The Game of Life

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Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.

Sholom Aleichem


mind

The human brain is composed of over 12 billion nerve cells, with the analytical ability of a room full of Pentium-equipped computers. The brain indiscriminately receives and stores every kind of information thrown its way.

Researchers tells us that the average adult in America is bombarded by 560 advertising messages a day, and of course, if you are online, half of those are pop-up ads. We have the ability to store around 75 of these ads, so when you add it up, your brain stores over 500 slogans, ditties, and jingles every week.

In addition, the average adult absorbs another twenty to thirty thousand words per day form newspapers, magazines, search engines, books, and televisions. This mountain of infobits shapes the way we view life.1

Infobits definitely help shape our view of the world, but I believe that the greatest influence in our lives stem from defining moments from our past. These pictures often provide the canvas on which we paint our future. Together, they become our life story.

This is well and good if you have had a perfect life, but truthfully none of us have had perfect lives. We’ve all had experiences that have negatively influenced us and have produced painful memories that constantly plague our minds. These experiences have developed little voices in the corner of our brain that constantly speak messages of fear, doubt, shame, inadequacy, discouragement, and so forth.

Left alone, we follow their direction and find ourselves hiding in the corner while life is passing us by, repeating past mistakes or living our potential. It seems that every time that we take one step forward the voices are there telling us that we do not belong there and we should step to the rear of the line. Our story becomes cyclical, one step forward, two steps backwards.

How do we break the cycle? How do we eradicate the negative voices that bombard our minds? Tonight we began a 2 part series called Mind Games. It is my opinion that the only way to defeat the negative voices that seek to control your thought life is to spiritually renew your mind. The foundation of this study is based on Romans 12:2.

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.

All of us have a story. Many of the chapters have already been written by choices that we have made, situations that that we have encountered and by people that we have met. Our story is filled with challenges that attempt to stretch us to our limit; pressures that pull the energy right out of our soul. We grope around looking for direction and at times the only voice we hear is the negative voice calling us back into our painful past.

So we have to make a decision. Do we risk going into a future filled with more uncertainty or do we retreat into the painful past just because it’s familiar?

The Old Testament contains a story of a group of people who were oppressed, mistreated, and demoralized. At one point in their lives they were enjoying peace and success, but circumstances changed and they found themselves enslaved to a foreign government. Their days were filled with hard labor and unrealistic expectations.

In their despair, they cried out to God for help.

God heard their cry and sent a deliverer. His name was Moses. Through a series of miraculous events, Moses led this group of slaves out of Egypt. They were headed to a new land filled with new opportunity, but something happened in the process. Their road to success took an unexpected turn.

Exodus 14:8-9

8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly.

9 The Egyptians– all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops– pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea…
Exodus 14:10

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelite’s looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.

The Israelite’s felt as if their luck had run out. The promise of a new life was waning and it looked as if their options were running out. They felt immense pressure as they saw the Egyptian Army headed their way. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.

Their prayer, however, was not one of faith, but of fear. Instead of looking to God for their deliverance, they chose to blame Moses for their predicament. If he had never led them out of Egypt, they wouldn’t be on the verge of death.

Exodus 14:11-12

11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?

12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ’Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

We do the same thing. We look for people to blame for our predicaments, because we’re afraid to face the pain in our own lives. We are afraid to face the truth of our responsibility or afraid to face the hard questions about God’s leading us into such predicaments. It’s much easier to allow the voices of blame to fill our minds.

Blame always backfires, because however dire our predicament, it isn’t as dreadful as the bitterness we experience as we blame our predicaments on others. If we allow bitterness and regret to control our mind, we will never see the promised land that God has for us.

Bitterness comes from deep rooted anger. When anger is not dealt with, it turns inward and becomes bitterness. Anger is a God-given emotion, but as with all of the wonderful emotions that God has given us, it is our responsibility to use anger in appropriate ways.

Jesus used his anger to clear out the Temple when it had been overtaken by business leaders attempting to make a profit with religious items. He reestablished the focus of the Temple as being a place of prayer. Anger expressed in appropriate ways can produce good results, but anger gone wild or anger turned inward is a recipe for disaster.

There are many people who have convinced themselves that they have a right to be angry and that their anger is not hurting anyone. The scriptures declare otherwise.

Hebrews 12:15

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Unresolved anger leads to bitterness and bitterness destroys precious relationships. Many of you are playing mind games and you are listening to the painful voices that are crying out for revenge.

In the natural, you have every right to get even, but God is saying to you to lay it down. Don’t allow vengeful fantasies to control your mind. Instead,

Philippians 2:5
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Focus your mind on Jesus Christ and allow His word to soothe the pain and quiet the negative voices. Stop blaming other people for your predicament.
When the Israelites saw the enemy resurfacing, they retreated into blaming Moses for their predicament. They said that it would have been better if Moses had simply left them alone, in bondage to the Egyptians than to die in the desert. They’d rather be slaves than dead.

There are many people today who are controlled by sinful practices and would rather live an enslaved life rather than risk taking a different road that would lead to freedom.

Sin is comfortable, non-threatening, non-challenging. It’s a fantasy world that requires no risks. The road to freedom is filled with risks. We spell risks at “Crown of Life” with the letters: F-A-I-T-H. If you are tired of living in a fantasy world, it’s time to step out in faith and take a new road.

Some people are more comfortable in fantasy relationships because they find real relationships terrifying. So, they live their lives vicariously through romance novels, pornography, and a romanticized version of life as it used to be. The thought of leaving the fantasy world seems like death in the wilderness. In the wilderness, we no longer determine how our needs are met but must trust God to meet them. So we prefer sin’s slavery to freedom’s perceived death.

Too many of us opt for living in the past because we know what to expect in the future. God has a better place for us. It’s a place of blessing, a land filled with His goodness. In order to go there, we must leave our past behind. We must get past our past. We must stop living in fear and stop blaming others for our pain. God wants us to stop living in a fantasy world and move into the real world where He can provide us with daily guidance.

The Israelites problems intensified because they did not have a positive vision for their lives. They did not have a dream. They knew where they came from, but they did not know where they were going. Everything was based on what they had seen and what they could see. They did not know how to see with “the eye of faith.” Moses encouraged the people.

Exodus 14:13-14

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.

14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Get the picture: They had the Egyptian army on one side and the Red Sea on the other. It appeared that their options had run out. They were now ready to listen to God.

So often, we wrestle with ridiculous thoughts in our mind instead of listening to the voice of God. In fact, many of us do not pay attention to God’s direction until we find ourselves in similar circumstances. Our options have expired and the only thing left is God. What does God say?

Exodus 14:15

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.

The Lord tells Moses to tell the people to “move on.” Go forward. What do the Israelites see when they look forward? Nothing but water.

The Red Sea. God is seemingly commanding them to walk forward into a watery grave.

This is an outrageous proposition. But because they are being pursued by the Egyptians, they are out of options. The Lord has led them to a place where virtually their only option is to trust him. The alternative is death at the hand of the Egyptians. God’s alternative is seemingly death by drowning, but at least God’s way offers a glimmer of hope. Maybe God will do something.

The Lord will lead us to places where we are seemingly hemmed in, where all our ingenious solutions have failed, and where we finally understand that our best option is to trust him in a way that we ordinarily would not. The Lord leads us to these places in order for us to see His power.

Many of you are playing Mind Games. You spend hours and hours trying to figure out how you can get across your Red Sea, how you can get past your past. Let me tell you something, true deliverance will never come from the arm of the flesh; it will only come through the arm of God’s Spirit. The Old Testament teaches us:

Zechariah 4:6

“….. ’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

Put your trust in Him. Call on His Name. You will find the help that you need.

How to Rewrite Your Life Story

1. Take Responsibility for Your Actions

I realize that many of you have good reasons for the predicament that you are in. You may have had a hard life, unfair working conditions, or a difficult set of parents. You have to take what you have been given and make the right choices for your future.

You have a will and when you exercise your will to commit sins or to carry out destructive behaviors, you are fully responsible for your actions.

All of us have made some bad choices along the way. The good news is that God has a plan for your life. God has established a process of change where by you can be made new. His plan begins with repentance. Repentance begins by seeing our sin clearly and then taking responsibility for it.

2. Ask God for Help.

The Israelites cried out to the Lord and He heard their prayer. God will do the same for you. Ask him for help.

John 16:24

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

3. Be confident in God’s abilities.

You are not alone in this fight. Remember that the Lord is with you and He will fight for you.

4. Quit Your Complaining and Move On.

Many of you have been stuck in reverse because you are playing games with God. On the one hand, you say that you trust God, but on the other hand, you complain because of your adversity. Put your trust in God and keep the negative words out of your mind.

Over the last several minutes, God has prompted many of you with issues that He wants to deal with. Some of you need healing. We often talk about physical healing, but I believe that today, God wants to heal your memories. You have suffered wounds … emotional wounds and mental hurts that have plagued you for too long of a time. Today, I am going to believe that God is going to touch your mind and heal you.

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