
change of living out our lives. God never wants us to get comfortable.
He shakes us up out of our lethargy. Like a mother eagle who slowly
dismantles the nest so her eaglets will have to fly on their own, God
dismantles our comfort zone so we are forced to change.
"And we, who with unveiled faces all
reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with
ever-increasing glory" (2 Cor 3:18). While we, indeed, reflect the
Lord's glory, God is not satisfied with the same reflection. He wants us
to be "transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory."
God uses transitions to accomplish this.
Transitions in the Bible
Israel had to go through a transition
from slavery to freedom. They often struggled with their new-found
freedom, so God gave them laws to remind them that freedom includes
responsibility. Prior to their emancipation, Egypt dictated their lives.
She told the Israelites when to get up, where and how long to work, and
what their pay would be. Now Israel was no longer slaves but free
people. They had to adjust to their new way of life. But in the
beginning they failed. They complained: "We remember the fish we ate
in Egypt at no cost — also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and
garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but
this manna!" (Num 11:5-6).
Like them, we often complain about the
changes in our lives. We prefer the other city we used to live in. This
change can either shape you into becoming more like Jesus, or you can,
like Israel, complain about where you live.
Israel then went from the wilderness
into the promise land. Even this positive change brought about more
responsibility. For one thing the manna from heaven stopped. They were
now going to have to till their own land.
Then Israel went from being ruled by
prophets and judges to being ruled by kings. This brought changes to the
people as well.
Then they went from being ruled by the
kings of Israel to being captive and ruled by secular kings. This
brought transition again, and a new set of conduct and how to live the
Jewish life in a secular nation. How does one enact the Mosaic law while
still being bound the laws of Babylon, Persia and Greece? Do you see the
changes the Jews had to make?
Of course, the greatest transition was
going from the Old Covenant made on Mount Sinai to the New Covenant made
on Mount Calvary. Many Jews did not and still have not made that
Genesis 12:1 says, "The Lord had
said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's
household and go to the land I will show you." Abram made the
transition. He left his entire family to go to the land God would show
him. The only apparent mistake is "Lot went with him" (v 4).
Abram's nephew, Lot, became a great stumbling block to him.
Like Abram, we often cling to the old.
We bring some of our old ways to our journey, and so the old can become
a stumbling block.
It might be a widow who marries again,
only to keep her decease husband within the marriage. The new husband
can't seem to find his place because his wife will not accept his
individuality. She always keeps comparing him to the old husband.
It might be someone starting a new
business, only to bring the old job with its old ways into the business.
While, certainly, there may be worthwhile things to bring to the new
business, one cannot be stuck in the old. He must be willing to make
changes where changes are better.
Some bachelors who get married often do
not leave their bachelor ways behind them. Face it, when you get
married, you cannot go where you want without considering your wife.
Some cannot make this transition, so the marriage often does not work.
An African pastor moved to Europe
hoping to plant a successful church. He asked me how he could reach the
native Europeans, not just the Africans who moved there. I told him he
would have to transition his African culture into a more European
culture. This would include starting services on time, playing music
that Europeans might enjoy and shortening the services. There would be
no way he would reach the native Europeans without this transition. But
transition is hard.
What transition are you going through
in which you are trying to bring "Lot" into the new journey? Leave him
home. Learn to make the transition.
Although Abram made the mistake in taking Lot, he was wise in building
altars: "The Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I
will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had
appeared to him" (Gen 12:7). He not only built an altar, but he did
it again when traveling further. "From there he went on toward the
hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and
Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the
name of the Lord" (v 8).
In our transition, we need to have
something firm to stand on, because the nature of transition is change.
So we need something that does not change when we make transitions. The
altar represented God and His dwelling. In our changes we need to be
firmly fixed on God and His Church. So no matter what changes takes
place in your life, make sure you have an altar.
In the new city you live, be part of a
If you went through tragic changes like
the death of a loved one or divorce, make sure you get firmly planted in
a church. I have seen many people who experienced these sad changes
without the support of the church, and they often go the wrong direction
instead of moving forward. This might mean they get stuck in their
grief. They live in unforgiveness. They often become desperate and
remarry the wrong person. These things happen when we do not get our
feet planted in the church. Abram made sure he built altars wherever he
went. Do the same.
Open for Surprises
"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or
tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on
business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen
tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little
while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's
will, we will live and do this or that'" (James 4:13-15). This
scripture used to be problematic to me when I was a new believer. I
believed in planning, so I thought James was discouraging planning. But
he was not.
He encouraged planning, but simply with
a condition that God can interrupt our plans. He says that we should
say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
We should plan to live here or there and do this or that. However, we
should always adjust our plans to any changes God may make. This is
what is meant by the phrase, "If it is the Lord's will."
It may not be God's will for you to go
here or there. He may want you to stay. On the other hand, he may not
want you to stay but to go here or there. In other words, God has the
final say so as to His will for your life. This means you must be open
to unexpected changes.
In these changes, you cannot be
disappointed. The word "disappointment" comes from two words, "dis" mean
"not" and "appointment." To be disappointed means you feel like you are
not at your appointed destiny. You think the change took you away from
your appointment. But God's surprises is never meant to take you away
from your appointment but to bring you into your appointment.
This is hard to accept when the change
seems so negative. It's easy to accept the changes when they involve
promotion and new baby, but when they involve the death of a loved one,
divorce or loss of a job, you can easily conclude that your best days
are behind you. But they are not. The best days are still ahead,
provided you avoid the pitfalls of complaining about life. You must be
grateful to where God has brought you. Recognize that you are simply
entering a time of transition.
Taking Moses' Place
How would you like to be the leader to take over Moses' position? That
is big shoes to fill. So what is God's word to Joshua? "After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord,
the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: 'Moses my servant is
dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan
River into the land I am about to give to them — to the Israelites"
(Josh 1:1-2). God's first words is "Moses my servant is dead."
Wasn't that obvious? But there is something penetrating in those words.
God is telling Joshua not to try to replace Moses. Don't try to act like
him. Be yourself.
And surprisingly, Joshua accomplishes
something that Moses failed to do—that was to bring Israel into
the Promise Land. Who would have thought that the successor to the great
prophet, Moses, would accomplish such a feat!?
I think of Joel Osteen. After the death
of his father, John, he took over the church. People were writing the
obituary, not just of John Osteen, but of his church. Experts predicted
the demise of Lakewood Church. No one expected Joel, who had no
ministerial experience, to succeed. Like Joshua, he defeated the odds.
Yet not everyone has been so successful
at transition. I have studied churches that were taken over by the
founder's sons, and the ones that do not succeed have things in common:
Sometimes the founding pastor is still alive.
Remember, Joshua did not take over until Moses had died. In the
case of some churches, while the father is still alive, the son tries his best for
forge ahead, but the members of the church do not understand why the father
has retired and left the church to his son. They want the founding
pastor to keep preaching so long as he has breath and is healthy enough
to preach. When the father tries to install his son while he is still
alive and healthy, the transition often does not work. I call this
premature transitions. Transition is good, but make sure it is done in
Sometimes the son tries to imitate his father.
Another mistake is when the son tries
to preach like his father. His style is just like daddy's. The trouble
is, people will compare the son's style to the father's, and rarely is
the imitation as good as the original. It is important to forge a new
road and be your own person. This makes transitions successful.
If you look at pastors like Andy
Stanley and Ed Young, Jr. you will notice how different they are from
their fathers. Their church looks different. Their preaching style is
different. While their fathers are still alive, they were wise in
building their own churches rather than waiting to take over their
The lesson we learn from Joshua and
today's emerging leaders is they forge a new road and become their own
person. You must learn to do this as well.
Judah, after being without Solomon's temple for 70 years,
finally began the restoration of the temple. The foundation was laid.
What happens next tells a lot about the psyche of the older people: "But
many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the
former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple
being laid, while many others shouted for joy" (Ezra 3:12). The
young people had nothing to compare the new temple, so they were very
joyful. But the older priests remembered the Old Temple, and to them,
this temple did not compare with the old. They preferred Solomon's
The prophet, Haggai, understands their
frustration, but encourages them: "'Who of you is left who saw this
house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem
to you like nothing?...The glory of this present house will be greater
than the glory of the former house,' says the Lord Almighty. 'And in
this place I will grant peace,' declares the Lord Almighty" (Hag
It is easy to compare your past glory
with the present. Some of you who have been Christians for years think
the praise and worship music in the 80s were better than today's
Christian music. Others still think all the electronics in the church—with
big screens, internet access in church—is of the devil.
Look, do not get tricked into thinking
the past is better. While we can certainly learn from the past and
respect those leaders in the past, we must move on to great glory.
This is true, not just of the church,
but of every aspect of your life. Whether it is now being single after
your marriage ended, or starting a new job, or going to a new school, do
not compare the new with the old. Instead, recognize the new is where
God has you. Learn to accept the new and adjust to the new life and new
changes taking place. As you do, what was said of Abram leaving his
family will be said of you: "I will make you into a great nation and
I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a
blessing" Gen 12:2).
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