Trick Or Treat – Real Life
This week in many communities, you will hear the phrase, “trick or treat.” Fall is in full swing. Candy. Caramel apples. Cider – hot or cold. Chilly air and colored leaves (in some geographies). Hayrides. Some folks decorate their yard for Fall. Others prefer a Harvest Party with games, costumes, stories, and pumpkins. But these festivities don’t change the reality – trick or treat is real life.
The tricks in real life are real and can be overwhelming.
Honestly – there are times you feel you’ve been tricked as you see how life has taken twists and turns you didn’t want and couldn’t have predicted or prevented. Sometimes you just feel sad. Tricked. Too many losses, and you don’t know what to do and who (if anyone) to blame. Life’s sometimes cruelty can feel discouraging.
Here are some examples of times when people may feel they’ve been tricked in life. There are many more:
- You remember hopes and excitement you once had. But the way things turn out, life seems harsh.
- Sometimes you feel tricked because of consequences where you’ve messed up – or someone else messed up and you still suffer.
- When bad things happen for no good reason, it’s easy to feel broken by life’s tricks.
- Seeing facades of dressed-up reality is disheartening. Like a game that makes it hard to be real – and impossible to know how to respond.
- You may have worked to make progress in relational issues, but ended up even more disappointed.
- When you’ve been disciplined to eat healthy, exercise, and take care of yourself, it’s a mean trick to find out you have a terminal illness.
- The betrayal of people that God intended to be your support is a cruel trick.
The trick in real life is to figure out where the treats are.
Here is a list of treats that make life so much better. There are many more:
- Having something good totally unexpectedly happen renews your hope. Sometimes, you even feel excitement again.
- Anticipating terrible news and finding the situation is far better than expected.
- Having a loan or debt cancelled. Or having resources made available to pay a debt off.
- Dreading results of a medical test, but having results come back normal.
- The shock of an apology from someone who treated you terribly, but realized they are wrong.
- Remembering the sun is still shining, birds still sing, butterflies bring delight, and flowers smell delicious.
- Practicing God’s presence in the moment to focus on His love, goodness, and promises.
- A special family celebration where good memories are made and great pictures taken.
- Gathering-in a harvest after much toil on the land – with intense gratitude and relief it brings.
- A word from a friend that encourages and reminds God is in control, that He is good, and He has plans to give you hope.
Troubles and trials of life can seem overwhelming. We’ve already articulated how everyone feels “tricked” at some time or other. We also mentioned how one of the best tricks of life is knowing where the treats are.
It is helpful to remember both tricks and treats co-exist alongside each other in life. Treats don’t eliminate tricks in this shattered world. Still, tricks don’t have power to eliminate treats still present all around you.
There is a life skill that empowers and enables you to go forward whether you’ve experienced a trick or a treat. This life skill is knowing where to find the treats in a life that is also littered with tricks. This skill involves specific characteristics anyone can practice.
- Positive Outlook
- Absolute Faith in God’s Word
- Understanding Your Enemy
Let’s look at each in more depth.
Perspective affects your entire outlook in life. It has the power to decide how you get through. Sometimes, it even affects the outcome. Perspective also determines what you see and how you interpret things that happen. And finally, perspective has a lot to do with the kind of character you develop. In other words, perspective literally helps determine the kind of person you will be. That’s a lot of power!
Let’s review this list of power and influence perspective has:
- Your outlook
- How to get through things
- Affect over the actual outcome
- What you see
- How you interpret what happens
- The kind of character you develop
- What kind of person you will be
Adopting a perspective that matches Scripture is exercising the life skill of knowing where to find treats that co-exist alongside tricks in life.
Since it’s hard to sin when you practice gratitude, being grateful should be at the top of your list. I mean – you really have to work at messing things up when you are thankful, cheerful, and trusting God’s goodness. This is true even when things go terribly wrong. Death, disease, loss, destruction. Those are real conditions – like terrible tricks. Truly, this world is full of them. But the presence of awful circumstances does NOT eliminate the reality there are still blessings alongside those sufferings.
Blessed is the person who figures this out. Because they are practicing the life skill of noticing treats.
A hurt, angry, discouraged, negative disposition tends to see tricks first, longest, and sometimes only. However, a courageous, open, positive, optimistic disposition tends to see rays of hope streaming through the dark night. The person who practices positive outlook is the one who finds unexpected treats tucked here and there in hard times.
A positive outlook also has capacity to form your very disposition. That’s big! So, the question is – what kind of outlook do you have?
The person who adopts a positive outlook even in the face of the tricks of life is practicing the life skill of knowing where to find treats.
4. Absolute Faith In God’s Word
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away. But My words will never pass away.” (Mt. 24:35; Mk. 13:31; Lk. 21:33) Jesus never lies. So – the logical conclusion is that when everything around you is falling apart, as the tricks of life are penetrating your defenses, you have a very strong position with God’s words. They will never pass away.
Scripture is full of incredible resources and eternal truths. In fact, God’s Word abounds with treats in a very tricky world. Here are three dearly loved treats committed Christians recognize:
- God’s commands.
- Tender, to-the-point rebukes from the Lord.
- God’s promises and love.
That’s a list you can do something with. These are treats you can cherish and be grounded in. The psalmist continually proclaims how he loves God’s Word and trusts whatever God says. He even welcomes – asks for – God’s rebukes. Check out Ps. 139 – especially verses 23 and 24.
Welcoming God’s correction as a treat helps you become extremely agile, strong, flexible, and grateful. You also become “God-centered” instead of “self-centered.”
The practical use of God’s Word in daily life is the life skill of knowing where to find the treats.
5. Understand Your Enemy
Your enemy has a name in Scripture – father of lies. His role from the beginning has been to trick God’s children. He tempts on two levels:
- Tricking a person with basal human desires and responses.
- A higher plain of tricks where quality of character partially determines the nature of temptation. (i.e., what will most effectively nullify the formation of Christ in a person). *
What about prayer? Do you ask the Lord to help you, or do you try to tackle the enemy in your own strength? Do you mention names of others in prayer?
Remember: your enemy is the most skillful trickster that has ever existed. He fills life with unhappy, devastating tricks. Blessed is the Jesus follower who understands their enemy and cries out to God for assistance. “Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. With God, we will gain the victory, and He will trample all our enemies.” (Ps. 60:11-12)
The person who understands the tactics of the enemy is practicing the life skill of knowing where to find treats and how to handle tricks.
Application Thoughts and Questions
- Do you feel tricked by the harshness of life? Have you lost sight of the treats?
- Who are you dressed up to be? God robes His children in finery and helps you be who you were designed to be – no game-playing.
- Are you practicing the life skill of knowing where to find the treats?
- What is your chosen perspective?
- Are you practicing gratitude?
- Do you have a positive outlook?
- Do you practice absolute faith in God’s Word?
- Is your understanding of the enemy accurate to Scripture?
- Do you see Jesus as your dearest treat?
- What does noble character look like to you?
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* Some of these ideas come from Oswald Chambers thoughts, My Utmost For His Highest, Sept. 17-19.