We’d had birth pains all day. By "we," I mean my wife, Suzette. I was a concerned onlooker. She woke up one morning with an opening and closing sensation in her back. At first we dismissed it as false labor pains, our baby crying "wolf." Doctors even have a name for it: Braxton Hicks contractions. But at 10:53 A.M., Suzette’s water broke. The water breaking meant this was not Braxton Hicks! This was the real thing! Suzette ran for the bathroom. I got on the phone and called her mom and mine. Then I got the car ready to take her to the hospital.
Economic Labor Pains
The world has been experiencing something like labor pains lately. We feel these pains in our wallets.
The nature of birth pains is that, as the time approaches for the baby to be born, they grow in intensity and come closer together. And look how fast things have changed! In March 2008, United States Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said, "I have great, great confidence in our capital markets and in our financial institutions. Our financial institutions, banks, and investment banks are strong. Our capital markets are resilient. They’re efficient. They’re flexible." Two months later, President Bush said, "Our policy in this administration—laws shouldn’t bail out lenders."
Yet in September, that same President Bush said that "we’re in a serious financial crisis," and by year’s end he had recommended—and Congress had voted—to bail out the very financial institutions that only a few months earlier Treasury Secretary Paulson had said were so strong!
What a difference a few months can make!
The speed at which the changes are happening makes your head spin. One morning, I watched the Dow plunge 400 points in the opening five minutes. Later in the day while President Bush spoke, the Dow fell another 200 points. While talking to Suzette on the phone, it was up 200 points and then back down. And all the while our national debt is climbing at a rate of $3 billion a day!
Is the world’s water about to break? What will happen in the next few months? Even if things settle down for a while, we know it will just be a pause between contractions. We will never be the same.
The world is in labor, but I fear that many Christians are still in Braxton Hicks mode. We’ve become such experts in Braxton Hicks false labor pains that we’ve gotten used to them. We’ve grown accustomed to the prophets crying "wolf."
There’s no doubt that change is coming to the world, but is change coming to Christians? Those of us living in Western society have found it acceptable to put our best energies into this world, and it’s easy to be in denial that the world really is passing away.
It’s time for a change.
The change we can believe in is not coming from Washington; it’s coming from heaven, but we can’t embrace heaven’s change until we’ve allowed Heaven to change us.
A Shaking Time
The Bible predicts that a shaking time is coming, when everything that can be shaken will be shaken. This won’t be just a shaking of the world and its institutions. It will be a personal shaking time for every Christian, when God will rock our world. In Hebrews 12:26, 27, God warns, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God with reverence and awe."
Notice, it’s the "created things" that will be shaken. The things of this world, such as human philosophies, human governments, human economies, and especially, mere human religion.
Christians are not exempt from this shaking. A religion of convenience is going to be shaken. A religion made up more of personal opinion instead of a "Thus saith the Lord" is going to be shaken. A religion where self is supreme is going to be shaken.
But what is it that cannot be shaken? Recreated things. Things that are not of human origin but that have their source in the Spirit. These are the things that comprise "a kingdom that cannot be shaken."
Jesus wants to shake up our attitudes, our diet, our wardrobe, our choice of entertainment, how we use our money, how we use our time, how we worship—everything about us. Jesus wants us to be born again. He wants to make us over into entirely new creatures.
God’s vision for change
Yes! This is the change we can believe in! This is God’s vision for change for you and me. Not the status quo. Not one foot in the world and one in the church. God wants to give us a new attitude, a new set of priorities—in short, He wants to make us into new creatures. God has a platform for change. It’s found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
This is change we can believe in. This is God’s bailout plan for our spiritual bankruptcy.
Of course, if we pray this way, we may have to change, and not everybody is on board for that. What too many of us want, deep down, is for our circumstances to change without us having to change along with them.
If God really answers our prayer for change, we might have to turn the dial on our TV set to different programs. We might have to pay more attention to our language. We might have to watch our tempers more carefully. We might have to spend our money differently. We might even have to dress differently and eat differently. While these changes may be difficult, Christians whose lives Jesus has transformed will want to make them and do their best to make them.
While I believe that Jesus is coming soon, knowing when He comes is not nearly as important as knowing Him. The when is not important to faithful servants because they will be doing their Master’s will regardless. They don’t need a deadline as a motivator for faithful service. Their motivator is love for God and for His people. For them, all life is a constant preparation for Jesus’ second coming.