Six Principles for Lasting Change

By: Rick Warren

It’s no secret that people look to make changes in their lives at the beginning of the year. It’s a time when people get back into fitness, get their finances under control, and get serious about their spiritual lives.

But too often these changes don’t stick. As a church leader, you’ve likely seen it many times before. You’ve probably even experienced it yourself, knowing that lasting change isn’t possible without going back to the operating manual of our lives—God’s Word.

Romans 12:1-11 gives us six important principles for making a lasting change in our lives.

We must commit our bodies to God. 

No matter what kind of change we want to make in our lives—mental, physical, financial, spiritual, or social—it will require energy. The reason we don’t change is because we have no energy. The truth is, sometimes we’re just too tired to change. That’s why change must start with our bodies.

Everything you do for God in this life, you’ll do in your body. In fact, God says to offer your body to him. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1 NIV).

And how can we offer our bodies to God in worship?

  • By cleansing our bodies. We need to detox our bodies from contaminants that come through our mouths (food and drinks) and toxins that come through our eyes and minds (negative things we watch and listen to).
  • By caring for our bodies. We can care for our bodies by getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep.

We must refocus our mind. 

Whatever gets your attention gets you. Paul writes in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (NIV). Don’t focus on what’s bad for you; focus on what’s good.

Choosing not to conform means to stop copying everyone else. Too often, we let other people shape our lives. Paul says we need a model, but it’s not the world around us.

Only one person can perfectly model the changes we want to make in our lives—Jesus. Twenty times in the Bible, Jesus says, “Follow me.” And six times Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.

We don’t need to be a better version of ourselves. We need radical transformation. Only Jesus can show us how to do that.

We must humbly assess our current state. 

We can’t really know the changes we want to make until we clearly understand where we’re at right now. If we were asking a friend for directions to their house, we’d always start with our current location.

But we need to assess ourselves humbly and honestly, because the first and greatest obstacle to change is pride. Nobody has it all together. Nothing works perfectly on this planet. To change, we must admit we have a problem.

The Bible says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3 NIV).

Be realistic as you think about your current state. Then look at the change that God wants to do in your life through faith. A limited faith means a limited future.

We need group support.

We’ll never make all the changes we want or need to make on our own. God wired us to need one another. The phrase “one another” is found in the New Testament 58 times. It says to love one another, serve one another, pray for one another, and so on.

The Bible describes how our nature is connected in Romans 12:4-5: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (NIV).

God’s Word says that each of us “belongs to all the others.” We need each other. We change faster, better, and permanently through community.

We must fill our lives with love. 

Love can change the unchangeable. It’s the most powerful force in the entire universe because God is love. Love heals, uplifts, strengthens, energizes, and empowers. Love is stronger than discouragement, depression, and even death.

Romans 12:9-10 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (NIV). To make lasting change, you need this kind of love in your life. You need people who are “devoted” to you in love.

We must nurture our enthusiasm. 

It’s important to maintain your enthusiasm over the long haul. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm.” I’ve found that to be true. You need passion to make it across the finish line.

You’ve probably noticed how enthusiastic people become when they’re starting something new. On January 1, everyone is excited about the new diet or a new Bible reading plan. It’s easy to be excited for the first week or two.

But then we get distracted. We lose our excitement, and our desire to change fizzles. Paul writes, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11 NIV).

Positive thinking won’t help you maintain enthusiasm. Only God can give you the gut-level enthusiasm that keeps you going when the economy sours, when your marriage is struggling, or when you get a discouraging medical diagnosis.

When you trust in God’s plan, you can be enthusiastic about making lasting change no matter what you face this year.

This year, as you consider the big and small changes you want to make in your life, don’t settle for fleeting changes.

Pursue lasting change for yourself and those you lead.

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About the Author
Rick Warren
Purpose Driven is a framework to help you structure your church around the purposes of God. These stories aim to inspire and better equip leaders, make disciples, and help transform the world.
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