Four reasons why you should be thankful for the changes God brings into your life.

If there is anything that is constant in this life, it is life’s inconstancy. Change and decay are ever-present realities. Whether it’s children growing up, fortunes made and lost, job relocations, aging parents, friends growing more distant, your favorite restaurant closing, the death of a spouse – we live in a world that is mutable. The Scriptures declare that the earth and the heavens “will perish…and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing God will change them and they will be changed” (Psalm 102:26). Change is hard. It’s painful. So why does God ordain it for us?

Moses Drury Hoge pastored Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, for nearly fifty-four years, from 1845-1898; it was the only church he ever pastored. In a sermon on Hebrews 1:10-12, Hoge shows “that the very fluctuations of our present state of being, that what we call the accidents that befall men; that the crosses and disappointments which are so common, as well as the blessings that fill the heart with gratitude and joy – these are so many instrumentalities by which God shapes and moulds human character, and by which he teaches men how so to use this present life as to be prepared for life eternal.”

What are “the ethics of change, the moral uses of vicissitudes”? Hoge gives four ways that God uses change in our lives, four reasons why we can be thankful that change is a reality for us.

1. “[One] answer is that God has placed us in the midst of these perturbations to keep our life from becoming stagnant. If there was no change we would all become imbecile. I say if there was no change in the intellectual world, men would, by and by, drivel into impotence. Change is necessary to stir up and quicken and freshen life, just as thunder and storm are necessary to purify the sultry, stifling air. If it were not for these vicissitudes there would be no intellectual and no spiritual development. Change is God’s benediction to humanity. No man knows what he can do until he is put in a new situation that calls forth his energies. No man knows the resources that slumber within himself until the exigency comes that wakes them into efficiency. So God puts adversity and prosperity in the world to balance each other and to discipline and develop what is best in man.”

2. “Another reason why we are placed in such a world of change is to keep us from presuming on the future. You remember the description that one of evangelists gives us of the world’s fool of the first magnitude – the greatest fool whose biography has been written – who said, ‘Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, eat, drink and be merry,’ as if the soul could be nourished by what grows in the vineyard and the field. The foot uttered a soliloquy, but there were two voices. It was a dialogue; another speaker broke in and said, ‘This night,’ not in some future year, but ‘this night, thy soul shall be required of thee.'”

3. “Again, life’s changes teach us to avoid the perils of both prosperity and adversity. Do you know the danger of too much success, of a life of uninterrupted prosperity? You say, selfishness and indifference to the interests and happiness of others. It is all that, but another danger of too much prosperity is discontent…The danger of adversity is doubt – doubt of God’s providence, and finally a denial that there is any providence – until at last the person says, ‘I am no worse than other people, but God seems to think so. he afflicts me, and I do not have anything but trouble. I doubt whether there is any providence at all.'”

4. “When we come to inquire into the moral uses of vicissitudes, and what is the grand purpose for which God has placed us in a world of such mutation, we can give briefly, in closing, this answer: it is that we may fix our thoughts and hopes upon something that is both permanent and satisfying…Experience and revelation unite in teaching that the soul must have some foundation on which to build and rest secure, which is not subject to mutation; something as enduring as its own immortality, and as satisfying as its capacities for happiness. But this it cannot find either in the material or intellectual creations of men – not in the noblest or most enduring of them; it cannot find it in human love, however pure and constant; it cannot find it in wealth or fame or power; it cannot find it in nature, whose well-ordered harmonies seem sweet and unvarying as the song of the morning stars. Where, then, is the foundation on which the deathless soul may erect its immortal hopes and find its eternal rest and peace and blessedness? The answer comes, all else must change and pass away, ‘but thou remainest.’ God is the soul’s infinite necessity, the soul’s eternal satisfaction. He alone is immutable…One way, then, by which the soul learns to know God is through its own great necessities which he alone can satisfy.”

(from “The Changing World and the Unchanging God,” by Moses Drury Hoge, in Southern Presbyterian Pulpit, 24ff.)

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2 responses to this post.

  1. What a great article. I especially like number 4. We people search for so many things to try to satisfy our deepest longings, when all along what we really and truly need is to know God. Thank you for posting this!

    Reply

  2. Posted by calebcangelosi on April 13, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    You’re welcome, Ed, and amen to your comments. These remarks resonated with my soul; it was good to know as well that our brothers and sisters in the 19th century were hearing this meat! I love the line from “Jesus, I am Resting, Resting,” – “And Thy love, so pure, so changeless, Satisfies my heart; Satisfies its deepest longings, Meets supplies its every need…”

    Reply

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