By Anthony Casperson
Seated at a table with a friend of mine and his two brothers a couple years ago, I was learning how to play a board game. The game: Five Tribes. To win the game, you have to amass the most amount of points by the time there are no more legal moves left, or a player has run out of a certain type of limited piece in front of them.
There are many ways to acquire points. The way that I saw it, the best and easiest way to earn points was through controlling tiles. And as back-up for those points gained by controlling tiles, there were Djinn that you could collect which would amplify point gains as you played, or be worth points themselves. So, when the game began, I aimed to do those two things.
Cut to 20-ish minutes later, I’m sitting there slightly frustrated as my attempts to perform those two “easy” tasks were foiled time and again by my opponents. I found over and over, that my only real possible option was to buy resource cards from the market.
With resource cards, the way you earn points is by having sets of different cards. The scaling of points for how many of the 9 resource cards you have for each set increases dramatically. For instance, having 5 different resources gives you 21 points, but having all 9 gives you 60 points.
At about the time I was ready to admit I wasn’t going to win this game, I realized that I had collected 7 of the resources for one set, and had a couple of other sets of lesser numbers. I looked at the market that was coming up and saw that the two resources I was missing were there.
I realized that I had to change my strategy from doing what appeared to be the easiest and most common way to gain points. This way to earn points (attaining sets of resource cards), that I had thought would be next to impossible, ended up being something that I fell into by accident. I had been getting frustrated trying to accomplish the goal of the game in one way, only to find this other way was open to me.
Announcing that I had attained all 9 resources, my opponents seemed amazed that I could accomplish such a thing. And when it came time to count our points, my collections won me the game. I won because I adapted my strategy to accomplish the goal of the game. Right when I was about to give up in accomplishing my goal, the way to victory opened itself up to me. When I quit focusing on what I thought was the best way and found the path that had been given to me, I accomplished what I had set out to do.
Adaptation is something that these types of games require people to do. If you aren’t able to do what you set out to do, it’s either adapt or lose. If you keep trying to push through on this way that isn’t working for you, you’ll end up frustrated, defeated, and ready to quit.
It’s easy to say this for a game, but I’ve found that when it comes to real-life I tend to forget this. Especially when it comes to God’s will in my own life. Perhaps some of you reading this are like me. We know that the end goal of life as a follower of Jesus is to love God with our whole being as we seek to become more like him in our relationship with him, and to love others in our relationships with them. But we often get focused on one way to perform that goal, when God has myriads of options available to us to accomplish this goal.
What I mean is that we (yes, I fall into this trap all the time) often speak of following the will of God as if we’re on rails going through life. And if we go off the rails, we’re outside of God’s will. But God’s will in our lives isn’t accomplished only by one formulaic path. Our desires to love and serve God might take us on the path that we expect, but if it doesn’t, we need to adapt within God’s will. We need to keep moving, but in the direction that he’s opened up for us.
Don’t misunderstand. This isn’t an easy “When God closes a door, he opens a window” sort of statement. Sometimes the adaptation will become multiple adaptations and will take years before the way that God has ready for us will come into sight.
And once we’re on the “right path,” it doesn’t mean that it’s the only way for the rest of our lives. Our course of action to love and serve God might require further adaptation later as God opens up other avenues that he wants us to follow on the way to accomplish loving God and others.
In Acts 16, we see that Paul had to adapt his plans in accomplishing the goal of leading the Gentiles to Jesus. He had planned on going to Phrygia and Galatia, but the Holy Spirit told him to adapt his plans. So, he tried to go to Bithinia, but was once again held up. Probably frustrated at the time, Paul kept moving. His heart ached to bring the truth of the Gospel to the Gentiles, but everywhere he was going, he was met with walls and resistance. But then, God revealed the path in a dramatic way. In a vision, Paul was told to go to Macedonia.
When we read these few verses, it looks easy for Paul. He didn’t have to wait that long, just like 4 verses. But how long was it? Days? Weeks? Months? We don’t know for certain. But we do know that Paul kept moving, kept adapting his plans, until God revealed a path to follow. He then moved, loving God and others by bring the truth of the cross of Jesus to the Gentiles in Macedonia.
But God didn’t have Paul stop there in Macedonia. Throughout the rest of the book of Acts, we see Paul continue to travel around the Mediterranean. From town to town. Free and in chains. Paul adapted his path in bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, without adapting the truth of the message.
We too need to adapt in accomplishing the goal of loving God and others. It’ll look different from others. It might look weird. It might take years to understand. Some people might consider the path on which God leads you to be impossible. But if you adapt in the way that God guides you, he will be there with you, making the impossible happen. It’s the way he loves to work.