One of the most difficult things for human beings to do is to change.
That’s not to say that people don’t want to change. Just look around. How many people do you know who are dissatisfied with something in their lives? How many people do you know want to change things like their weight, their hair color, their jobs?
Even beyond those types of things, how many people do you know who want to change something substantive in their lives, like developing a better attitude or spending more quality time with their loved ones?
To find meaningful change in our lives we need God to direct us, so we can walk through life with purpose.
Even with the best of intentions, change eludes us. That’s because when it comes to true, positive, lasting change, the only real path forward is God and His purpose for our lives.
Here’s the amazing part, though: If you’re reading and understanding this, God is inviting you to change your life in incredible ways!
How do we get on with making those changes? The apostle Paul wrote an entire section of Scripture about three essential elements to true, lasting spiritual change.
These three things will help us start changing our lives. Now is the time that God has given you and me to find a new direction in life and begin to follow Him!
Walk circumspectly—watch where you’re going!
The first step toward meaningful change in life is this: We must walk circumspectly. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15 Ephesians 5:15See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
American King James Version×, “See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” Or, to paraphrase: “Don’t meander. Don’t just drift around. Don’t aimlessly walk through life.” He says we have to walk with purpose.
“Circumspectly” isn’t a word we use often, so it can be hard to grasp what Paul was saying. The Greek word here is an accounting term referring to precision and careful counting. It’s all about making sure that we walk—we live—with precise and calculated movements.
Walking is something commonly done every day. It’s a metaphor here, as throughout Scripture, for our manner of life—how we live. Considering the analogy, let’s switch our perspective a bit. Have you ever tried walking or moving about in the dark? It’s not easy, is it? There are pitfalls and dangers when you can’t see where you’re going.
Now think about the world we live in today in spiritual terms. This is a dark world. Paul is warning us here that we can’t walk aimlessly in this dark world. We have to pay attention and stay focused on what we’re doing!
A little earlier in this section, in Ephesians 5:8 Ephesians 5:8For you were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
American King James Version×, Paul writes, “Once you were in darkness.” Before God starts to work with us and open our minds to His truth and His way of life, it’s our natural state to walk in darkness. Paul completes the thought in this verse by telling us to “walk as children of light” (emphasis added throughout).
So we need to ask ourselves a big question: Am I still just meandering around, stumbling in darkness? Or am I walking with wisdom as a child of the light?
How to walk as children of light
So how do we walk as children of light? We do that by having purpose and direction in our lives and making sure that God’s purpose and direction become our purpose and direction. When we learn to “walk circumspectly,” we see that this relates to our everyday habits and actions. It’s about how we live life.
Proverbs 14:15 Proverbs 14:15The simple believes every word: but the prudent man looks well to his going.
American King James Version×speaks to this idea. It says, “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps” (New International Version).
In other words, when you’re ready to change your life and live according to the way God wants you to go, when you’re ready to completely surrender to Him and begin living according to His instructions and laws as spelled out in the Bible, you’re going to consider very carefully where you’re going and how and where you step. Until God starts working with us, we’re not concerned with where and the way we’re walking. Those God is calling, however, must live and walk with purpose and precision.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God tells us where we need to get our direction in life: “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.
American King James Version×). He’s telling us that if we count on our own thinking, our own reasoning, our own logic, we’re going to be in trouble. That’s why we so often see sincere efforts to change fail—they leave God out of the picture. If you’re serious about change, you have to make God the center and goal of the process. You have to believe Him and start doing what He says!
In summary, the first step in starting to change our lives is to walk circumspectly—that is, live with purpose and allow God to direct our steps.
Redeem the time—spend your time wisely!
The apostle Paul follows up with a second essential requirement for making the big, important changes in life. He writes next in Ephesians 5 that Christians need to be focused on “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
American King James Version×).
When we look at the world around us and the trouble, heartache and tragedy we see, it would be hard to argue with Paul that “the days are evil.” It’s a simple fact of life that we live in an evil world. All you have to do is turn on the news and see all the terrible things that are going on.
But Paul isn’t just concerned with knowing that the world is evil. He points us to something we need to do. We need to realize that the time is now to make the big changes in life.
You know the old saying, “There’s no time like the present.” That’s so true. When it comes to making the big, important changes in life, we must not put it off. We can’t afford to wait. We need to “redeem the time.” But just what does that mean?
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says the Greek word translated “redeem” here can mean “to buy up” or, in context here, “to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good.” That’s an amazing concept, isn’t it? It’s incredible that we have the ability to make wise choices with our time and dedicate it to a sacred purpose.
Paul is saying that we have to give up the time spent on pointless pursuits to gain time for pursuing worthwhile and lasting goals. The point is to use our time wisely.
How many times have you felt like your time was taken up with all sorts of pursuits you didn’t even find worthwhile? So often life can turn into busywork and just marking things off our to-do lists. God says we have to buy our way out of that in a spiritual sense and start making better and more productive use of our time.
That’s not to say that we simply ignore all of the normal things in life that take up our time. We go to school, we hold down a job, we start and raise a family, we retire, we hope our health holds up, and eventually we die. That’s a normal life pattern. All of those things are natural, and most are good. But is there a way that we can live a normal life and make sure that we’re redeeming the time we have?
Is there a way to seize those opportunities and realize that now is the time to change our lives and follow and obey God fully? That’s what Paul is saying in Ephesians—we can live normal lives and still use the time we have wisely to honor God.
God is challenging us to grab every opportunity. He’s challenging us to use our time to make the big changes and use every opportunity to grow. We can use our time wisely as we build our families and as we rear our children to know and follow God’s way.
When we redeem the time, we make a commitment that we’re not going to give up on the precious time that we have to spend with God in prayer and Bible study. This needs to be an unalterable commitment. Often it means that we have to sacrifice in some areas. At times we have to say no to activities like watching TV or browsing the Internet. Those things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but we have to place God much higher on our list of priorities.
It’s so critical that we have a zeal and passion for using our time as wisely and as profitably as possible. When we get serious about changing our lives, we’re going to take responsibility and be accountable for what we do and how we spend our time. When we change to align our values with God’s values, we start redeeming our time and dedicating it to the sacred purpose of developing a close relationship with God. We should get excited about the idea of making every hour count and taking advantage of every opportunity!
To recap the second essential element to real change: Redeem the time! Give up things that waste your time and dedicate as much time as possible to your relationship with God. Don’t let it slip away with no direction or purpose!
Know the will of the Lord—understand your purpose!
Being serious about making the big changes happen doesn’t stop there. The apostle Paul gives us a third essential step to accomplishing God’s will for our lives.
Paul writes next in Ephesians 5:17 Ephesians 5:17Why be you not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
American King James Version×, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is”. He says that if we’re going to be serious about making changes in our lives, we need to understand God and understand what He wants for us.
I think it’s fair to say that “the will of the Lord” is like our roadmap for life. It’s what shows us how to navigate our way through life purposefully so that we’re not just groping about blindly. The will of the Lord tells us where we’re going and how to get there.
You wouldn’t take a big road trip without a map or GPS. Likewise we shouldn’t tackle our life’s journey without direction and guidance. Without the knowledge of God’s will, we’re without a map and without a guide.
Knowing God’s will isn’t about knowing what job God wants us to have or whom we should marry. It’s not about Him giving us an easy answer for every question or problem we have in life. Knowing God’s will is about something much bigger than that. It ultimately ties in with the very purpose of God for us individually and for all humanity.
When we truly understand the will of the Lord, our daily lives are going to change. Our overall outlook will be completely different when we know what God is doing with us and others. When we know the will of the Lord, we have instruction—a roadmap—for how to navigate through life.
Have you ever thought about what it must be like to navigate a minefield? It doesn’t seem like something you could do successfully without a lot of instruction and training.
The first thing on entering a minefield is to properly scope out the situation—or, put another way, think before you act. You have to look for signs of mines that are close by. One reason mines are so dangerous is that they’re hidden.
Isn’t that true of the spiritual dangers in life? They may not be obvious. After all, we’re told that Satan appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:4 2 Corinthians 11:4For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him.
American King James Version×). Something might look and feel right, but it might actually be a spiritual landmine. That’s why it’s so important to know God’s purpose and will—so that we can recognize what is good and what is not!
Just as entering a minefield without knowing what you’re getting into is dangerous, so trying to navigate life without the knowledge of God’s will and direction for your life is spiritually dangerous. If we’re not educated in God’s way, we’re much more likely to be at risk.
The third essential, then? Understand what God is doing in your life and what His incredible ultimate purpose is for you. You’re very special to God, and He wants you to understand that and be motivated by it.
Your wonderful future as God’s child
So we need to ask: What is God’s will? What is His purpose for our lives?
Let’s go back to the apostle Paul. He gives us a hint as to what the answer is earlier in Ephesians 3, writing about God’s “eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11 Ephesians 3:11According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
American King James Version×). That’s a big hint as to what God’s will and purpose for our lives is. It’s something that shows us how we should walk and why we should use our time wisely. God has an eternal purpose in mind for us.
Paul includes another big hint as to what the core of that purpose is in referring to God as the One “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15 Ephesians 3:15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
American King James Version×). The incredible and inspiring truth—and the big reason we need to make changes in life now—is that we have the amazing opportunity to be a part of God’s family.
Are you starting to see it? Are you starting to catch the vision of what God’s will for your life is? Are you starting to realize what His wonderful purpose is in your life? It’s so incredible and inspiring to know that God Himself wants you to be a part of His family—for all eternity!
Returning to Ephesians 3, Paul fills in the remaining blank: “. . . To know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 Ephesians 3:19And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
American King James Version×). God is calling you to understand His will and to recognize that His ultimate purpose is for you, me, and all humanity to be His divine children in His family for all eternity. You’re being called out of the darkness of this world to walk with purpose toward that goal.
Don’t wait—change your life starting today
Of course, knowing is one thing. Doing is another. So here’s the big question I want to ask you. It’s part of the core message of the Bible. Does knowing and understanding God’s purpose for you motivate you to change anything in your life?
Knowing your ultimate purpose and having God reveal His plan to you should change everything! It should change every step that you take. It should cause you to walk circumspectly, taking every step into consideration and living every day with that great purpose in mind.
It should change how you look at and use your time. That level of change requires allowing God to be Lord and Master over every aspect of your life. It means there aren’t any areas of life you hold back from God. It means you dedicate enough of your time to prayer and Bible study and not allow outside distractions to get in your way. It means you diligently study His Word to find out how He expects you to live, and then you do it.
Part of God’s intent as we walk His way of life is that we redeem the time that we find ourselves wasting and dedicate it instead to living according to God’s purpose.
When you understand God’s purpose for your life, it should give you a sense of urgency that motivates you to change—not later, not tomorrow, not sometime, but beginning right now. God doesn’t leave us powerless in this effort. He’s given us direction and a path to follow to reach our ultimate purpose.
And as we negotiate through life, if we watch our step and walk with purpose, avoid dangerous spiritual pitfalls, and allow God’s direction to guide us, we’ll be led down that right path. We’ll find our destination. We’ll live out His purpose.
But we must not wait to start. We need to be on that path right now. The time is now to make God the highest priority and to follow His way!
The time is now to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity God is offering you at this very moment. The time is now to change and make God’s purpose your purpose. Don’t put it off any longer. God is calling you to change your life—right now!