Why Is Spiritual Change Hard?

So, you hear a good speaker or read a good book about spiritual formation–and you want to change. You are emotionally charged up and determined. This is going to be good, right?

Six-months later, you are pretty much the same person you were before the speech or the book–not much changed, other than perhaps you are more discouraged than ever.

This is not something that a published author of books, who really enjoys writing, and who really wants you to buy his books, would want to admit, right?

Well actually, I gladly admit it. Whether or not I sell a lot of books or not really will not mean a lot in the end.

But on the other hand, our world needs the people of God to be who he intends them to be. And he intends them to be “transformed by the renewing of [their] minds” (Rom. 12:2) and thus, I would rather just tell you God’s plan for his church rather than my plan for being a “successful” author.

While you may, if you are disciplined, read one of my books and be dramatically changed by it–it is far more likely that you will change because you read the book, and took part in what Jesus modeled when he walked the earth.

The Rabbi-Disciple Model

Maybe it seems strange to read the Bible and see Jesus walk up to some young guys and say “follow me,” and they do?

But understand that it was a common thing in the day for a teen-aged young man to attach himself to a rabbi, to walk alongside him, submit to his teachings, and thus grow spiritually.

While you can probably tell if you read my books or blogs, or hear me speak, that I am a big proponent of reading, church-teaching, and seminars–I will also just be honest with you and share that even though my motivation to change often comes from reading a book–the most significant change in my own spiritual walk occurred after reading the Scripture or a spiritual book and also sharing my desire to change with a more mature believer–what you could call a “rabbi.”

In other words, whether in my spiritual walk, my military career as a pilot, or in any other endeavor in life–certain mentors took an interest in me (or I asked them to coach me because of my respect in them) and they did.

Through this rabbi (which means teacher) and disciple (which means learner) relationship, I was held accountable and was able to get traction in the process of change.

It is nothing magical, it just makes sense.

We are relational creatures and we do better when we work with someone to help us grow.

But it does require some humility.

Admitting I Need Help

Are you able, do you have the humble spirit, to admit that you do not know everything? If not, well, that is indicative of a spiritual problem.

Truthfully, as I share in my book Superhero: Being Who God Says You Are, most of us are not particularly good at thinking to begin with.  Based on the lifetime of research by Daniel Kahneman in his landmark book Thinking Fast and Slow, I share how Kahneman and his research partner discovered that even for those in thinking professions (i.e., philosophers) even they do not actually think much at all.

While I do recommend you read Kahneman’s book, one antidote to our own tendency to not think well is to associate with those whose thinking and manner of life we respect.

In other words, if you want to more effectively engage in spiritual formation–seek out coaching/mentoring from someone who is spiritually mature.

But how exactly might this “look?”

An Un-Hacking Rabbi?

So yeah, I am an un-hacking rabbi.

I’ve worked for years researching the impact of electronic devices, drugs, isolation, food and other dopamine stimulators in hacking humans. I’ve developed plans and courses on how to defeat these things and regain control of your life.

While I do speaking engagements in which I share these protocols/programs and some disciplined people work their way through them successfully–for a lot of people who intensely desire to conquer these forms of slavery want personal help, encouragement, and accountability.

I’ve become a bit more formal with this because I realized that it is just me doing what Jesus did when he was on earth. He was face-to-face and side-by-side with a limited number of and he taught, encouraged, prodded, rebuked, and just generally walked alongside them in order to help them become who he knew they could be.

How it looks? I usually ask someone, or they ask me, if they want to meet together for awhile to align themselves with the rhythms of shalom that God intended for us to engage. I lay out a proposed time (at least 12 weeks) and we will meet in a coffee shop or even on the phone/or on Zoom and talk. I give some homework assignments each week, and the following week we review how the changes and growth are going.

It is powerful.

It is the methodology Jesus used, just walking side-by-side through life and showing, coaching, and giving feedback in order to help someone become who they were meant to be.

Jesus and his disciples embraced this concept.

And the world was changed.

The Personal Nature of Our Creator

Part of the beauty of what our Maker has done is that he has always done more than just leave us with some words. The Bible is not a “self-help” book.

Thank God for that!

In John 15 the Messiah shares with his learners that indeed, unless they (and by extension, we) plug ourselves into him so tightly that we in effect are a branch attached to a grape vine. He clarifies that in this relationally attached condition that we could “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Jn. 15:7)

As if that were not enough, just two verses earlier he clearly stated that if we did not “abide in him” (i.e., the branch stays attached to the vine) then we could do nothing. 

Of a truth, as we abide in Jesus, he just works his power through us–totally mystical, totally wonderful.

Jesus is just say, “You need me.”

Frankly, is this not the truth? So often when we in isolation decide we are going to change our lives, 6 months downrange it usually amounts to nothing.

Choosing a Vine

There is a strong mystical component of choosing to dwell in Yeshua the Messiah. Jesus in his conversation with the great teacher Nicodemus makes it very clear that what Nicodemus, in spite of his great knowledge about God, needed to get in touch with was the “wind”-like nature of the Holy Spirit.

It’s hard work, but so worth it.

But if you need help, our loving Lord, I have found, will put willing rabbis in your life.

One Last Challenge on Becoming a Disciple

This can be scary in an age of image-preservation. Our societal norm has become that of carefully cultivating a social-media image and protecting it.

You will never be able to achieve significant spiritual change if your primary concern is any image other than the image of our amazing God, and you desire his power to flow through you to the world in love.

And so, choose your rabbis carefully, and then learn to trust God and others with who you truly are. It is only through brutally sharing our fears, weaknesses, and sins that we can ever become who God intends us to be.

Humility, that’s the ticket.

[Header image by Bignai/Shutterstock]



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