Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” (Victor Hugo)
Change happens in everyone’s life. Sometimes our first reaction to change is fear. Sometimes our first reaction is to buckle down and resist. Sometimes we dive completely into change and sometimes run from it. How we ultimately decide to handle change determines our success or failure in life. Fortunately, we can decide to change how we handle change.
The best way I’ve personally found to handle change — both the change that comes whether I want it to or not and the change I take initiative to make — is to lean on that which does not change.
- God’s character does not change. (Malachi 3:6)
- Jesus Christ is always the same. (Hebrews 13:8)
- God’s word is eternal. (Matthew 24:35; Isaiah 40:8)
There are examples throughout the Bible that show me how to handle change by leaning on the unchanging God. Remembering them regularly helps me stay focused on him.
When Nehemiah was presented with an opportunity to bring about change, he could have simply ignored the internal tug. He could have continued as cup bearer to the king and lived a comfortable, safe life. He chose instead to lead change. Before he took any action, though, he anchored himself on the eternal God who never changes.
Nehemiah is often studied for his obvious leadership characteristics such as integrity, humbleness, courage, compassion, and focus. Nehemiah also provides a tremendous example of how to institute lasting change that endures through struggles.
Nehemiah traveled over 500 miles to lead change with a group of people who were stuck in brokenness for over a decade. He then motivates the people of Jerusalem to work toward significant and lasting change. Nehemiah’s example during this transformation gives several points to consider regarding how to institute lasting change in our own lives.
Keys to Lasting Change
Far more than just a city, Jerusalem represented an identity for the Jewish nation. The city and its wall told of the Jews connection (or lack of it) to God. When Nehemiah heard that the city walls and the people’s connection to God were in shambles, he chose to take action. God then used Nehemiah to transform His people.
Nehemiah’s approach to change, as directed by God through prayer, can teach us a tremendous amount about how to make change in our own lives.
- Stay organized. Nehemiah always had a plan in place, but he was also flexible as needed. Staying organized allows progress to continue even when chaos surrounds. In fact, reorganizing even when chaos seems in control can be extremely helpful.
- Be resourceful. Nehemiah asked the king for help, he asked the people and leaders of Jerusalem for help, and he found creative ways to continue the work even while opposition threatened. You’ll find resourcefulness present in the lives of all great leaders and heroes because change rarely happens in its absence.
- Persevere. Nehemiah had a plan, a specific purpose, and a steady persistence through difficulties, obstacles, and discouragement. He kept moving forward regardless of what the opposition said or did. He persevered because he was centered on God’s will.
- Be consistent. Nehemiah consistently prayed, stayed organized, and remained resourceful. Consistency shows reliable character, a necessary element for lasting change, and that’s the type of person others will follow through change.
- Be reliant. Above all, Nehemiah’s example shows the importance of relying on God. Nehemiah prayed regularly, even spending months praying and fasting before taking action. Because he relied on God, his approach to lasting change took hold in a powerful way.
Whether we are in need of complete rebuilding like the walls and people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time or we recognize the call of God in our hearts to institute change in some way, these keys provide a solid approach for managing that change. Most importantly, Nehemiah’s example of anchoring himself in an unchanging God provides the single most important key for change to truly endure.