Zechariah 4:6 (New International Version)
“So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.’”
The LORD’s message to Zerubbabel through the prophet is a fitting reminder of how meaningful, lasting change is accomplished in the kingdom. Zerubbabel was Israel’s civic leader of the day. As every leader who came before and after him, Zerubbabel faced the daunting task of leading a people who didn’t always want to obey God’s directives.
Moreover, Zerubbabel was a man – a mere mortal being. Like any human being, he had weaknesses and moments of doubt. Undoubtedly he faced times of frustration – not only with the nation he lead, but with himself, and more than likely with God.
The popular serenity prayer petitions God for “the serenity to accept the things [we] cannot change, the courage to change the things [we] can and the wisdom to know the difference.” For those things and people we cannot change, but who warrant it, Zechariah takes us one step further by explaining that God alone makes lasting, meaningful change.
So what does this mean for you and me and the people in our lives? My best guess is that it means our spouses, significant others, children, friends, siblings, parents, in-laws, bosses, co-workers, clients, fellow citizens and anyone else we meet, will at times insist on behaving in a way that drives us nuts, wounds us deeply, or destroys their souls. Whether the behavior is sinful, self-destructive, self-sabotaging, or simply annoying, we have no power to change it. Sure, we can modify it through promises, threats, manipulation,punishment, abuse, warnings, or rewards, but until a person recognizes a need for change and possesses the desire to change, only then can change become a possibility. And even with the cooperation of the will and the emotions, repeated failure and perpetual recommitment is the best human will power can manage. Only the Holy Spirit can touch and permanently change a heart. So whether you have loved ones like mine who battle with promiscuity, additions, pride, anger, or some other behavior that leads them away from God, know that all behavioral issues are heart issues first. And God’s got that part covered. So let him do his work, while you do yours.
God taking care of the heart leaves us free to love others, even when they hurt us, themselves, or just get on our nerves. The burden of “fixing” others (as if we even know what they really need) is not ours to bear. It is God’s responsibility alone. We must depend on God to show us what healthy love for the people in our lives looks like and then depend on him to help us to give it and live it.
So if you find yourself as I have so many times (including just this morning) reciting the familiar internal mantra, “If he would just…,” I encourage you to pray for that walking “thorn in your side” and leave the DIY improvements on that personality up to God. He really does know what he’s doing.
Be blessed Family!