When you got involved in ministry, you weren’t given a pass that gets you out of difficulties. You know this. Like anyone else, pastors have habits they struggle to let go of.
Some of those self-defeating habits were actually survival tactics when you were a kid. They helped you cope with trauma when you didn’t know how to fight back.
Eventually, these patterns become old friends. You know now that they aren’t good for you, but you’re accustomed to them and identify them as part of you.
But you don’t need to be a slave to those patterns. You can change them—but it won’t be easy. While you can change anything for a day or a week, lasting change requires something more. The Bible gives four principles for lasting change. Do what God’s Word says, and you can make even the hardest changes in your life.
- Learn and face the truth. It’s painful to face the truth about ourselves, so we would rather stay deluded. The truth is, we’re all broken. We’re all imperfect. That includes you and me. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (CSB).
You can’t change anything until you recognize you have a problem. Behind every self-defeating defect is a lie you’re believing. Facing the truth is the most loving action you can take toward yourself.
The Bible says, “Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head” (Ephesians 4:15 CEV).
If you love God, love yourself, and love others, you will face the truth about yourself.
- Think differently. The battle for change happens in your mind: “Your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better” (Ephesians 4:23 TLB).
Feelings are a response to what you think. Those feelings lead to actions. But it doesn’t work to just choose to feel differently or act differently. You must go to the root of the problem—your thoughts.
The Bible calls this repentance, which literally means “to change your mind.” In Philippians 2:5, Paul tells us what change our minds need. He tells us to “think the same way that Christ Jesus thought” (CEV).
When you think God’s thoughts and see yourself as Jesus sees you, you’ll begin to see your defects in a different light.
Often, your defects are attempts to meet a legitimate need in your life. Everyone needs to feel respected. Everyone needs to be loved. Everyone needs to feel safe. But the problem comes when we try to meet the need outside of our relationship with God. Instead, we need to think differently about the need.
- Get help from others. You can’t get well on your own. Pastor, some problems are so big you need help to tackle them. It’s like the big football player barreling toward the end zone. It’ll take more than one person to tackle what’s ailing you.
That’s why Ephesians 4:25 teaches, “‘Let each of us speak the truth to his neighbor,’ for we belong to one another” (NCV).
You can’t become without belonging. You can’t become what God wants you to be without getting connected to a group of believers.
Small groups can be tough for pastors. Surveys show that lots of pastors don’t have anyone they can truly be honest with.
But if you’re serious about making changes to your life, you’ll need to face your fear and be gut-level honest with a couple of people. You don’t need everyone to know what you’re working on inside of you, but you need a few people. The moment you tell one person, you get instant power you never had in any other way. All of a sudden, you open the closet and the boogie man is not as big as you once thought.
- Lean on the Holy Spirit. You can’t make important changes in your life through your own energy. Only God can make those changes. He describes it this way in Zechariah 4:6: “You won’t ⸤succeed⸥ by might or by power, but by my Spirit” (GWT). Willpower isn’t enough to make the changes you want to make in your life. You can’t transform yourself to be more like Christ any more than you can turn yourself into a tiger or a leopard.
But over the course of your life with Christ, the Bible says, the Holy Spirit will make you more like Jesus: “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 TLB).
There are no shortcuts for the changes God wants to make in your life. But you can know that God will be faithful to finish what he has started in you (Philippians 1:6).
I don’t know what area of your life you want to see God do something new in, but I pray 2024 is the year you begin to make those changes.