“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2
You know the guy. You’ve seen him in movies and on television since you were a kid. He’s a staple of stories you know by heart, an archetypical figure. You might even know some people in real life who fit the description, and there are dozens of words and turns of phrase out there to describe them. “Hustler,” in the States. “Chancer” in Britain (or “wide boy,” if you live in the east end of London). Cheerfully bending (and occasionally breaking) the rules in search of a quick payoff. He’s always after easy money, the kind of person who’ll enter a high stakes poker game without quite enough cash to cover himself.
All the hustlers and chancers in the world have something in common, whether they’re pool sharks, gamblers, con men, petty thieves or get-rich-quick schemers. Their outlook is always outwardly optimistic and engaging, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to make new friends. But slip beneath the bonhomie, the hearty handshake, and what you’re left with is someone who’s made cynicism and negativity into a lifestyle. They’re after a quick fix, an easy answer to the perennial problem of how to make it in the big, bad world. Paring down their outgoings and dependents; welshing on debts and cutting off ties; always looking for the score that’ll set them for life, or at least until the next big score.
It’s easy to say that these people on the fringes of society aren’t really a part of it, but really it’s an attitude that’s prevalent all across the world. Lotteries exist in every country in the developed world because people believe that their situation can magically improve if they’re just lucky enough. We live in a culture that encourages people to think that there’s a pot of gold just over the rainbow—forgetting that the pot of gold is actually a metaphor for delusional avarice. And we’re supposed to grab these opportunities as soon as we can, or risk losing them entirely. The “quick fix” culture tells us to seize what we want, when we want it. Just look at the baying crowds and nasty fights that occur on Black Friday at the end of November every year.
The thing is, everyone knows deep down that things worked for, saved for and planned for are more rewarding. It’s a truism that comes hand in hand with the word “deserve,” which literally stems from the Latin meaning “to serve well, or zealously.” It’s an entitlement because of hard work and perseverance. Without the hard work…well, what do you deserve? Easy money? A vastly improved lifestyle? What exactly is the reward supposed to be rewarding? There’s a lack of responsibility that comes with receiving something you haven’t earned, and in turn, a lack of value placed upon that windfall.
The same is true of revelation. It’s not hard to help people to envision a better future, one involving blessing and favor. After all, no matter how content we appear or portray ourselves, we’d all like to think that things will improve, that our lives are on an upward trajectory. The problems often come when we’re asked to achieve something to allow us to receive something.
People don’t tend to take well to the imposition of change—it can be frustrating when, as far as we’re concerned, we may not need to change at all. Generally speaking, we’re not good at taking criticism on board, even constructive criticism that we’ve actually asked for. The kneejerk reaction tends to be twofold: “You’re wrong. Get lost.” But proper, lasting change should always come with a work metric. Even a caterpillar in chrysalis has to form the hard pupa beneath its skin before it can slowly transform into a butterfly. It all takes time, and work, but the results are always worthwhile.
There’s always an element of pain involved in change, even when the change will be for the better. A new and better job will mean leaving your comfort zone in the old one, and may mean relocating, leaving friends and familiar places behind. Starting a family will require you to put down roots, to take responsibility for how you spend your money and your time. For this reason, we often put off change, to try to put off the hard work that comes along with it. And when we receive revelation, we then often step forward gladly in the promise of blessing that it brings, and with our other foot casually try to sweep the change that is required under the rug. It simply doesn’t work that way—that’s not ministry, that’s magic. God doesn’t do magic tricks.
Part of the incredible nature of the Kingdom is the knowledge that God is always there for us—that He can be relied upon 100%. He is completely honest with us at all times, and that brings us a guaranteed outcome: when He promises a thing, and everything is done to achieve what is promised, the promise will be fulfilled. This being the case, any change requested of us by the Father to bring about that fulfillment of promise must, by definition, be the best thing for us. Just as when we request constructive criticism in the world, we should not arbitrarily dismiss it when it arrives, it makes no sense to turn our backs upon the change incorporated into revelation when we’re the ones that have requested it.
Genesis 12 sees Abram made promises by God, but qualified with consideration of the tasks ahead to see those promises brought to fruition. He was to be the father of many, and the father of great blessing, in his own lifetime and far beyond, with a name that would ring throughout history:
“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
To receive this blessing, Abram had to leave almost all of his family behind, along with his own cultures and customs, probably even the language that he spoke. But more than that, this was about security—giving up security born in the world, and embracing the security to be found in the promise of God.
Abram went to Canaan gladly. Today, as Abraham, he is known as the father of many nations, and the father of faith, giving his name to all of the major faiths that emerged from that area of the world. This astonishing blessing came about because he had the faith and the heart for God to step forward in the security of God’s word, knowing it to be inviolate: to bring himself and his immediate family into a state of transition and flux, knowing that the reward would be worth the pain.
When God breaks through in power, we must follow through in process, in transition. The fact is that the church is full of people who have been touched but never changed. The key element behind transition, behind leaping from one paradigm to another, is in the mind. We are tasked with renewal: a simple emotional response to revelation is not enough. Revolution must come alongside it.
If we have not changed, then we have not learned. Without a significant adjustment in the way that we think, that emotional response to revelation will lessen every time. It’s the law of diminishing returns—without stepping forward, we’ll begin to step back, and the inevitable outcome to that is the very negativity that revelation was brought into our lives to change. It’s cynicism, pessimism, a world-weary bitterness. Wearied by the world.
We cannot step into the new and keep one foot in the old. It isn’t possible—they’re just too far apart. We must make the leap, and leave the old behind. Ask yourself about the new experiences that are in your life, the revelation that you have burning within you. What are you being asked to do? Do you have a plan, a way of preparing to achieve what you’ve been promised? Because revelation requires a revolution within you, within your heart and your self, to bring the Kingdom to you and to those around you.