Seeing life from God’s point of view

When you run into tough times in your life, what do your friends have to say about it? We’ve all been there. A bad day at work. A fight at home. A difficult exam at school. On those bad days, you tell your friends what’s going on. And friends rarely have no opinion. If you have a neutral friend who doesn’t really invest emotionally in you or your life, you might want to rethink that friendship.

But while it’s good to have friends who support you and who are on your side, you need to make sure you’ve got people in your life who will tell you the things you may not want to hear.

daisy-toward-skyToday’s verse is Matthew 16:23.

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

The first time I read this verse, I was shocked. I thought, oh my gosh, how could Jesus be so harsh? I mean, Jesus had just declared that he would die a brutal death, and Peter just wanted to protect Him. Peter didn’t want Jesus to have to face the horrible true purpose of His birth–that He had come to save us.

That’s just being a good friend, right? You want to intervene. You want to get between your friend and the painful situation that they’re going to have to face. But that’s when we need to truly consider how Jesus reacted.

No, Jesus wasn’t saying that Peter was possessed or anything like that. But Peter’s exclamation that Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross came from an ungodly perspective. From God’s point of view, Jesus’ purpose was to die on the cross. God had sent Jesus to be the sacrifice for us. If we were going to be saved, if God was going to keep His promise, Jesus had to die.

How does that understanding line up with our own lives?

God has a purpose and a plan for all of us, and it’s a good plan. It’s the best plan. But the problem is, the world is a mess, and you can’t live in it without getting messy, even if you’re following God’s plan for your life. Sometimes you’re just going to have to go through some crap. Maybe it’s sickness. Maybe it’s a failed relationship. Maybe it’s emotional hurt or physical pain or mental stress. It’s never God’s desire for us to suffer, but sometimes suffering is the only way to learn the lessons we need to learn.

Jesus had to be crucified, the worst, most humiliating form of public execution mankind has ever developed. If God’s only Son had to experience that, what business do we have getting upset over our own “light and momentary trials”?

You can avoid difficult situations. You can put off conflict resolution. You can evade consequences. But only for so long. And if you have friends in your life who are urging you to run away, don’t listen to them. They’re not helping you, and their point of view isn’t coming from God. And if their point of view doesn’t come from God, it can only come from one other place.

I’m thankful for my friends who see life from God’s point of view. A real friend cares more about what God says than how you feel. It’s harsh, but it’s true. God knows best. His rules are for my benefit. His plan will eventually lead to the desire of my heart, if I stick to it. And a friend who wants what’s best for me will tell me what I need to hear, no matter how much it might bruise my ego or my pride.

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The only thing harder than having a good friend is being one

I couldn’t get away with a lot when I was growing up. I’m the older child in the family, and regardless of how parents try to raise all children the same way, expectations are different for the older sibling. They just are. Not saying my brother got away with a whole heck of a lot either (he was the good child anyway), but even outside of the home, I always felt held to a stricter standard. I was the oldest. I should know better and set a good example.

Talk to other older children, and you might hear the same thing. It’s pretty common. And while it might have been irritating when I was little, as an adult, however, I can genuinely say I’m thankful for it.

I don’t know where we get the idea that going easy on people is best for them. Now, I don’t mean that to promote abuse or cruelty of any sort. But if you have someone you’re raising or someone you’re mentoring, if you make allowances for the things they say and do that are wrong, you aren’t doing them any favors. You’re teaching them that it’s acceptable to stop trying to do their best. You’re teaching that it’s okay to give up.

It’s not easy to do, especially if you have a compassionate streak and want to be kind to people, but you have to see the bigger picture. You can’t make excuses for bad behavior simply because you don’t want to upset somebody.

saltToday’s verse is Matthew 5:13.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

This was a statement that Jesus made in one of His most famous sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s always resonated with me. It tells us a lot about who Jesus is, because He doesn’t pull punches, especially with people who say they follow Him.

What Jesus is talking about here is the fact that salt is both a preserver and a disinfectant. People would pack meat in salt to keep it good for extended periods of time, and doctors would put salt in wounds to cleanse them. And, yes, it hurt. A lot. But when salt got old, it would lost its potency, and when it lost the qualities that gave it purpose, it was no good for anyone’s use.

Jesus is comparing His followers to salt. We are here on Earth to preserve what is good and “cleanse” what is bad. Cleanse is probably not the best word. More like irritate what’s bad. Because it’s not that a Christian is supposed to walk around wiping out bad elements from society, but we aren’t supposed to run away and back down when society tries to get us to do what God says is wrong.

It’s tempting to be an undercover Christian in our world today. It’s so much easier just to keep our mouths shut. That’s usually the road I take, but I’m not sure that’s the road I’m supposed to be on. But what’s worse is a Christ-follower who’s forgotten what it means to follow Christ. A Christ-follower who follows the world is confused and uncertain and practically indistinguishable from those who don’t follow Christ.

And what I love about Jesus is that He loves us enough to tell us this. He knows the kind of life that we need to be living, and if we say we’re His followers, shouldn’t we do what He says?

Jesus is our Lord and our Savior, but if you follow Him, He’s also your friend. And it takes a strong person to stand up to friends and tell them they’re going the wrong direction. If that’s you, don’t take it as criticism or meanness or some of threat. It’s not. It’s words from a friend telling you that if you don’t change your mind, you’re going to be in trouble.

It’s a hard thing, to be a good friend. It’s also hard to have a good friend, especially if they’re the ones who can keep you on the straight and narrow. But those are the people you want in your life. Those are the people who you’ll look back and thank later on down the road.

Sunrise on the beach - Galveston, TX

Friendships really can last a lifetime.

Friendship is one of the necessities of life. I am a fairly independent, solitary person. Even my career of choice is somewhat solitary because when you get right down to it, writing is something you have to do alone. Even if you interview someone and get information from them, it’s still up to you to write it down and usually you’ll do that by yourself.

But as important as friendship is, wouldn’t you think that all friendships would last forever? That’s not the case, though. Some friendships last through high school. Some last through college. Others may only last the week of a church camp.

But then … you have the friendships that last a lifetime. There are a couple of examples of those kinds of friendship in Scripture, but the one that always comes to mind when I think of real friendship is David and Jonathan.

Sunrise on the beach - Galveston, TX

Sunrise on the beach – Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 20:42.

At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

If you want to do a study on friendship, David and Jonathan are the best example you can find in the Bible. One of the best passages you can look at is 1 Samuel 20:1-42. David, God’s chosen to be the next king of Israel. Jonathan, the crown prince of Israel, the son of the king. By all rights, they should have been enemies, but instead they were friends.

God brought them alongside each other to help each other and encourage each other at the darkest moments of their lives. So what made their friendship so special?

What is it that sets some friendships apart? Why do some friendships last longer than others?

This is just my opinion, but I think spontaneous friendships that only last a week or two and the friendships that last forever are separated by a single factor: the focus of the friendship. If you make friends with someone and you are only interested in what they can do for you, that’s a friendship that won’t last very long. But if you have a friendship where you intend to serve your friend, to encourage them, to help them, to support them even at personal cost to yourself, that’s a friendship that will last a lifetime.

If you look at your friendship as a divine appointment that God has arranged and treat your friend as though he or she is someone who God has put in your life, think about how that will change your relationship.

Of course, no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. But when your friend screws up, when your friend makes a mistake, when your friend hurts your feelings, when they disappoint you, how do you react? Do you hold it over their head? Do you feel satisfied and point out their flaws? Do you compare your own failings to theirs?

That’s not friendship. That’s selfish.

There were many things that Jonathan could have held over David’s head. There were many things David could have held against Jonathan. But they didn’t. They loved each other, and they wanted to help each other.

And that’s the way our friendships need to be.

Granted, there are some situations where a friendship needs to end. But I really feel that more often than not friendships that could have lasted a lifetime come to an end prematurely because people get their perspectives turned around. (And I’m not talking about dating or relationships of that nature; that’s similar but more complicated.)

So if you’re friends with someone and you’re wondering why they aren’t interested in giving you the attention you think you deserve, the first thing you need to do is to ask yourself how much of a friend you’ve been to them.

And if you have a friend who serves you, who sacrifices for you, who loves you unconditionally and accepts you the way you are (but always encourages you to improve yourself) … you are fortunate. No, you’re more than fortunate; you’re blessed. And you need to make sure you never take that friend for granted.