How to Make Turning to God a Lifestyle and Not An Event

Turning to God
3 qualities we can develop that keep us looking for God’s influence in our lives.
Listen to this devotional

Note:
This devotional is part of a series entitled “How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary: Lessons from the Book of Acts.”

When I was 17 years old, I was finally able to take my driver’s test behind the wheel of my mom’s station wagon.

I was so excited to finally get the chance to have the freedom that only comes from a driver’s license, so I paid very close attention to everything the evaluator said. 

As we were driving along, the evaluator told me to turn left. I did not realize that she meant farther down the road. I turned immediately, only to find myself driving the wrong way down a one-way street. That bold maneuver earned me an automatic fail. I had to wait six more months before testing again and finally getting my license.

Just as I had to decide when and where to turn my car, we make choices every day about what direction we will turn spiritually. We can choose to turn toward God or toward sin for our happiness, confidence, esteem, joy or meaning.  

The book of Acts teaches us that refreshment comes when we turn to God:

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.

Acts 3:19-20 NIV

As this Scripture says, true repentance (or change) includes turning to God. What does this mean?

If you look back on your life, you can probably see choices you made that were the spiritual equivalent of turning the wrong way on a one-way street. Maybe you made choices to turn to sins that had a painful impact on yourself or people you care about. 

We can’t go back in time to change the things we’ve done, but we can decide we need God’s help going forward to become a different person. This is what turning to God is about. 

When I first started studying the Bible, I began to see my sin for the first time. I started to realize that choices I made due to the sins of pride, deceit, and selfishness affected my friends and family negatively. 

I didn’t want to be that way anymore but I did not know if I could change on my own.  I was so grateful, relieved and inspired when I learned that when I turned to God, he would help me move forward. I would not be defined by past sins and mistakes and could become a different person. 

When we turn to God, he fills us up with things that not only satisfy, but are good for us.

He satisfies those who are thirsty. He fills those who are hungry with good things.

Psalm 107:9 ERV

When we choose to turn to God, he is able to give us everything we need for our life.

God’s power has given us everything we need to lead a godly life. All of this has come to us because we know the God who chose us. He chose us because of his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3 NIrV

I changed dramatically when I studied the Bible to become a Christian at age 18, because I turned to God. I turned to God by reading the Bible for the first time and was mesmerized by the truth and the power in the Bible.

I turned to God in prayer and saw God answer personal requests that I made, and was inspired that he would listen to me. I built spiritual relationships that I never thought possible because turning to God helped me trust like never before.

After being a Christian for 20+ years, my challenge is to keep turning and to not make turning to God an event that I do but rather a lifestyle I live. 

If you are feeling a similar struggle in how to continually turn back to God, this study will hopefully help you as it did me.  We are going to look at three qualities we can each build to help us live a lifestyle of turning to God.

Be moldable

So I went down to the potter’s house and found him working at his wheel. [4] Now and then there would be something wrong with the pot he was molding from the clay with his hands. So he would rework the clay into another kind of pot as he saw fit. [5] Then the LORD said to me, [6] “I, the LORD, say: ‘O nation of Israel, can I not deal with you as this potter deals with the clay? In my hands, you, O nation of Israel, are just like the clay in this potter’s hand.’

Jeremiah 18:3-6 NET

“Look at these people! They are arguing with the one who made them. Look at them argue with me. They are like pieces of clay from a broken pot. Clay does not say to the one molding it, ‘Man, what are you doing?’ Things that are made don’t have the power to question the one who makes them.

Isaiah 45:9 ERV

Just as these Scriptures highlight, God’s relationship with us involves us being moldable, like pliable clay that a potter could use. Being moldable means you let God guide you in who you become. The dictionary definition of “moldable” is “capable of being shaped, bent, or drawn out, as by hammering or pressure.”

In other words, when you are moldable, you are flexible and adaptable. If things aren’t going your way, you don’t get mad; you adjust.  

Being flexible and moldable helps us turn to God. God molds us to prepare us for something even greater than we are right now. The Bible talks about how God has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11-13), trains us (Hebrews 12:8) and has a vision for who we can become (John 14:11). When we believe these scriptures, it is easier to trust the process. It is okay that we are bent, that we have some kinks to work out, and that we aren’t perfect.  

In college, God was molding me for something that was beyond what I imagined. I went into UC Berkeley as an undeclared major, as many students do, and got inspired to be a cognitive science major.  

Turning to God as a lifestyle means that no matter what is going on in life, you allow yourself to be molded by God.

The combination and diversity of computer science, psychology and linguistics was so intriguing to me. But then I couldn’t pass one of my computer science classes. I tried twice and failed both times.  It didn’t help that I didn’t even own a computer and was at track practice for about 6 hours a day. During my second year at Cal, my GSI (Graduate Student Instructor) gave me back a midterm and said “You know, you should probably choose a different major.” 

I was so humiliated. But I decided I needed to redirect my goals fast. No problem, I thought, I can just major in psychology. I had some classes for it and worked through two more years of school to get into that major.  

In my fourth year, I went to the Psychology Department to get my major in order and found out that I didn’t get accepted into that major due to a low grade in one of the required biology classes. I panicked. I was a fourth year student without a major. But then I said a prayer asking God to show me what to do.  

I went to my advisor who told me that just that day there was an opening in the Social Welfare Department. I ended up loving social work. I went on to get my master’s degree in social welfare and learned to work and serve people as a social worker. It turned out God was molding me for a greater purpose, not just an intriguing degree.

Turning to God as a lifestyle means that no matter what is going on in life, you allow yourself to be molded by God. God can use imperfections, smooth out rough bumpy edges, and also make good plans better. 

When we are inflexible and don’t want to let God hammer out of us the pride, bitterness and deceit that we cling to, we end up angry and nitpicky about how God has been shaping our lives:

“There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant – ‘I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual’ – you wouldn’t be nitpicking like this. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he’s in charge.”

Matthew 12:6 MSG

God doesn’t want our relationship with him to be an inflexible ritual. He prefers us to have flexible hearts that respond to his Word and listen when he nudges us a certain direction that might be outside of our comfort zone.  

Here is a great example of the apostle Paul allowing God to make him moldable:

I’ve been broken, lost, depressed, oppressed, and weak that I might find favor and gain the weak. I’m flexible, adaptable, and able to do and be whatever is needed for all kinds of people so that in the end I can use every means at my disposal to offer them salvation.

– 1 Corinthians 9:22 Voice

Paul’s flexibility made him someone who turned to God and helped others do the same.  

Reflection questions

  • Are you flexible when things don’t go your way? How do you respond?
  • In what ways is God bringing you out of your comfort zone to iron out some of the rough patches in your life?
  • How can you use your newfound moldability or flexibility to help others?

Be changeable

I moved around a lot as a kid and my address and schools and friends changed a lot. But now, as an adult, we have been in the same apartment for almost 10 years. It  is foreign to me to stay in the same place for so long, so every once in a while, I feel the need to rearrange the furniture to feel like there has been some change.

But I don’t always have this attitude about changing my inner self. Turning to God means changing our insides and our old ways of thinking:

“As for me, I baptize you with water because of [your] repentance [that is, because you are willing to change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret your sin and live a changed life], but He (the Messiah) who is coming after me is mightier [more powerful, more noble] than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to remove [even as His slave]; He will baptize you [who truly repent] with the Holy Spirit and [you who remain unrepentant] with fire (judgment).

Matthew 3:11 AMP

The longer we are Christians, the more “old ways of thinking” we tend to have that need to change. We get stuck in rituals, habits and duties that seem well and good but often lack the heart and inspiration we had when we first believed. 

We have to take on all the reasons we have not changed up to this point in our lives if we are going to truly change. There are 3 main reasons I have seen in my life for why I do not change.

  1. Change Resistance – I just don’t want to change.
  2. Change Fatigue – I am tired of trying to change.
  3. Change Unbelief – I don’t believe I can change.

How do we battle these 3 change killers and become changeable?

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each one in accordance with his conduct,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent (change your way of thinking) and turn away from all your transgressions, so that sin may not become a stumbling block to you.

Ezekiel 18:30 AMP

First, be willing to change your mind. This is recognizing that God knows better and trusting the Bible over our thoughts and opinions.

Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God. And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, This most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. Who knows? Maybe he’ll do it now, maybe he’ll turn around and show pity. Maybe, when all’s said and done, there’ll be blessings full and robust for your GOD!

Joel 2:13 MSG

Second, we must be willing to change our life. Changing our life means coming back to God because of how kind and merciful he is. God is patient and wants to bless us. When we understand this about God, we are motivated to change and continually turn to him.

Reflection questions

  • Are you experiencing any of the change-killers? Which one and why?
  • Which do you have a harder time changing – your thoughts or your life? Why?
  • How can you decide to turn to God to help you become more changeable?

Be influenceable

What population is the most influenceable? Young people. The qualities Jesus says we need to have to enter the kingdom of heaven are the qualities of children. 

And said, Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all].

Matthew 18:3 AMPC

When we understand real change, we know we have to remain humble and desire to learn all the time. This can also be defined as being influenceable, which is when you allow others to have an effect on your character, development, or behavior. 

  • Trusting – If you have children or have ever cared for children, they look to you to take care of them and trust that you will do what is best for them.  
  • Lowly – Children aren’t too proud to ask for help or even beg! 
  • Loving and forgiving – Even children who have unloving parents can love and forgive them, despite how they are treated.  We like to say kids are resilient. God likes to say kids are loving and forgiving. 

Being coached in track has given me a lot of experience being influenced by others. As a young track athlete I looked up to Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a great American athlete in the heptathlon. 

I wanted to be like her. I cut out articles and pictures of her hurdling, and studied her form.  She was a hero of mine.  And who doesn’t want to be influenced by their heroes?  

Likewise, we need to let spiritual friends influence us to help us live a lifestyle of turning to God:

We comforted and encouraged you and challenged you to adopt a lifestyle worthy of God, who invites you into his kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 TPT

We need people that challenge us and encourage us to be better. Those who have sharpening relationships can more easily turn to God, especially if they surround themselves with those who love God and frequently turn to him. 

As one piece of iron sharpens another, so friends keep each other sharp.

Proverbs 27:17 ERV

We can keep each other sharp by challenging and encouraging each other to turn to God.

Reflection questions

  • Who do you allow to influence you? 
  • Do you get input from them about your life, your choices and your future?
  • Who do you influence? Do you influence them to turn to God or more to the world?

As I continue to see areas I need to change, it helps me to remember that turning to God is a lifestyle, not an event. Choosing to be moldable, changeable, and influenceable each day helps me stay close to God instead of drifting far from him.

We can all make the choice every day to turn to God to let him mold us and shape us. When we do, we’ll experience real change.  

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