5 Sources of True Change

The difficulties that we experience necessitate grace by awakening a true sense of weakness and need.

God works on us in the midst of trouble because trouble catches our attention. Difficulties make us need him. Faith has to sink roots, as profession deepens into reality. Martin Luther called tentatio— affliction, trial, difficulty, struggle—the “touchstone” of Christian experience. He said that hardships were his greatest teacher because they made Scripture and prayer come alive.


  1. God himself changes you.

This is foundational to all. “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

He intervenes in your life, turning you from suicidal self-will to the kingdom of life. He raises you in Christ when you are dead in trespasses and sins. He restores hearing when you are deaf (you could not hear him otherwise). He gives sight when you are blind (you could not see him otherwise). He is immediately and personally present, a life-creating voice, a strong and strengthening hand.

All good fruit in our lives comes by the Holy Spirit’s working on scene. Jesus said it was better if he went away, because the Holy Spirit would come (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit continues to do the things that Jesus does—continually adding to the number of books that could be written. The stories I tell are not just about what has happened to me and what I’ve done. They are about what Jesus Christ has done as he goes about saving and sanctifying me through all my days.

  1. The Word of truth changes you.

“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Ps. 19:7)

God communicates messages to us— many messages. Scripture speaks with a true voice into a world churning with false voices. Scripture reveals innumerable features of God’s person, purposes, will, promises, and actions. Scripture clarifies every facet of human experience. I come to know myself truly as I live before the eyes of the One whose opinion matters. It is no accident that Scripture appears in each of the stories I have told.

Of course Scripture and God work in harmony. In fact, all five dimensions are complementary—and all ultimately depend on the hand of God. One lovely expression of the interplay between the Word of God and the God of the Word occurs in Romans 15. Paul first points out how Scripture changes us: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:3).

A few sentences later, Paul asks God himself to change us, to give us the very things that his Word calls for and calls forth: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13). In Scripture, God comes in person. We participate by hearing and responding.

  1. Wise people change you.

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Prov. 13:20).

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