Ansell: Can old dogs really learn new tricks?

By Ken Ansell

We recently bought a new house, and our 10-pound, dust-mop of a dog Buster is not adjusting well.  Buster is a 13-year-old Shih Tzu who seems to suffer from anxiety.  He is half-blind and nearly deaf, and the transition to our new house is proving to be a hardship. I get it - us “old dogs” don’t like new and we don’t like change.

The Blonde (my wife Jennifer) and I watch a British television show on PBS called "New Tricks", and it's about a group of retired police officers that solve cold cases. The point is old dogs can learn new tricks, and this thread shows up in Scripture.

God speaks about new in Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and stream in the wasteland.”

How many of us because of actual age, mentality or ruts choose to live in the wilderness and the wasteland?  What I’m saying is, we are prone to be against anything that is new or different. What if we had a Isaiah 43:19 approach to life?

This “go back” mindset or a desire to stay the same and not allow the things that God would use to grow us, mature us is in Scripture as well.

In Numbers 11:1 it says, “And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and (even) consumed some outlying parts of the camp.”  Later, starting in verse 4 it calls these people “rabble” and they expressed their “go backer” attitude by saying, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt (prior to God delivering out of their slavery) that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks (who likes leeks?), the onions, and the garlic.” Then they criticized God’s perfect provision, they said, “there is nothing at all but this manna”. Ouch!

These people would rather go back to slavery than march towards God’s plan for their life, the Promised Land.  They would in essence sell their soul for a bowl of free vegetables.

Can we talk?  It’s easy to complain, it’s easy to remember the good old days, but the Bible has something to say about that, too. In Ecclesiastes 7:10 God shares, “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’  For it is not wise to ask such questions.” It’s easy to remember things better than they actually were, and it’s hard to suffer through growing pains, but this is God’s plan for our lives.  

The Apostle Paul says the goal is to “present everyone fully mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).”  James, the brother of Christ tells us that “trials of various kinds (doing things differently can be a trial for sure, don’t you hate it when Walmart moves the bread aisle),” tests our faith and this testing produces steadfastness and at the end of the day the impact of the trial is about “perfection (which means fully developed, without defects),” it’s about progress (James 1:2 - 4).

So give yourself a grade. Are you passing the tests, or are you just complaining about what God is doing in your life? What great thing is God doing in your life? Wasteland or Promised Land? Don’t you see it? He asked me to ask you that.