But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
– 1 Samuel 17:34-37, NIV
In 1 Samuel 17, we see David bringing food for his brothers in the war, and he finds out about the Goliath situation. Everyone saw it as a crisis – they probably expected to become slaves because surely nobody could come against this giant and win. He was so big, so aggressive! But David saw the situation from the perspective of a child of the living God, who is infinitely bigger than any giant. J.John put it this way: “He’s so big – how could I miss?!” When we are in seemingly impossible situations, with only a small stone in our hand against a giant with huge armour and weapons, it can be helpful to recognise that the God we serve is infinitely bigger and more powerful than any situation we could even imagine, and that He is with us! Through surrendering to God the way we see our situations, we allow Him to plant this mindset within us, and then He can provide the faith to believe that with Him we can overcome.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
– Ephesians 5:15-17, NIV
What does it mean to live making the most of every opportunity? Sometimes we can go throughout a day, or even a week or a month, simply drifting through life enjoying the enjoyable parts and sticking it out through the difficulties. If things do not stand out as obvious divine opportunities, we see no need to make the most of anything – but merely keep drifting aimlessly, endlessly, until God challenges us or until something shocks us out of this way of living. This can be so easy to fall into at times. In those times, would we even recognise an opportunity if we saw one…? Maybe, just maybe, God wants to shape our mindsets so that we are more inclined to recognise the opportunities that He provides in normal life situations, rather than waiting for some unknown thing to drop out of the sky shimmering with clarity and awe-inspiring goodness. Let us open ourselves up to God and ask Him to shape our views, enabling us to obey this passage and make the most of every opportunity for His Kingdom.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘opportunity’ as “A chance for advance, progress or profit”. No matter what the situation, we can choose to see every day as full of opportunities; we can choose to see every situation as some kind of chance for advance, progress or profit for God’s Kingdom. Through surrendering to God the way we see our situations, we allow Him to change our attitudes and to look to Him first and foremost, helping us to recognise that we have a purpose for being in those places. Thus we begin living deliberately as citizens of Heaven sent on a mission, rather than simply drifting.
When we see situations from this perspective, considering life our mission field whatever situations we may be in, we become more inclined to seek God’s will for our situations and to invite Him to be not only a part of them but to be at the centre of everything. This is what it means to live in partnership with God, knowing that He is with us wherever we are and able to make the most of the opportunities that would otherwise pass us by as regular everyday occurrences. As we surrender to God the way we see our situations, may He motivate and fulfill us by His presence, His will and His mission – so that we no longer focus on any perceived mundane-ness of the situations themselves. With this attitude to our situations, our joy no longer depends on whatever is happening around us, but is found in God Himself who never changes. We thus learn what it means to “give thanks to God the Father for everything” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV), and to praise Him in every situation.
So, for example, may we surrender to God the way we see our workplaces, and give God chance to enable us to see our workplace as our mission field. May we go into those places in Jesus’ Name, aware of His presence with us and willing to serve Him there. When He guides our attitudes this way, it can transform the way we work and the way we relate to our colleagues, and can sometimes even change the whole atmosphere in the workplace. When we let God shape our attitude to our work, He can build up our faith and teach us to trust in Him – and can shine His light through us as we increasingly realise that we are “working for the Lord and not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23, NIV). We are thus equipped to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4, NIV) – regardless of what our situations look like from a human perspective – and this, I believe, is true worship.
I remember spending a great deal of time as a teenager resenting having to go to school, wishing I could just suddenly become older and be able to get on with real life and real work instead of spending all my time learning things that I might never need to know. By the time I got to Sixth Form though, when I was about 16, God had begun to teach me to see my school as my mission field. When my attitude shifted that way, I found joy in being there because I knew that God was with me and wanted to work through me. I felt like I was deliberately choosing to be there – I was in that place on purpose and went there each day in the faith that I was being sent there by God to do His work.
Then I began to see situations as opportunities. I began praying for God to show me how to think about my everyday situations, and my eyes gradually became much more open to what He was wanting to do. Over time throughout those final two years of school God led me to be involved with a number of people inviting Him into their lives and pursuing relationship with Him – which really was an awesome privilege. He provided opportunity after opportunity to talk with people about His greatness in very natural ways – opportunities that I certainly would not have noticed or seen as ‘divine opportunities’ had I not been looking out for them, aware that I was His agent in that place. And there were times when people (Christians and ‘non-Christians’ alike) would ask me to pray for them. I began to look out for people who needed a friend or were struggling, and was able to come alongside them and offer support and comfort. I was able to spend time encouraging other Christians, too, and praying with them. All this came from surrendering to God the way I saw my surroundings – in this case, my school – and thus being enabled to recognise ‘opportunities’ in the midst of everyday life, and taking them.
In Corrie Ten Boom’s inspirational book The Hiding Place, she wrote of God teaching her to give thanks in all circumstances – this included while she was in prison, surrounded by cockroaches and fleas. She had to surrender to God her deep resentment of the insects, and ask Him to shape the way she saw her situations. God taught her to surrender her situations to Him by showing her how He was using them for good. In the end she discovered that it was because of the fleas and cockroaches that she and her sister were given freedom to read the Bible to everyone in their cell, and to spend a significant amount of time praying together and worshipping God: because of the insects in the cell the guards would not enter the cell to rebuke or punish them! May we learn to praise God even when we see no light in our situations, knowing that even so, He is still God and He is good – He has not left us.
When we feel like we resent situations, or even just aspects of situations, we can ask God to teach us how to be truly thankful to Him. Even if it seems that the only good thing God can bring out of our situation is perseverance… “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”, James 1:2-3, NIV. May we surrender to God our attitudes towards our situations, and allow Him to shape us in the light of His love and peace, with His mission and His plans in mind.
One thing that I have found helpful over the years is to wake up and try to thank God for the new day, regardless of the situations I anticipate or expect for the day. I am not a morning person and certainly do not bounce out of bed feeling ready to face the world – but I found that it is indeed possible to commune with God over breakfast and talk with Him (albeit a little groggily – though I’m sure He doesn’t mind) about whatever the day might bring. “This is the day that the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”, Psalm 118:24, NKJV. Let us surrender to God our expectations and attitudes for each day, and the way we see our circumstances – asking Him to teach us to see every situation as an opportunity and bring us closer to Him in the process.
When we see situations through God’s eyes we also stop letting our own lives consume our full attention. When we are able to look beyond our own selves we find we have strength to resist temptation and keep our focus on God and His Kingdom rather than constantly thinking about our own struggles. Look at Peter’s response to his situation shortly after Jesus was arrested:
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
– Luke 22:54-62 NIV
When Peter was accused of being with Jesus, he was afraid – afraid of the pain that could follow for him if he let them know the truth. This is the same man who had previously told Jesus that he would never leave him and would even be willing to die with him (Luke 22:33). While making those promises he recognised that life is all about Jesus, and that his life was worth nothing if he was without Jesus. But when faced with the situation of “tell the truth and die” vs. “lie and stay alive”, when he could not see Jesus there with him, he denied Jesus in order to prioritise his own life. When the rooster crowed he was reminded of his former conversation with Jesus, and realised that his life was not just about himself. This same man who denied Jesus 3 times went on to die for Him, after living a life of powerful witness to His greatness, leading many people to know God personally through Christ. May we learn to see our life from the perspective of eternity – and therefore see our situations in light of God’s bigger picture, knowing His presence with us and knowing that we find our life’s meaning and purpose in Him wherever we are.
Jesus, thank You for showing us the bigger picture.
I’m sorry for not always seeing situations the way that You see them.
I surrender to You the way I view the situations I face on a daily basis:
– the way I see my work
– the way I see my home life
– the way I see my hobbies and other activities
– the way I see the parts of my life that I don’t like.
Help me to view every day from an eternal perspective.
Teach me the truth of my purpose in You wherever I am.
I surrender to You the way I live as a result of the way I see my situations.
Please shape my understanding.
I give You my eyes and I ask that You replace them with Your own.
May I live in Your ways, with Your views rather than my own.