What are your chances of walking into your destiny? Clue: most people don’t. Like a poet once said, “Most people die with the music still inside of them.” The two pictures that most determine destiny are your view of God and your view of yourself.

Your self-identity is not who you are but who you think you are. A prince who doesn’t believe he is a prince does not live like a prince. If he thinks he is a pauper, that is how he lives. Sorry for the prince. A saint who believes he is a sinner lives like a sinner—and many saints do. Our creed becomes our conduct. What we believe about ourselves is how we will live. Said more simply—we behave our beliefs. In fact, it is not possible to live in a way that violates what we believe about ourselves. A person who is convinced that he is abandoned will live as an abandoned person, regardless of what people tell him. A girl who thinks she doesn’t measure up will operate out of her distorted picture. Perception is reality, both with regard to ourselves and to God.

The prodigal left home to discover a more exciting life. When it didn’t work for him, he decided to return home. He was surprised to find out that he received back home what he wanted out in the world—a party, nice clothes, cool shoes, and great relationships. He was amazed at how generous and forgiving his father was.

Meanwhile, his older brother wondered why he never got anything from his stingy “boss.” Choked up by anger and resentment, his tight fists could not accept the gifts the father held out to him, and he lived like a slave, though he was a son. He frustrated the grace of an outlandish dad, which is what Christians with a skewed picture of their heavenly Father do.

Jesus told a story shortly before His passion of a businessman who gave three men money to invest. Then he went on a journey. Two men promptly invested and made a 100% return on their money! The third buried his investment, perhaps out of fear that he would lose it. When the master returned, he commended the first two servants.

The third told him, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (Matt. 25:24,25). Something had convinced this servant that his master was difficult to deal with. His perception was his reality, and “hard” is what he got (see Psalm 18:25). Two men fulfilled their calling and carried out their God-appointed destiny. Yay! The third was crippled with fear and fell far short. Bummer. The master described him as “wicked and lazy,” and he never lived out his purpose.

The hardship of life, either what happens to us or (more often) what happens in us, can change our picture of God. If we prayed for recovery and a child died, or we prayed for success and had to declare bankruptcy instead, or a painful divorce made us feel forsaken, we may wonder where God was. We might not turn Him into a monster, but our trust level may plummet. We easily interpret suffering as the absence of God. In fact, He is no more present than in our pain. So who do you think you are, and who do you think God is? (Part II in four days).

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