I often tell people that one of my goals in life is to get to the place where all the furniture we buy as a family does not have to be put together. But, for now, I still find myself, from time to time, following a set of instructions (usually in multiple languages). I am sure that you have had similar experiences. It is great to have a new bookcase, coffee table, or bed frame for one of your kids, but why is it that we have to do all the hard work of putting it together?
I can tell you this: for this reason alone, I love IKEA! Their instructions come with no words at all – only pictures. I do not know what this says about my personality or my ability to follow instructions, but I always find the work a little easier with their dumbed down instructions. I also know that it can be very frustrating when things do not seem to work out whenever you are putting something together. Maybe the company did not pack the box correctly or maybe we just misapplied the instructions, but to not be able to finish what you have started is tough.
As with most things, there is a spiritual corollary here. I have been thinking lately about something I call opposing realities. In life, there are generally two perspectives on what is happening around us. First, you have God’s perspective of the world. Now, I remind you that God is perfect, holy, just, and unchanging (just to name a few of His characteristics). The other perspective of the world around us is our own. And, I know I do not need to remind you that we are not holy, changing constantly, inconsistent at best when it comes to justice, and generally self-serving.
I think sometimes that we work very hard at life, but we just are not finding the success that we thought we would. Perhaps we have been too focused on our perspective of the world. We have not been following God’s set of instructions. You see, it is not just that we have a different view of what is going on around us than God, it is that usually these two views are in conflict with each other. The Apostle John reminded us not to get too wrapped up in the ways of this world.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Jesus spent most of His earthly ministry training His immediate disciples. And, most of that time was spent with Him trying to get them to understand this concept of opposing realities. Jesus’ disciples wanted to be first, but Jesus told them they needed to be last. They wanted to be served, but He told them they needed to be servants. They wanted to fight in order to usher in the Messiah’s kingdom, but Jesus told them that He would bring it in through His own death and resurrection. Ultimately, Jesus’ call on their lives was for them to give their all in service to Him. And, that is exactly what they did!
But what about us? Doesn’t it seem sometimes that we are extremely busy. We work hard at our jobs, we try to be the best family member we can be, and we even serve our communities in a number of important ways. But, the real question is not whether or not we are busy, but are we living in the same reality as God? Are the things we are doing important, not just to us, but to God and to His kingdom?
Let me see if I can give two thoughts as to how we can apply these concepts to our lives. First – think in terms of everyday temptations. Is this thing that is tempting us going to bring honor and glory to God or is it just going to meet some temporary desire that is within us? Usually, we stay in our little reality and give in to that temptation without much of a fight. If we could instead choose to see things from God’s perspective and get a glimpse of His reality, we could find the motivation and strength to resist. The Apostle Paul reminded us of this fact in his letter to the church at Corinth.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Second – these truths also apply to the big decisions of life. As I have said many times, we would hate to get to the end of our lives and find that we have been very successful at a bunch of things that did not really matter! It would be tough knowing that we played this game of life using the world’s set of instructions.
The funny thing is that it is not a sacrifice to see things from God’s perspective. While we will no doubt have to give some things up, what we gain in return is, by far, the better end of the bargain! This world offers only temporary solutions at best. God offers wisdom, peace, purpose, and ultimately eternal life. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Let’s choose to take a step back from our reality and give room in our minds to see things from God’s perspective. I think we will find that we like His perspective and His set of instructions better!