I talk a lot these days about mindset changes. I know it’s a buzzword in the world today, but I can’t help what the world will say about something God wants to do. What a man thinks in his heart, so is he; so we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Proverbs 23:7; Romans 12:2) I cannot adequately express how transformed my life is since God renewed my mind. I traded in my victim mindset for one of a conqueror.
In Matthew 25:14-30, there’s the parable of the lord who gave three servants talents, and then went on a journey—talents being the term for money in that time. If you remember, “according to their ability,” one servant was given five, the next, two, and the last was given one talent. The first and second servants invested theirs, and they each doubled what they’d been given. The third was fearful of the lord and dug a hole in the ground and buried it. When the lord came back, he called them to him to see how fruitful they’d been with the talents he’d entrusted them with. The first two got high fives and knuck-bumps; but the third, after being whiny and insulting the lord, essentially got thrown into hell, and his one, dirty talent was given to the first servant. Harsh.
If you’ve gone to church or Sunday school more than twice a year, you’ve heard that parable. It’s a great foundation piece for dealing with the finances and literal talents and gifts we have from God. The basic message is don’t squander your earthly or spiritual resources. Great lesson. But what if…
What if you replaced “talent” with “trial”? What if we read that story viewing our trials and difficult circumstances as gifts? Last year, our family walked through a big trial. With all Doug endured, he viewed it as a gift. He didn’t embrace cancer, but the trial of life the cancer brought, yes, he talked about it being a gift because of all he was receiving from God through it. One of the big ones was feeling the love of his heavenly father. My kids and I received gifts, too. God became bigger than he had ever been, and he remains that big today. It was a gift we can bring with us into the next trial, and the next, until we remain resting in that place in him.
Let me take the parable further. Doug is like the first servant. Throughout his life, he was given many trials and hardships. As a child, he was grossly abused. (No, I don’t believe God caused that, but he did use it to Doug’s benefit.) This carried over into adulthood and affected his choices. According to his ability… He had the ability to cause himself a mess of trouble! He walked into bad relationships and attracted abusers and emotional leeches. But if you knew him, you know he did everything he could to do good to others. He gave and gave of himself; his time, his energy, everything he was and everything he had. He blessed people. Out of hardship, he blessed people. What a multiplication of those trial/gifts!
As bad as I may feel about how hard things were for the kids growing up, they were blessed. They had a home that lacked money, but was safe and overflowing with love and solid foundations. We had far too much crisis, but our kids learned that no matter how crazy life was, unconditional love is Truth, and God is the foundation for every good thing. Doug was a ball of crisis and love. He was abused, but never an abuser. Every trial—every gift—Doug took and wrestled it until he had doubled his growth and strength of spirit.
I’m like the second servant. I didn’t get five talents. According to my ability, I got two. I wasn’t abused as a child, I didn’t have the ability to drag craziness home by the truckload. I got to walk side-by-side and hand-in-hand with Doug, because he hauled home enough for a village. The hardships we faced together carved love and patience into my heart. God wasn’t building me up in spite of the trials, he was multiplying me through them. They were his gifts to me. Through trials, God took me from a fearful, depressed child, to a strong, peace-filled warrior, overflowing with love and freedom. Every trial caused me to love God more. I grew.
The third servant, we’ll call him Serv because it would be mean to pin this guy on anybody—and no, I don’t have anyone in mind, either—took the trial that came into his life and refused to deal with it or even look at it. He hid it. He had a gift, maybe he lost his job, and he freaked out and hid from it. He was afraid to deal with the trial because he viewed God as hard and greedy and mean.
When God asked what he had gained through being jobless, Serv said, “Well, I endured it. Here, take it. I don’t want it. You’re mean, and I’m afraid of you.” What the…? Is this guy crazy? He could have had high fives and knucks and promotions from his master, and instead he whines and complains and hands it back. He could have gained patience, strength of spirit and mind, strong faith, steadfastness, he could have learned to trust God. He could have been promoted to a new trial in which he would learn to be joyful in all circumstances. He could have.
I must say, Doug and I were much like Serv in our early years. I thought God didn’t like me, and I hated the trials we faced constantly. We thought we had faith because we cried out to God. I suppose we did. I’ll call it baby faith, because it needed a lot of help and cried a lot. You have to start somewhere, right? But, if you’re going through today’s trials the same as you did five or ten years ago, talk to God about it. Ask him to change your mindset so you can double your harvest. You need a high five from God; go get it!
The trial was not Serv’s problem. The five trials were not Doug’s problem, and the two were not mine. The problem, the thing that made the trials feel unbearable was how we looked at them. When Doug and my mindsets were transformed to joy and excitement, we saw trials as the gifts they are. Trepidation was gone. Fear was gone. Whining and complaining were gone.
We could receive the talent/trials and walk in them. As we looked at them from all sides we could say, “What can I gain from this? God, what are you doing in me through this? What promotion is coming my way on the other side of this thing?” That’s freaking exciting!
Everything that comes from God perfects us. The more we grow to love the Lord, the more we grow in love for others. There is joy that passes all understanding, and it, too continues to grow. I want to overflow in the harvest of the fruits of the spirit. The trial/gifts from God will bring about his promises to grow me and develop my spirit to be more than I can be in myself.
“Every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights from the Lord of love. This joy that I have that I’m [speaking] of is from the Lord! That’s where this joy comes from.” ~ Steve Green
What trial have you been gifted with today? Can you see it as a gift? Do you see the increase?