(If you haven’t yet read part 1 of “A Matter of Perspective”, you might want to start with that.)
I’m a planner. I tend to look ahead and anticipate things. This usually enables me to plan well, but it also makes me mindful of all the things that could go wrong. Recently, a last minute business trip to Israel came up. While this was a cool opportunity, it also brought with it certain stressors: the rush of making all of the arrangements (including a rush job of renewing my passport – long story), the added workload (this trip was not part of my primary job, it was in addition to the current projects I was working on), and going by myself to a place I had never been to before where I didn’t know the customs and what was safe to do and what wasn’t. But when I spent time seeking God, and I remembered that He is the one who stopped the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee (which I would get to see!), my perspective started to change. Even before I left on the trip I saw Him providing for me when my renewed passport arrived 2 hours before I had to leave for the airport, I and I began to remember how He has provided for me on other trips, and that nothing can separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39). And my think-ahead, worry-about-many-things self was overcome by the truth and grace of God.
This is why, when Paul is beginning to wrap up his letter to the Philippians, he says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!” If we remember all the good God has done for us, it does wonders for our perspective. He goes on to say that instead of worrying, we should present our requests to God, but with thanksgiving (verse 6). Instead of just a whining list, we should be mindful of how He has already taken care of us and blessed us, and the promises in His Word of how He is always good and trustworthy. One of those promises is that He will give us peace (verse 7). But He emphasizes that we should fill our minds with “whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy…” (verse 8). What a fantastic way to see things from the right perspective, from God’s perspective. We seem to have a tendency to zero in on the negative, the few things we are not happy about, the one thing we are worried about, and forget all of the incredible ways in which God has already blessed us. A friend of mine uses November every year to post on facebook something she is thankful for each day of the month. What a way to start seeing things as they really are: we are recipients of many blessings from a merciful and gracious God. Next time you are spending time with God, take 15 minutes and make a list of every good thing in your life. If you are doing it right, you will run out of time, but it also might be eye opening.
Right after Jesus was baptized by John and received the Holy Spirit, he was led into the desert to fast for 40 days and be tempted. Fasting has several benefits, but one of the main ones (in my opinion) is to focus you on what is truly important, i.e. reset your perspective. You don’t not eat for 40 days and then worry about how your fantasy football team is going to do this weekend. And solidly getting God’s perspective was critical as Jesus began his ministry, and especially right then because the devil was going to try to warp his perspective. Consider the perspective behind the devil’s 3 temptations and behind Jesus’ 3 responses in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13:
- The devil: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Perspective: seeking God is ok, but what you really need is food, because your life here on this earth is the most important thing. What good is it to serve God if you starve yourself to death?
- Jesus: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Perspective: true life is found in God and His truth. Completely seeking Him and following Him will result if real life on this earth (however short) and for eternity.
- The devil: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here [this temple], for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you to protect you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Perspective: you can get God to do this, so you should. It’s all about you, after all.
- Jesus: “You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.” Perspective: we are here to serve the Lord of heaven and earth and do His bidding, not the other way around.
- The devil: “To you I will grant this whole realm [all the kingdoms of the world] – and the glory that goes along with it, for it has been relinquished to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. So then, if you will worship me, all this will be yours.” Perspective: what is in this world (the things and the accolades) is the most important thing, so it doesn’t really matter what you do to get it.
- Jesus: “You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” Perspective: why worship the created things instead of the One who made it all? Surely the Creator of all things, and the One in complete control, is the One to be worshiped and served.
We might not have the devil himself speaking audibly to us, but his instruments in this world are constantly telling us that what is here on this earth right now is most important, and that comfort, good health, lack of problems, and the easy life are what matters. So much so, that if we don’t have those things, it is grounds for questioning God, or even rejecting Him. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we need our mind reshaped, our perspective constantly corrected, by the Word of God.