What It Means to Live a Transformed Life


“Addiction to approval.”

A jolt went through me as I stared at the phrase on the page of the Joyce Meyer devotional in front of me. I had never heard of that term and even questioned that God was truly speaking to me. I prayed for confirmation and understanding, and shortly after, I opened the devotional and saw the same words stamped on the page.

Stepping Away From Addiction

After I left my job in teaching, I began to get nudges to contact some people from my past. Memories came up of past wrongs that I had never dealt with, and I felt that I was to go and do something about these wrongs.

I felt led to send a letter to a manager I had at my first job as a teenager for taking some candy from beneath the counter. God nudged me to contact my teaching job and let them know that I had been haphazard in my collection of money for vocabulary books — and there was a field trip sum still left in my desk that I was afraid to turn in (because I had let the time pass when it needed to be turned in). In addition, I felt that I was to tell them that I hadn’t been a Christian example as a teacher.

I had laughed at inappropriate moments in the classroom and cultivated the worship of my students — including my male students. I prided myself on drawing professional boundaries and never had inappropriate contact with students. However, I had a flirtatious demeanor around the males in my classroom and workplace. In the process of taking these hard steps, God gave me the phrase “Addiction to approval” by first giving me the thought one day that I was addicted to approval and then showing me this phrase once again in a devotional.

After praying and doing a little more research, I found out Meyer wrote a book on the very topic, and I went and read her book. In reading her book, I discovered I compensated for deep feelings of unworthiness by pleasing others and gaining others’ approval. I learned that many of the wrong choices I had made as a teenager and a young twenty-something teacher had a common denominator: I wanted to please people and based my sense of worth on others’ positive reactions to me.

In the case of the candy I had taken from a manager, I did that when an older co-worker suggested it. I had no intention before that of taking anything from the manager, but I did it to look cool, and also, because I had a hard time saying no. At my teaching job, I was afraid to admit to my department head how unorganized I was when it came to collecting vocabulary fees and field trip funds. In an effort to look like I had it all together, I didn’t admit to her when I let my book-keeping slide and had some slips for money I couldn’t account for and a sum of money for a field trip from years back that had been in my desk for several years. In the case of my classes, I was flattered by others’ attention and felt good about myself when others paid attention to me and seemed to approve of me. Though it is not wrong to want others to like us, the desire for approval had certainly taken over my life in that I was doing what others wanted, rather than what God wanted.

God taught me the problem I was dealing with not merely by giving me a phrase and leading me to read Meyer’s book. Each nudge of His that I followed led me to eventually discover what He wanted me to learn. I had to give up habits I didn’t even know I had. In exchange, I began to change and be transformed into a different person that didn’t need to rely on unhealthy behaviors to get me through my life.

Living a Transformed Life

Our inner man, as the Apostle Paul says, is ever being renewed as we walk with Him. As 2 Corinthians 4:16 says: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” What that means is that as believers we are on a journey with Jesus to be changed day by day. Each of his promptings to us are an invitation to partner with Him as He uses us to change the lives of others, but also be changed ourselves.

At the end of Revelation 3, the church of Laodicea receives an invitation from Jesus for renewal and restoration. While the passage comes across like a harsh rebuke — and it is that — the message is also an invitation to the church to leave behind their complacency and self-sufficiency. At one time they had been zealous for the Lord, but that enthusiasm had cooled and been replaced by self-satisfaction and empty fulfilment found in wealth and worldly comforts. To this Jesus says in verses 15-20:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

The church of Laodicea is identified as “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Jesus counsels them to “buy” from Him what they need: gold refined in the fire, white clothes, and eye salve. What He offered couldn’t be found anywhere else. They had everything they needed physically, and yet, the world could not give them what their spirits desperately needed. What can we learn from the church?

1. What we need to live a transformed life can only be found in Jesus.

We do not do the work of salvation. We don’t do the work of sanctification — in transforming ourselves from the inside out into a new creation — Jesus works in us. However, we do participate in the process of our renewal. We do as Jesus says and He changes us.

With Jesus’ use of the term “buy,” the idea given is that even though we don’t use money, a transaction does take place when we walk with Jesus. In the process of becoming more like Him and growing spiritually, we continually exchange and give up something in return for change in our lives.

In his commentary of the passage, S. Martin in The Biblical Illustrator says this: “The word ‘buy’ here does not mean to give an equivalent, but to ‘part’ with this self-sufficiency, and to part with it for something valuable.” What might this exchange look like? It varies in every situation, but Jesus will identify to us in particular seasons what we need to give up or let go of in order to see needed change in our lives. This isn’t about trying to somehow earn God’s favor or be good enough for Him, but simply yielding to Him in our lives.

In Lysa Terkeurst’s study What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, Terkeurst describes how she went to a conference and was inspired afterwards to pray a prayer declaring to God that she wanted to be radically obedient.

Almost immediately after Terkeurst prayed, God told her to sell her house and give up TV. She clarifies that not all Christians need to do this, but for her, this is the road God pointed her down. Television had become a way to comfort and relax her after a long day, and God pointed out that she was filling herself up with the world’s views at night when she was “vulnerable and empty.” God wanted to fill her with Himself. In addition, she and her husband had spent a lot of time fixing up their home to get it just the way they wanted it. God pointed out to Terkeurst that she and her husband were looking to her house, a temporal structure, to fulfill them.

For Terkeurst, at this juncture in her spiritual life, she knew that God wanted her to let go of these attachments. This wasn’t easy, but Terkeurst wanted to be obedient, so she gave up TV and put the steps in motion to sell her house. After she stopped watching her shows, she found that she had clearer thinking and didn’t miss them. In addition, after reluctantly putting up her home for sale, her house did not sell! God let her keep her house. He just wanted to test her devotion to Him.

Philippians 2:13 tells us to “continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” This verse tells us how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to grow spiritually. I love the way Rick Warren explains this verse in The Purpose Driven Life:

This verse shows the two parts of spiritual growth: ‘work out’ and ‘work in.’ The ‘work out’ is your responsibility and the ‘work in’ is God’s role. Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between you and the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit works with us, not just in us. This verse written to believers, is not about how to be saved, but how to grow. It does not say ‘work for’ your salvation, because you can’t add anything to what Jesus already did. During a physical ‘workout,’ you exercise to develop your body, not to get a body.

In other words, Warren explains that “working out our salvation” is not working for our salvation after we come to Christ because, as He says, we can’t add anything to what Christ has done. Rather, “working out our salvation” is growing in Christ after we are saved.

Jesus changes us and molds us into His image. We don’t do that part, but when we do what He tells us and give up certain thoughts, behaviors, habits, and idols we are clinging to, He, in exchange, transforms us in the process and makes us into His own image.

2. Some of us are attempting to live a transformed life without Jesus.

My pastor said something the other day that struck me: Some of us are trying to live the Christian life without Jesus. Doesn’t that sound absurd? We get the idea in the passage that even after we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we can shut Him out of our hearts. Verse 20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” I don’t mean by shutting Him out that we lose our salvation, but we live without a dependence on Him. Our flesh continually fights for control against the Spirit of God.

My 3-year-old frequently struggles against me and insists, “I do it.” She wants to do things for herself that she isn’t capable of doing, but she won’t let me help her at times — even though she can’t do every task for herself. And we do the same with God. We leave Him outside of the door and ignore His promptings at times. But the passage tells us that Jesus longs to come in and eat with us — and He calls to us at the door of our hearts. It is only in continually allowing Him to come in that we can be changed.


Not one of the actions I described in my own journey of freedom from an addiction was easy. Would I have ever chosen willingly to do what He asked? Of course not. But in exchange for giving up my pride and wrong habits — I gained freedom from bondage. I exchanged shame for clean robes. I learned how to conduct myself as a godly woman secure in her identify (and I am still learning). I would not have been able to see the reasons for my behavior and pattern of people pleasing if Jesus hadn’t pointed it out to me. The truth is — we all drift and mess up. We need Jesus to help us sort out the tangled messes we make and extract us from the rubble.

As Revelation 3 suggests, Jesus is in the business of rescue and renewal. We get so much more than we could have hoped for when we walk with Him. But sometimes, we don’t recognize His invitations. We brush off the nudges because we doubt we heard right. We wonder how what He is telling us has anything to do with the problem weighing us down spiritually. And yet, when we listen and follow His nudges, we are transformed. Yet the path there often looks different than we wanted or imagined.

Laodicea didn’t even know they had a problem or what do to do about it, but Jesus did. He says at the end of His message to the church: “Whoever has ears, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” In other words, the entire church would hear this message, but to “hear” meant there would only be some who would truly heed His message.

Continually, in our spiritual life, we will face a choice — to yield to what God wants to do in us and trust He knows best or go our own way. When we choose God’s way, we find healing, restoration, godliness in exchange for our sin and the ability to truly see from a spiritual perspective. We can allow Him to work on us today and every day — knowing that a transformed life is one that happens when we willingly yield and participate in the process of what God wants to do in our lives.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode as we wrap up this series and dive deeper into the concept of Jesus as a reliable and trustworthy physician — capable of diagnosing any problem we’re going through and giving us the solution for whatever problem we face.

Related Resources:

Are you tired of fighting a battle that doesn’t seem to quit and feel tempted to let up on your vigilance when it comes to keeping the faith? Join us for a brand new series “Holding Fast to Our Faith in Troubled Times.” The series draws lessons from Jesus’ messages to churches in Revelation 3 and will encourage you in those places where you feel despair and a lack of hope; help to revitalize the vitality in your relationship with God; and reveal steps, if needed, to help get you on the right track again.

Check out Part 1: “Stopping the Drift Into Spiritual Apathy,” Part 2: “Heeding God’s Warnings in Our Spiritual Life,”   Part 3: “The Work That Pleases God,” and Part 4: “Maintaining a Firm Faith in Difficult Circumstances” to get a better understanding of what spiritual apathy is and how to guard against the drift in your life.

Still confused about sanctification and how we are made into Christ’s image in the Christian walk? Check out this article from Crosswalk.com: “Justification and Sanctification: What Do They Mean & What Does the Bible Teach about Them?”

*Updated October 16, 2019.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

When Jesus Asks You to Go Into a Storm

When Jesus Asks You to Go Into A Storm

A few weeks ago, I listened to a sermon that dug into the marrow of my soul. The sermon was about the storms of life that come up suddenly — like sudden squalls on a calm lake.

The sermon made an impression on me not only because it was a compelling talk and gave a slightly different take on the story of the disciples on the sea, but because it touched off a little warning signal in my spirit. I felt a whisper all around me. Something is coming.

Though I am a firm advocate of looking for good and not projecting bad in the future, I also know that sometimes God warns us of things to come. I felt that He was giving me an oh-so-subtle heads up. I buckled down in prayer. I braced myself in spirit for the phone call, the conflict, the problem to emerge.

But, as so often happens with God, I got the slow dawning realization that perhaps the storm was one that I was going to have to walk into on my accord. A hurricane wasn’t necessarily going to brew up outside my control and leave me in the middle without a choice (as has often happened). I was going to have to choose to walk into it and trust Him to meet me in it and get me through it.

As I have shared many times on my blog, I have been through some healing these past few years — and the end result had been peace. I had set boundaries in relationships that had never been set before. I had made amends and apologies. I had experienced great gains in sifting through emotional baggage and negative unresolved emotions that had built up.

But in a way that is His own, God showed me that I was in danger of falling back into some of my old people-pleasing patterns. I had backed away from some confrontations, had remained silent when I should have spoken up. God was prompting me not to lose the lessons He had taught me, but to keep walking head-long into difficult conversations and initiate tough calls as He led me.

To stop hiding and being cowardly about facing people. To walk in the power of His Holy Spirit and not backtrack into avoidance and escapism when He directed me to places that were difficult.

Jesus Directs His Disciples Into a Storm

As the pastor pointed out in the sermon on the disciples, in John 6:16-21 Jesus directed the disciples onto the lake knowing that there was going to be a storm:

When evening came, his disciples went down into the sea, got into the boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

What is interesting to note here is that Jesus sent the disciples into the boat without Him. He left to go and pray. We must know that there are some decisions we will have to make. He will direct us — but we ourselves are the ones who must choose to walk in that way. He won’t force us.

And — even when we do our duty and listen to Christ’s command, we will find ourselves in adverse circumstances, afraid. Many of us assume that doing the will of God will lead us away from difficulty rather than towards it. But as we see in this Scripture, the disciples’ obedience led them straight into a squall.

However, just at the right moment, when the storm was reaching a fever pitch and tossing the disciples about — Jesus came to them, walking on the water, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid” (v. 20).

As commentator Matthew Henry notes, Jesus walking on the water revealed His complete command over the situation. He walks above our trouble and circumstances and can teach us to do the same. However, as the accounts in Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:49 relate, the disciples were afraid when they first saw Jesus because they didn’t recognize Him at first. Jesus, to them, looked like some sort of apparition. In the darkness and the winds, they couldn’t make out His face.

And perhaps we don’t recognize Jesus in our circumstance at first either.

It was only when Jesus spoke that they recognized His voice and invited them into the boat. Again, just as they chose to go into the boat at His command, they also chose to welcome Him into their boat in the midst of the storm.

And it was only then that they “immediately” (as the passage says) reached the other side. Was Jesus being merciless, then, by sending them ahead of Him into the boat into the storm? No, not at all. Sometimes, the only way to get to the other side is through an incident than around it.

My self-protective tendencies make me want to always look for the easy way, the way where no one gets offended, no one gets upset and no one gets their feathers ruffled.

But that’s not always the way Jesus would have me go.

Did He send His disciples to die in the middle of the lake? Did He send His disciples to a place He couldn’t see or control?

No, He sent them into a storm that He would meet them in the center in, even though it looked, by all appearances, that He would be sitting this one out.

Is God Asking You to Walk Into a Storm?

Perhaps God is asking you to do something hard. Confess a wrong to someone else. Confront a friend about a sin. Set a boundary in a relationship where the other person has freely walked all over you for years. Say no to a situation that is tempting you to act in ways you know you shouldn’t.

But to do so may mean a storm. It may mean a loss of a relationship. It may mean people mocking you for your beliefs. And you tell God you don’t want to go. You want to stay on the shore.

I want to as well, friend. But I know I have to go. So the Holy Spirit and I have been sifting through relationships. I have been consulting Him about what to say, which direction to go. And one by one, as I seek Him and seek His Word, I am launching out in actions that will continue to provide the boundaries around me in relationships, that will help me navigate those in a healthy way with His strategies rather than my own.

Is it easy, friend? No, it’s not. His way never is.

But is it life-changing. Life infusing? Spirit-dependent living? Yes it is.

I urge you — take His invitation. Step out. Leave behind the safe dock and embrace the winds — because it is in the storm where He will meet you.

If you would like to join in for a chat about emotional healing and maintaining that healing after you’ve walked through it, I will be talking more about that as well as the inspiration for this post. You can subscribe for free to our live video chat this Monday, August 7 @ 9 p.m. EST, watch the replay, or leave a comment below.


Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

More Posts

How I Gave up My Need to Perform for Approval

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (7)

For most of my life, I have been a people pleaser. Many times I have focused my day on winning the approval of others. I wanted to hear another person thank me for something I did or respond with praise over my effort.

This desire for people to notice me began as a teenager. Both my parents loved and accepted me, but that was not enough. Instead I sought out my friends’ approval. As a teenager, I “did church” just to be a part of a group, seeking the group’s approval and not God’s. I developed performance-for-approval habits as a teenager, and these became a way of life.

All through college and even my career in teaching, I used my performance to gain others’ admiration or affection. When I spent time with God, I shared my worldly wants and ambitions with Him, but not my emotional needs. I felt like I might exhaust God by asking Him each day to help me feel loved and worthy. So I didn’t ask.

The Cost of Seeking the Approval of Others

Unfortunately, my approval seeking began to take an emotional toll on me, particularly in my teaching career.

When I desired to move from the classroom to the role of an elementary principal, I was encouraged to take leadership classes that prepared me for the job. In my classes I was informed that I needed to dress for success. I observed the leaders who taught the class and realized that I would have to wear high heels and professional suits, plus get my nails done.

All of these requirements stretched me because I was a play-in-the-dirt kind of girl. My hands didn’t like princess nails. I placed a lot of pressure on myself not only in my job, but as a mom. I felt the success of my children was another way I could show my success as a person.

As a result of the demands I put on myself and accepted from others, insomnia began to settle into my nighttime routine. During those sleepless moments, I woke up angry and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t feel like I dressed like my superiors wanted me to, parented well enough, or met the needs of those closest to me. I stayed awake planning ways I could do better at work and at home.

Hours would tick by without a feeling of peace. I tried all the strategies I learned in church: quoting Scripture, praying, or singing my favorite worship song.

However, where was God in all of this? Far away! I didn’t allow the Holy Spirit to direct my path in relationships because I was determined to meet my needs for love and acceptance on my own: I would buy a new pair of high heel shoes, get my nails done — or bake someone their favorite treat, call them, or take them to lunch.

All these ideas for trying to please or impress others seemed harmless, but my heart was not a godly heart. I was seeking a human love that could not measure up to God’s love, and I was not demonstrating an unconditional love toward others. I was offering my performance in exchange for something in return.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (8)

How I Gave Up My Need for People’s Approval

Several years ago, when I retired from education, I began to really dig into God’s Word. I joined a young moms’ Bible study at my church. I accidentally found myself in this class because I liked the topic of the Bible study. On the first day, I realized that there were two older people in the class, and I was one of them. The moms made me feel welcome, but when I left, I was not sure I should return.

The next week I returned to the class. I chose to stay because these young moms had amazing energy, a strong desire to learn about God’s word, and a wish to connect with other moms who understood the challenges of being a mother. It was during a study called The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst, that I realized I was driven by my need to live life in a stellar performance mode to win others’ approval. I was convicted by a verse included in the study that jumped out at me with these words:

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. (Matthew 6:1, MSG)

In our study, Terkeurst referred to author and pastor Dallas Willard, who wrote The Divine Conspiracy. He says,

When we want human approval and esteem, and do what we do for the sake of it, God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it does not concern him… . When our aim is to impress human beings … he lets us do that… . On the other hand, if we live unto God alone, he responds to our expectations — which are of him alone.

I had one of those oh-my-gosh moments when I read that. I took a deep look into my past and discovered all these years I was living my life out-of-sync with God. What Williard says about how God “courteously stands aside” while we aim to impress was true in my life.

God was standing aside since my pride created a distance between us. After this moment in the study, however, my quiet moments with God became a time to examine my deep desire to be loved by others and why I felt I needed to work so hard to make people accept me. The solution to my problem was not to earn my family and friends’ love, but to live my life for God and trust Him to meet my need for approval.

It was a freeing moment! A weight had been lifted because I didn’t have to try to win people’s approval. I could let go of my own unrealistic expectations for myself and performance-based system of living. How freeing is that — awesomely so! God created us to worship Him and to celebrate how He created us. My moments with God now begin with praise because He so wonderfully made me the way He wanted to and not the way I think He should have made me.

Now when I wake to the old voices of fear and worry telling me that I have to perform, I pray to my Father, acknowledging how He loves me for me, and I praise Him for making me “me.” I think about 1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT), which says, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.”

I ask God to search my heart to direct me when I am concerned about my relationships with others. When I do that, I am able to let go of my anxiety about what I have or have not done that day; I meditate on how He loves me, and when I do, all is well with my soul and sleep returns.

Prayer: Father, may we praise You for the breath that You created in us. May we know that this day, You have given to each one of us a desire to celebrate living life for You. As we live today, continue to search our hearts and draw us near so we will not leave Your presence to seek what we think we should accomplish. Help us to be mindful that our performance is to bring You great joy because You are the center of our life. We trust You to walk with us and direct our actions. May all the glory be Yours. 

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

More Posts