DAY 5 Seeing Life from God's View What is your life? James 4:14b (NIV) We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. Anais Nin The way you see your life shapes your life. How you define life determines your destiny. Your perspective will influence how you invest your time, spend your money, use your talents, and value your relationships. One of the best ways to understand other people is to ask them, "How do you see your life?" You will discover that there are as many different answers to that question as there are people. I've been told life is a circus, a minefield, a roller coaster, a puzzle, a symphony, a journey, and a dance. People have said, "Life is a carousel: Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down, and sometimes you just go round and round" or "life is a ten-speed bicycle with gears we never use" or "life is a game of cards: You have to play the hand you are dealt." If I asked how you picture life, what image would come to your mind? That image is your life metaphor. It's the view of life that you hold, consciously or unconsciously, in your mind. It's your description of how life works and what you expect from it. People often express their life metaphors through clothes, jewelry, cars, hairstyles, bumper stickers, even tattoos. Your unspoken life metaphor influences your life more than you realize. It determines your expectations, your values, your relationships, your goals, and your priorities. For instance, if you think life is a party, your primary value in life will be having fun. If you see life as a race, you will value speed and will probably be in a hurry much of the time. If you view life as a marathon, you will value endurance. If you see life as a battle or a game, winning will be very important to you. What is your view of life? You may be basing your life on a faulty life metaphor. To fulfill the purposes God made you for, you will have to challenge conventional wisdom and replace it with the biblical metaphors of life. The Bible says, "Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God.' The Bible offers three metaphors that teach us God's view of life: Life is a test, life is a trust, and life is a temporary assignment. These ideas are the foundation of purpose-driven living. We will look at the first two in this chapter and the third one in the next. Life on earth is a Test. This life metaphor is seen in stories throughout the Bible. God continually tests people's character, faith, obedience, love, integrity, and loyalty. Words like trials, temptations, refining, and testing occur more than 200 times in the Bible. God tested Abraham by asking him to offer his son Isaac. God tested Jacob when he had to work extra years to earn Rachel as his wife. Adam and Eve failed their test in the Garden of Eden, and David failed his tests from God on several occasions. But the Bible also gives us many examples of people who passed a great test, such as Joseph, Ruth, Esther, and Daniel. Character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all of life is a test. You are always being tested. God constantly watches your response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and even the weather! He even watches the simplest actions such as when you open a door for others, when you pick up a piece of trash, or when you're polite toward a clerk or waitress. We don't know all the tests God will give you, but we can predict some of them, based on the Bible. You will be tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedies. In my own life I have noticed that God tests my faith through problems, tests my hope by how I handle possessions, and tests my love through people. A very important test is how you act when you can't feel God's presence in your life. Sometimes God intentionally draws back, and we don't sense his closeness. A king named Hezekiah experienced this test. The Bible says, "God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart." Hezekiah had enjoyed a close fellowship with God, but at a crucial point in his life God left him alone to test his character, to reveal a weakness, and to prepare him for more responsibility. When you understand that life is a test, you realize that nothing is insignificant in your life. Even the smallest incident has significance for your character development. Every day is an important day, and every second is a growth opportunity to deepen your character, to demonstrate love, or to depend on God. Some tests seem overwhelming, while others you don't even notice. But all of them have eternal implications. The good news is that God wants you to pass the tests of life, so he never allows the tests you face to be greater than the grace he gives you to handle them. The Bible says, "God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out." Every time you pass a test, God notices and makes plans to reward you in eternity. James says, `Blessed are those who endure when they are tested. When they pass the test, they will receive he crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." Life on earth is a Trust. This is the second biblical metaphor of life. Our time on earth and our energy, intelligence, opportunities, relationships, and resources are all gifts from God that he has entrusted to our care and management. We are stewards of whatever God gives us. This concept of stewardship begins with the recognition that God is the owner of everything and everyone on earth. The Bible says, "The world and all that is in it belong to the LORD; the earth and all who live on it are his." We never really own anything during our brief stay on earth. God just loans the earth to us while we're here. It was God's property before you arrived, and God will loan it to someone else after you die. You just get to enjoy it for a while. When God created Adam and Eve, he entrusted the care of his creation to them and appointed them trustees of his property. The Bible says, "[God] blessed them, and said, `Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge." The first job God gave humans was to manage and take care of God's "stuff" on earth. This role has never been rescinded. It is a part of our purpose today. Everything we enjoy is to be treated as a trust that God has placed in our hands. The Bible says, "What do you have that God hasn't given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?" Years ago, a couple let my wife and me use their beautiful, beach-front home in Hawaii for a vacation. It was an experience we could never have afforded, and we enjoyed it immensely. We were told, "Use it just like it's yours," so we did! We swam in the pool, ate the food in the refrigerator, used the bath towels and dishes, and even jumped on the beds in fun! But we knew all along that it wasn't really ours, so we took special care of everything. We enjoyed the benefits of using the home without owning it. Our culture says, "If you don't own it, you won't take care of it." But Christians live by a higher standard: "Because God owns it, I must take the best care of it that I can." The Bible says, "Those who are trusted with something valuable must show they are worthy of that trust.' 8 Jesus often referred to life as a trust and told many stories to illustrate this responsibility toward God. In the story of the talents,9 a businessman entrusts his wealth to the care of his servants while he's away. When he returns, he evaluates each servant's responsibility and rewards them accordingly. The owner says, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness." At the end of your life on earth you will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well you handled what God entrusted to you. That means everything you do, even simple daily chores, has eternal implications. If you treat everything as a trust, God promises three rewards in eternity. First, you will be given God's affirmation: He will say, "Good job! Well done!" Next, you will receive a promotion and be given greater responsibility in eternity: "I will put you in charge of many things." Then you will be honored with a celebration: "Come and share your Master's happiness." Most people fail to realize that money is both a test and a trust from God. God uses finances to teach us to trust him, and for many people, money is the greatest test of all. God watches how we use money to test how trustworthy we are. The Bible says, "If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?" This is a very important truth. God says there is a direct relationship between how I use my money and the quality of my spiritual life. How I manage my money ("worldly wealth") determines how much God can trust me with spiritual blessings ("true riches"). Let me ask you: Is the way you manage your money preventing God from doing more in your life? Can you be trusted with spiritual riches? Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.' Life is a test and a trust, and the more God gives you, the more responsible he expects you to be. DAY FIVE THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE Point to Ponder: Life is a test and a trust. Verse to Remember: "Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones." Luke I6:l0a (NLT) Question to Consider: What has happened to me recently that I now realize was a test from God? What are the greatest matters God has entrusted to me?