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The Question – If your spouse asks you to go to the grocery store to purchase a gallon of milk, what would be your primary reason for going to the store? There are other ways that you can ask this question. For example, if you were going to the gas station to fill your tank, what would be the main reason for going to the gas station? These two questions are life-altering.
They are worldview shaking and could unlock the mystery to biblical success while giving you the grace needed for a fruitful life with God and others. When applied correctly, you will experience release from life-long battles with selfishness while making your relationships as great as they can possibly be.
There are only two answers to my questions. One dooms you to an ongoing battle with selfishness. The other gives you an experience with the victory that the Lord promises to all who want to follow Him. Here are the two possible answers.
Here are a Scripture reference and two illustrations—one for how to live life selfishly and the other how to live life in God’s power. (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, 4.7)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and you can have your milk too (Rick’s Paraphrase).
Mable is a selfish person. Though she is a Christian and loves God and His church, her primary loyalty is to herself. Mable does not mind serving others as long as she can help them according to her expectations and preferences. She’s a woman of personal convenience.
If Mable went to the store to get a carton of milk, she would probably grumble about having to go to the store. And while at the store, she would head straight to the dairy section, giving little thought to other people or the higher purposes of God.
It’s not Mable’s way to spontaneously reach out and serve other people unless it’s on her terms. For example, when she’s going to the local high school football game, she paints her face, dresses in school colors, and rallies her family to go with her. When Mable is doing things she likes to do, she has the energy for the process.
But when the situation calls Mable to extend herself for others, in ways that are outside her usual way of doing her Christian duty, she does not want to do it, and her complaining wears thin on others. Mable has trained others not to bother with her about things that are not within her preferences.
Biff, on the other hand, is like Mable in that he has a pace of life that fits within his preferences and personality. Biff likes to do what Biff wants to do. But that is where the similarity stops. Biff has a gospel-centered worldview that drastically and dynamically shapes how he does life with God and others. If you ask Biff the primary reason he would go to the store to get a carton of milk, he would say,
I would go to the store to get the milk, but my main expectation would be to find God working in some way while I’m at the store. I want to join up with Him in whatever redemptive purposes He may be orchestrating. It would sadden me to miss out on what God may be doing while I was at the store.
Biff has a gospel-vision for life—a vision that gives him a peripheral on the Lord’s sovereign activities in the lives of others. He is always scanning the landscape of his life, seeking and discerning what God may be doing in His world, and trying to connect with the Lord’s work, to help push it farther along.
Biff has learned a deeper meaning of Matthew 6:33. He knows that he does not have to live in an earth-centered mindset because God is more than able to supply all his physical needs (Philippians 4:19), including milk.
He has thought about the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28) and the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26). Biff knows that his Father’s interest in his life transcends his human ability to provide. And if He will care for the flowers and birds, He’s got the milk too (Matthew 6:32).
Biff lives a radically different life from Mable, always expecting the Lord to give him the grace to sustain him while allowing him to work within the Lord’s sovereign purposes. There is a joy about Biff that you don’t see in Mable.
Both Mable and Biff are doing good things for the Lord. Mable’s work for the Lord is nearly always within her schedule. Mable lives more in a dichotomy of my time and ministry time. Biff’s work for the Lord not only fits within his pace of life, but he has a more profound experience of God’s activity because he is always looking for it. Biff does not divide his life into a dichotomy.
Mable only has the energy for the things she likes to do. Biff has the strength to do what he needs to do but experiences more grace because of his humble willingness to cooperate with the Lord, especially when the call is outside his preferred comfort zone.
Both believers drive to the store with different attitudes. Mable complains about having to go. Biff is thinking about God’s redemptive purposes as he completes the errand. Though both Christians are tired, their worldviews shape them differently. It’s the difference between God working in your world or you working in His world.
Do you see the difference between how they think about the Sovereign Lord? A comprehensive gospel worldview is what sets Biff apart from his friend. He’s like a kid who is always on an adventure. It does not matter where he is or what context he’s in, Biff is expecting the Lord to do something, and he has a perpetual biblical curiosity to figure out what that may be.
Another characteristic of the two Christians is how Mable is always tired. What she does not realize is how her tiredness is not so much related to her activity, but connected to her pride and how that pride (self-centeredness) is the calling card for God’s opposition (James 4:6).
Mable is a self-reliant person who tries hard to manage her life on her terms. This posture is a form of pride that God opposes. The harder she tries to control her life, the more complicated it becomes, especially in her relationships. It’s like the person who holds a tight grip on the wet sand at the ocean. The more forceful the grip, the more it oozes through the fingers.
The counterintuitiveness of the gospel calls us to trust beyond our ability to manage things. If you want to live, you must die (Matthew 10:39). If you die, you will be able to produce exponentially (John 12:24). The counterintuitive gospel thinker has experienced this kind of empowering grace. He is like the disciples who came back from a hard tour of ministry duty, rejoicing in what the Lord did (Luke 10:17).
Grumbling is an itsy bitsy sin that can spread like cancer through a person’s soul. One of the effects of grumblers is being worn-out and tired. You’ll even see it on their faces. Interestingly, the happy giver can do much more work than the grumbler, and they have the joy of the Lord. It’s not that they have a bigger motor for life. It’s because they have a different view of and expectation from the Lord.
Perhaps you need to rest. Resting is a gift from God that we all must partake. What I’m saying here is not intended as a guilt-motivated call to work harder by doubling down on your efforts only to be twice as tired as you were before. I’m not even suggesting that you add anything to your schedule.
If you think that you must tack more ministry onto your life, you’ve missed the point. This worldview is not a call to add more but to do what you’re currently doing with a redemptive mindset. Let me give you some illustrations with a few things that you normally do through the course of your week.
It’s not about doing more, but about having a gospel-attentiveness and expectancy for what you’re already doing. It’s an appeal to plead with the Lord to give you a different worldview—a gospel-centered one that allows you to see life differently. Rather than going to the store just to accomplish a task, you leave home with the expectation of finding the Lord already there, making way for you to engage whatever it is that He is up to in His world.
The person who slugs their way to the store because someone guilted them into going or because they happened to find out at 10 PM that they were out of milk and reluctantly goes, will always be a worn-out complainer.
The person who finds out they are out of milk and thinks, “Gee, I wonder why the Lord wants me to go to the store. I can’t wait to get there” is going to be just as tired, but their redemptive-shaped attitude will unleash the favor of the Lord on their worn-out body.
To live with redemptive thoughts on the tip of your mind is contrary to our world. The average person would not give a second thought to anyone else in the store. That’s normal and natural, or as Jesus would say, that’s how the Gentiles live.
Their primary thought is to meet their goals because they don’t know the Lord and have no access to His provision outside of His common grace. I suspect most of them would think if they had to extend themselves, it would cost them monetarily, physically, or in time, so they don’t give others any additional thought than they have to.
This attitude is not the Christian way. The Christian lives with the calm assurance that Father God is always aware of our needs and is supplying them. We don’t have to focus so much on how to live life on earth. We are free to think about and serve others. We know there is an artesian well of grace that supplies and sustains this kind of worldview. The question for you is, how well do you see what God is doing in His world, and are you ready to respond to His work?
Ask the Father to give you a gospel-vision for life. Share this article with a friend and talk through how you need to change and how you need them. This opportunity could be the beginning of a new and transformative way to live your life. If you do this, it will be the beginning of the most significant and most profound life you could experience (Mark 10:45; John 15:13).
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).