"Dear Fr. Anthony, I was really moved by your message and began to really believe that through the power of the Resurrection I can change and can overcome my old habits. But it seems like every time I believe that and start to move in the right direction, I inevitably fall and end up even worse than when I started. How can I make a change that will last? Is it even possible for me?”
That’s one of the most common questions I get asked: can I really change? Is it really possible for me to overcome my bad habit? Will I ever be able to stop worrying? Is there really any hope that my life can be different?
It’s not that we don’t believe that it’s possible. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We believe 100% that it’s possible because we know that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37) and “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27) and of course, everyone’s favorite, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
We know the verses. We’ve heard the sermons. We’ve seen Jesus change the lives of so many other people around us.
SO WHY CAN’T WE CHANGE? That’s the million dollar question.
If the answer to this question were easy, then there wouldn’t be so many people asking it. The fact that I hear this question so often encourages me because it makes me realize that I’m not alone (and neither are you).
I’m not the only one who struggles to maintain the promises that I keep making to God and to myself. I’m not the only one who says “I will never ever ever do ______ again” and then find that before the sun has come up, I’ve fallen three times (see Luke 22:54-62).
It’s not just me is it?
Of course not! And it’s not just you either! We’re all in the same boat here and we all struggle to turn short-term change into long-term change…good intentions into lasting results. We struggle to hold on to the life that we so desperately desire to have but can’t seem to ever achieve.
So what do we do? How do we solve this dilemma? Is there even a solution at all?
Yes and no. NO, there is no magic button that you can push that can make it easy to change your life. If there was, that button would be worn out from all the people fighting in line to push it!
But YES there is hope. There is something that we can do to help us inch closer to that change that we’re aiming for.
What? What is it? Pray for 6 hours at a time? Read 15 chapters from the Bible every day? Sell everything I have and live in the wilderness and sing "Kumbaya" while eating only locusts and wild honey?
Nope. The answer is much simpler. It might actually be HARDER, but nonetheless, it’s still much SIMPLER.
The answer is that we must BELIEVE. We must believe that Jesus truly is risen from the dead and has granted us new life. We must believe that the promises of the Bible apply to me just as much as they do to anyone else. We must believe that by the power of the Risen Christ, who by death defeated death once and for all, that I CAN CHANGE!
St. Paul says it this way in Romans 6:4:
“just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Look at the Apostle Peter. He first became a disciple of the Lord early in Jesus’ ministry (see Luke 5:1-11). Peter was a down-on-his-luck fisherman in need of a break. Jesus gave him that break and Peter realized that Jesus was something special so he “forsook all and followed Him.” In other words, he gave up his fishing business and began following Jesus full-time.
But despite having nothing but the best of intentions, Peter ended up denying Jesus just before the Lord was put to death (even though Jesus warned him this would happen). I can only imagine how he felt afterwards.
“How could I do something like that?” “What was I thinking?” “I’m such an idiot!” “There’s no chance that I could ever change.”
Maybe you’ve heard some of those same thoughts before. I know I have.
And you can see the fruit of Peter’s self-doubt in John 21 (after Christ’s death and resurrection now) when we find that Peter has gone back to fishing. He figured that he’ll never really amount to much as a disciple and so he might as well go back to fishing.
But then he met Jesus and Jesus changed all that. Jesus forgave Peter. Jesus restored Peter. And most importantly, Jesus believed in Peter and CONVINCED PETER TO BELIEVE IN HIMSELF.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. …And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
By means of the Resurrection, Peter (and all of us) had a chance to walk in newness of life. But the problem was that Peter didn’t believe it. He probably believed that the Resurrection meant new life for just about everyone except himself (sound familiar again?).
But after Jesus restored Peter’s faith in himself and his belief that the Resurrection applied to Peter particularly and individually, that was all it took! Peter never looked back. He lived a new life of boldness and courage that probably shocked everyone who knew him before – INCLUDING HIMSELF!
Why? What changed? What was different? Simple. He believed. And we know that “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)