AHA: God Moments That Can Change Our Lives
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
CBN.com - Awakening. Honesty. Action. These aren’t exactly the first three words you think of when you are having an “Ah-a” moment. A more likely scenario is one of a sudden revelation about something that surprises you. But here's the rub. Rarely do you do anything about it. You revel in the moment and move on.
But what if I said these moments could take you on a life-changing adventure toward being the person God intended you to be?
Drawing from the lives of the prodigal son and King David, author/pastor Kyle Idleman believes that a process of awakening to a negative aspect in our lives, being honest about it, and then taking action can ultimately draw us closer to God and make our lives better.
I recently sat down with Kyle to discuss his latest book AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything (David C. Cook Publishing), what advice he has for people who seem to be missing these moments, and why every person has a little bit of the prodigal son in them.
Kyle, how would you define an “AHA” moment in relation to an individual’s faith?
An “AHA” moment is a moment when God gets our attention that leads to lasting change. As a pastor, one of the things I’ve had the opportunity to do over the last 15 or 20 years is just hear lots and lots of stories of transformation and life change. I started keeping track of these a few years back and really study on them, and one of the things I discovered is that though the stories can be radically different, there are common elements to every story of spiritual transformation, and so AHA (the book)is meant to capture those consistent elements, the different pieces that God uses to bring about change in our lives.
I realize that you can’t really plan for this type of thing but what are some basic ways that we can experience an “AHA” moment in our spiritual lives?
AHA stands for “awakening” “honesty” and “action.” The “awakening” moment is the moment where God gets our attention. He opens our eyes. I think a metaphor that accurately reflects that from scripture would be an alarm. There’s something that sounds and it gets our attention. The nature of an alarm is that it’s unpleasant. If it’s not unpleasant, we just keep sleeping. And so the Bible says sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. I think that’s often the case with AHA, that there is an awakening, but it tends to be in the midst of a difficult circumstance, a situation that we wouldn’t have chosen; but in that moment of more desperation, we’re more likely to be dependent on God, we’re more likely to see some things.
You have mentioned “awakening” but what about “honesty” and “action”? Could give you give me a couple of practical examples of how each one of those would work when we are having a crisis of faith?
“Honesty” is confession and repentance, but I think it’s helpful to think in terms of three spaces, that there is confession and repentance where we tell ourselves the truth about us; about who we are, about what our sin has cost us just practically speaking. So the idea here is that you look into the mirror, and you tell yourself the truth about yourself. It’s difficult to do, and yet for people who have done that and people who live that, it’s a very freeing way to live where you just are honest with yourself. The second part of honesty is when you tell God the truth about yourself. You tell Him what He already knows, but you acknowledge it; the word “repent” most simply defined is to acknowledge. And then, this is where most of us stop under honesty. Then there is "Action". We now must confess it to a brother or sister in Christ. You actually sit across the table and you voluntarily confess. You voluntarily confess that you dragged something that was in the dark into the light.
The book of James tells us that when we confess our sins, we’re healed. That there is a healing process that takes place when we do confess but it’s difficult to do, it’s a tough one.
I love the fact in your book that you spend a good amount of time on the story of the prodigal son. Most people know this story very well because it is so relatable on variety of different levels. Why is this young man so representative of the message that you’re trying to convey?
I had preached on the prodigal son many, many times, and it was in the midst of kind of keeping track of these stories of other people that I was preaching on, and I just saw these elements kind of jump off the page. The Bible talks about that he (the prodigal son) came to his senses which is just exactly the language of awakening, and then he said to himself, which is a moment of honesty when he tells himself the truth about what he’s done and his consequences. Then it says that he got up and went home. So here’s this moment of action and obedience. The prodigal son, in a sense, and I think perhaps this is the reason why that story is the most popular of the parables, is that every story fits in there, every spiritual life story of change fits into these themes and so you see yourself in it. I think that’s why it’s so compelling.
Do you think it’s fair to say that every person has had a prodigal son moment at some point in their lives?
I think it’s fair to say that everyone has or has needed to. I think what happens for a lot of us is that we have an awakening. There’s a moment where our eyes are opened, a moment of conviction, but we don’t necessarily let it lead us toward change. In fact, if you pay attention to how the idea of “AHA” is used secularly, it’s that. It’s just this moment of perspective where you see clearly, the question is where does that lead, and does it lead to repentance, and does it lead to change? Not always, but most everyone has had an awakening. I don’t know that everyone has been honest and has done something about it.
What advice do you have for people who have tried and tried to change certain areas of their lives, and for whatever reason they’ve failed at it?
I think for any number of stories there can be any number of sticking points. I think the most common place that we get stuck or that we skip what I would call the “brokenness” part of honesty, that there’s no tears. We’ve failed to really count the cost of our lack of changing, and the people I know that kind of push past what got them stuck, they have a point where there is genuine brokenness. As a pastor, I’ll ask people who are in the process of transformation and change, have you cried about it? There’s that brokenness, so I think that’s more often than not where people need to go back and revisit. I do realize that each story can have a different sticky place.
What’s the best way to capitalize on an “AHA” moment when you have one, or have gone through the process of awakening, honesty, and action?
I think that Luke 15 is a great example of this. It’s interesting dramatically in that passage. Luke 15:17-20 is kind of all one breath. It’s a run-on sentence. He came to his senses, he told himself the truth and so he got up. It’s just one movement, and I think that’s really important, that when you have an awakening moment, you repent. You don’t let your heart be hardened, because when there’s conviction, when there’s an awakening it’s an invitation to align our lives with our hearts, and the longer we go without aligning our lives to our hearts, the harder our hearts tend to become, and so I think the sooner we act on it, the more likely it is to take.
As an author, after people read AHA what do you want them to take away from the experience?
My prayer for this book is that people would identify the ways that God is at work in their lives to make them more like Jesus. The idea of the sanctification process that we are a work in progress. And for Christians who read this book, God is trying to get your attention and honesty, and repentance and confessions should still be a part of your spiritual journey. If you haven’t confessed your sin to someone recently, it’s not because you don’t have a sin to confess. We need these things in our lives. I hope that the action of reading this book would not just be an information download, but that it would actually lead to doing something.
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