September 27, 2017: The Constancy of God in a Changing World
When our daughters were little, Elena and I learned the “Videotape Principle.” This is the principle by which if we were to describe a set of events to the girls (such as “we are going to have breakfast, go to the park and then buy an ice cream cone”), in their imagination these events had already taken place and in precisely that order. It was as if they had already played the videotape of their day, complete with the brand of cereal they ate for breakfast, the games they played at the park and their favorite flavor of ice cream dripping down the cone. If we deviated from the tape — if we messed with their preferred future, they let us know!
Even though VHS tape is now consigned to a previous century, the principle is very much alive and, I confess, still functioning in my own heart! I once passed on a small, private dinner party with Meryl Streep. (I know!) We had not long been in the U.S. and finding the grocery store was enough adventure for me. The idea of traveling into New York City to meet a Hollywood icon... well, I was sure that I would say the wrong thing (“'Sophie’s Choice’… Do you think you made the right decision?” or “’Mamma Mia!’? Meryl, what were you thinking?”). So, much to my eternal regret, I passed up the opportunity because, frankly, it was not on my internal videotape!
I think we are creatures of habit. We warm to the comfort and familiarity that comes with amiable predictability. And so, Mary Shelley (the author who brought us the character of Frankenstein) could write, “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Yet even in a sea of change we can hold fast to the constancy of God’s love. Let me offer us three perspectives:
1. God never changes: There is One who never changes, One who stays the same. We are assured of this in Scripture: “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) and "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8). Doctrinally, this is referred to as the immutability of God. Our God is unchanging in His character, His will and His covenant promises. God's immutability also defines all of God's attributes. All His responses are rooted in a consistent character of love, mercy, wisdom and righteousness.
2. God’s Word never changes: Because God never changes, His Word never changes. All that He has said about Himself remains true forever. Everything He has told us about creation, about the fall and what’s wrong with the world, as well as the initiative that He has taken to save and redeem us will never change. No matter what anyone might say to the contrary, no matter who seeks to deny or defy God’s Word, it is and will always be immutably fixed. The Psalmist declared, “Forever, O LORD, Your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89). Jesus reassured His disciples of this, saying “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35).
And because His word never changes, His promises over our lives remain constant and true. Here are just a handful of immutable promises that we can lay hold of in a world of constant change.
- For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
- And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
- “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
3. God is always with us and for us: He would have you take confidence in these immutable promises:
- “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
- “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
The Lord is not only with us but His promise is to guide us. Of the Lord, the Psalmist wrote, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8). Solomon assured us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
When I was in seminary, I recall a day when my internal videotape was locked, loaded and ready to play. I had, I thought, just enough time to attend all my lectures and meet numerous essay deadlines. I had it all mapped out. And then I learned that I had been listed to assist at a local homeless shelter in the afternoon. I spent the worship time in Chapel that morning fretting about how this new event in my day was not on my videotape! I recall a friend leaning over and saying quietly in my ear, “Hey, Drew, you seem a little anxious. I have been praying for you. I believe the Lord is saying to you: just put up your sail, Drew, and let the wind of My Spirit empower and lead you through your day.” It was a simple image, but it completely transformed my outlook. Rather than my day feeling absurdly busy, it felt full of promise, opportunity and blessing.
It was a lesson I call to mind often. I can choose to be overwhelmed by change, however big or small it may seem, however fleeting or long-lasting it appears, or I can choose to put up my sail and allow the Holy Spirit to propel me across the waters of my day. It might not be the videotape that I had anticipated but I have found that it is always a much better movie when I let Him direct me!
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