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These days, everyone knows someone who's hit rock bottom after losing a job, home, life savings, marriage, family, etc. Whether that's you or someone else, Brian Zahnd's book What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life can be the perfect lifeline for overcoming the toughest of times. And one of the key elements to this is simply a matter of perspective ...
As a new day began to dawn over Ziklag, a new day began to dawn in David's heart. He had spent the night wearing the linen ephod and seeking the Lord. In the middle of the night God had spoken to him and said, "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all." A day earlier everything seemed hopeless, but now things were changing. David had a word from God, and with that word David had found fresh faith and a new hope. Yesterday all David could see was a bleak future of loss and sorrow, but today he had a new vision-a vision of victory and recovering all. David had reoriented his vision from the dismal ashes of the present to the hopeful potential of the future.
As the men began to gather around David after their own sleepless night, they watched him take off the linen ephod and give it back to Abiathar. They could see that David looked different. He had that faraway look in his eyes; he could see something they could not see. David had the eye of the eagle. I can imagine one of David's chief lieutenants asking, "What is it, David? What do you see?"
I can hear David answering, "I see victory." Then David began to prophesy his vision to those men. "We are going to rise up. We are going to pursue the Amalekites who have destroyed our homes, stolen our possessions, and taken our families. We are going to overtake them, and without a doubt, we are going to recover all! Everything! Every wife, every son, every daughter. We are going to take back all of our livestock, all our silver, and all of our gold. We are going to recover all."1
Spontaneously the men began to shout and cheer. They held their swords high and shouted David's prophetic mantra, "Recover all!" Suddenly the negative energy of despondency and self-pity had been replaced by the positive energy of a new faith expectation. What had happened? A man of vision had prophesied hope back into hopeless men. He had reoriented their vision. Instead of focusing on what had happened and the loss of the present moment, these men now had a vision of recovery that energized them toward productive activity and a victorious future.
To recover all on the worst day of your life you must reorient your vision. The present crisis can cast you into darkness like a total eclipse of the sun. The crisis can move between you and the light of God, casting a dark shadow over your life and paralyzing you from engaging in productive activity. The terrible thing that has happened can appear so big that it seems impossible to focus on anything else. The crisis becomes the only thing you can see. That's when you must reorient your vision; you must find a way to look beyond the crisis and establish a vision of recovering all. That's when God's word is like a light shining in a dark place.
God's word to David was, "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all." David now knew that it was God's will for him to recover all. He was no longer hesitant. He was no longer beleaguered by doubt. Momentary doubt is the natural consequence of receiving the kind of blow that Ziklag delivers-it's like having the wind knocked out of you. It's having the faith knocked out of you. You must reorient your vision toward the promises of God in such a way that you recover your faith and shake off the doubt. He who doubts is like a wave upon the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. You will not receive anything from God while lingering in the duplicity of doubt. Doubt allowed to linger too long will produce dangerous emotional and spiritual instability.2
God Wants You to Recover
You must be convinced that God wants you to recover. You must be fully persuaded of God's unwavering love for you. You must know that God wants you to succeed in life. Faith begins where the will of God is known. How do you know the will of God? You study the Bible! Your Bible is a leather-bound copy of God's will for your life. Study it until you have no doubt about God's will for you. You cannot be wondering if God wants you to win or lose, succeed or fail, flourish or falter.
David said, "This I know...God is for me."3 Let me help you with these four words: God is for you! Just as any good father wants his children to succeed in life, so your heavenly Father is for you. He wants you to succeed in life. Here are some promises from God for you to meditate on that will help you to reorient your vision. Better yet, memorize them. As you saturate your thinking in these promises, the eclipse of faith that has cast you into the darkness of doubt will pass away, and you will again find yourself walking in the cheerful sunshine of knowing God is for you.
The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man.4
And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.5
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.6
Let them shout for joy and be glad, who favor my righteous cause; and let them say continually, "Let the Lord be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant."7
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.8
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.9
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.10
For people facing hard times, these precious promises are like "apples of gold in settings of silver."11 They are diamonds from the Word of God that will help you reorient your vision. Instead of allowing the crisis to dictate a bleak outlook, the Word of God has the potential to produce within you an alternative imagination for the future. It's like the sun bursting through the clouds after days of gray and overcast skies.
Vision is all about your perspective on the future, and your perspective on the future determines whether you will be energized or demoralized. We live almost all of our lives in memory and imagination-remembering the past and imagining the future. We encounter the past by memory, and we encounter the future by imagination. The present is so brief as to be almost indefinable. Now is nothing more than the infinitesimal slice of time between memory and imagination. It is memory and imagination that allow us to hear melody. We remember the note we heard a second ago and imagine the anticipated note, and thus we encounter melody. Without memory and imagination there would be no melody in our lives, just a stupefying preoccupation with the present moment. But when malevolent forces are allowed to dominate our memory and imagination, we can suffer severe mental torment. It's hell inside your head, and this is intolerable. In order to be happy, humans need healed memories and hopeful imaginations. God's Word is capable of accomplishing both of these tasks.
The truth that we live most of our lives in memory and imagination is undeniable. We remember the past and imagine the future. Our past is fixed (though our perspective on the past can change-more about that later), but the future is unknown. The only way we can relate to the future is through imagination. Imagination is indeed a legitimate way of knowing. Hope is the God way of imagining the future. A mind that is God-conscious, God-centric, and God-saturated will be full of hope. It's hope that energizes us for positive action.
Don't allow the malignant cancer of worry to dominate your imagination. Both worry and hope deal with an unknown future, and you have every right to imagine a bright future created by hope. This is what David was doing. Instead of allowing worry and anxiety to dictate his future, David, through a reoriented vision of victory, was imagining a future framed by hope. This hopeful imagination energized both David and his men to begin to engage in positive action-positive action that had the potential to change their situation.
Get a Vision of Victory
Human beings are mysterious creatures who are powerfully affected by vision. We are designed in such a way that we will move in the direction of what we see. Your vision is your future, and your vision is your imagination. You need an imagination inspired by the promises of God, and you need to develop a vision of victory. You need the eye of the eagle. The eagle builds its nest high atop a mountain or tall rock. From there, "it spies out the prey; its eyes observe from afar."12
Do you have the eye of the eagle? Can you see from afar? Can you see into the distant horizon of your future to view the glorious things that God has prepared for you? God has not called you to be a chicken pecking around in the barnyard of the status quo, never seeing anything but the dust of Old McDonald's farm. God has called you to mount up on the eagle's wings of faith and soar above the storms.13 God has given new creation man the eye of the eagle to behold destiny at a great distance.
I have found that I remain excited about life as long as I hold on to the vision that hope can create. As I live in the realm of hopeful vision, I find I can begin each new day with fresh energy and enthusiasm. This is the power of vision. Vision is not simply your wants, wishes, and desires-vision is what you see! Vision is the image of the future that dominates your imagination. If you ask a man living an empty, dead-end life if he wishes he had a better life, he would certainly say yes. But he has no vision for it. He wishes things were better, but as he peers into his future, all he sees is more of the same. He's like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, living the same day over and over. Your vision is not merely your wants, wishes, and desires-your vision is what you see. Your vision is your future!
Georgian Banov is a close friend of mine, and like many of my friends, he is a musician. Georgian plays guitar and piano and is a classically trained violinist. He grew up in Bulgaria in the 1960s when the communist officials kept a tight rein on music and the arts. One day Georgian heard the Beatles on Radio Free Europe singing, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." It was a moment that changed Georgian's life. Soon Georgian formed a rock band, and they began to play throughout Bulgaria. They were an instant sensation, that is until the state police deemed their music as a capitalistic excess that would corrupt the young people of Bulgaria and pulled the plug on them in the middle of a concert.
That's when Georgian decided it was time to get out of Bulgaria, or, as Georgian says, "When the state stops your music, it's time to get a new state." He found a way into East Germany, and from there was able to escape to the political freedom of West Germany. Eventually, Georgian wound up in California during the height of the Jesus Movement. He was introduced to the gospel, became a Christian, and formed the band Silverwind.
In the early days of our church when we were still quite small, I invited Georgian to minister on a Friday night. Before the service, we were talking in my study, and he asked me about my vision. As I began to share my vision, a passion rose up in me, and the words poured forth. It seemed like a holy moment. Suddenly, Georgian jumped up, came over to where I was sitting, began poking me in the chest with his finger, and said these words to me: "Keep your mind on your vision. Make a decision! Keep your mind on your vision. Make a provision! Keep your mind on your vision. Tell all distractions good-bye."
I have never forgotten those words. They have often been a help to me. Even now I think about them often. Keep your mind on your vision! This is what David had to do. God's prophetic word had reoriented his vision, and now David had to make a decision, a provision. He had to keep his mind on his vision and tell all distractions good-bye. If you are going to move your life beyond catastrophe and in the direction of recovery, you have to reorient your vision toward victory, and then keep your mind locked in on that vision.
Increase Your Capacity for Vision
As I read the scriptural account of the Old Testament prophets, it seems as though God is very interested in a person's capacity for vision. Repeatedly in Scripture God asks people this question: "What do you see?" "What do you see, Jeremiah?" "What do you see, Zechariah?" "What do you see, Ezekiel?" "What do you see, Amos?" It's the question God presents to prospective prophets. To be a prophetic person who has some sense of what God is doing, you need a certain capacity for vision.
How do you improve your spiritual vision? By saturating your mind in Scripture. This enhances your capacity for vision. Disciplined reading of Scripture is an exercise in reading God's thoughts after Him, and it expands your capacity to think the God thoughts necessary to transcend convention and move beyond present limitation. You will never go further than your vision, and if you have moles' eyes instead of eagles' eyes you will be very limited. To move beyond the ashes of your worst day you need a new vision. If you can see the invisible, you can do the impossible.
In my life and ministry there have been times when I attempted new things that seemed risky at the time. But I had seen something, and I was going to be daring enough to move in the new direction of a new vision. This doesn't mean that everything I have attempted has been successful, but one thing is certain: without a new vision, you will never have anything new. You will be perpetually stuck in the vicious cycle of the religion of the wheel. This is what makes life seem like an exercise in futility, and this frustrating absurdity is what is depicted so poetically in the Book of Ecclesiastes:
"Everything is meaningless," says the Teacher, "completely meaningless!" What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.14
Many people misunderstand the purpose of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a revelation of a life lived without a personal relationship with God. The personal name of God, Jehovah, never appears in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a depressing book, not one to turn to when you need encouragement and need to have your faith built. The recurrent phrase, "under the sun," is euphemistic of the idea that there is no God in heaven. It is a description of the futility of life without a vibrant connection with the living God.
Ecclesiastes describes the religion and philosophy of the wheel. Life goes in circles, but nothing ever changes. Everything is vanity. Everything is absurdity. What has been is what will be. What has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun. It's the idea that life is ultimately an inescapable cycle, a vicious circle. It's the philosophy that dominates Eastern religion and Eastern philosophical thought. It is the system of religion and thought out of which God called Abraham.
Abraham originally lived in the Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) in the cosmopolitan city of Ur. The Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia were no backwater primitives. They built one of the first advanced civilizations. They were the first to utilize a written language and advanced mathematics. Ur in particular was a city of culture and sophistication. I've seen the ancient art of Ur in the British Museum, and it leaves you with the distinct impression that these were a highly cultured people. The city of Ur had the largest library in the ancient world, an advanced sewer system, and considerable understanding of medicine and mathematics. But despite the intellectual and technical sophistication of Ur, God called Abraham out of Ur as He began to form His alternative society. Why?
The primary deity worshiped by the Sumerians was Nanna-Sin, the moon god. Nanna-Sin was the god of the cycles (as in the lunar cycle). At the heart of the worship of Nanna-Sin was the philosophy of the wheel, the fatalistic notion that we all live in an inescapable circle. It is a philosophy that says what has been is what will be, what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
But God called Abraham to break out of the vicious circle and journey to a new place. (What a wonderful word journey is!) In order for Abraham to embark upon a journey into the unknown-for him to leave behind everything he knew to go wherever his faith in God led him-required a tremendous ability for vision. Abraham would have to believe there really could be something new under the sun.
Abraham would eventually become eternally famous for his faith and be known around the world as the father of faith. But Abraham's first step of faith was to turn his back on Ur and move toward something new, new but unknown. As Abraham left Ur, the last thing he would have seen would have been the ziggurat of the Nanna-Sin temple towering over Ur. Abraham had turned his back on the demon of the vicious circle. Abraham had a vision of something new and was breaking free from the religion and philosophy of the wheel.
If you are going to break from the vicious circle of addiction, depression, family strife, generational poverty, spiritual emptiness, and dead-end living, you must first reorient your vision toward something new and better.
Everyone wants good things-a good home and a good family, a good and happy marriage, and a good and meaningful life. But where do these good things come from? Are they simply inherited? Do we just hope we get lucky and somehow end up with good things? Where do good things come from? Jesus gave us the answer when He said that a good man brings forth good things "out of the good treasure of his heart," but an evil man brings forth evil things "out of the evil treasure" of his heart.15
The good things in a good man's life come from within him. They begin as part of his vision. They are first born in a hopeful imagination. I meet with pastors frequently who want to know how they can build a good church. I always tell them a good church begins in the heart of the pastor. A church will never be better than the pastor's vision. Are you longing for some good things in your life? You must first develop the vision inside of you. Of course, there is more to having good things in your life than just vision, but vision is the place where you start. David was a great leader because he had the essential quality of true leadership-he was able to communicate a new vision to his followers. David's men were ready to stone him until he was able to communicate to them his reoriented vision of recovering all.
When you have been through the worst day of your life, you need to reorient your vision and imagination. You need to turn your focus away from the present crisis and toward the alternative future of recovery. This is what hope is all about. See yourself transcending your tragedy, even if you're not sure yet how to get there. See yourself recovering all, even if it seems impossible right now. See yourself coming out of your present trouble into a place of genuine victory. Let hope paint a new picture on the canvas of your imagination. Your vision will give you the courage to face tomorrow with new energy and strengthened resolve. With something as simple as a hope-oriented vision, you are on the road to recovering all.
1. 1 Samuel 30:8
2. James 1:6–8
3. Psalm 56:9
4. Genesis 39:2
5. Deuteronomy 28:13
6. Joshua 1:8
7. Psalm 35:27
8. John 10:10
9. 1 Corinthians 15:57
10. 2 Corinthians 2:14
11. Proverbs 25:11
12. Job 39:28–29
13. Isaiah 40:31
14. Ecclesiastes 1:2–9
15. Matthew 12:35
Brian Zahnd is the founder and senior pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo. Excerpted from What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life by Brian Zahnd. Used by permission.
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