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Playing Life’s Game

Brad Smith

Are you familiar with the game of Monopoly?

When you play, you move around the board and have the option to buy properties you land on. Once you own that property, anyone else who lands on it has to pay you rent. If you buy a series of similar properties, you have the option to develop the properties with houses and hotels, which makes the rent much more expensive to someone else who lands on it. Some things in the game happen to you by your decision and some by chance. You might have to pay hospital bills, pay double the rent, or you might collect a bank dividend or beauty contest prize. The goal of the game is to accumulate the most property and money and eventually force your opponents to go bankrupt. I call this goal the surface of the game.

But while we’re working on the surface, we are also operating on another perspective or plane. It is not on the board or the roll of the dice; it is what is in our hearts as we play the game. I’m talking about our attitudes during the game. You know what I mean―greed, anger, manipulation, maybe even meanness or cheating. Monopoly can really bring that out. In my wife’s eyes, it is that attitude that really matters as we play. To her it is not the game that is important; it is the attitude with which we play it.

Making Game Decisions

Compare Monopoly to our lives. Consider the board to be life’s surface―a flat perspective that represents both the visible decisions we make, as well as the things that happen to us that are not of our choosing. We plan our strategies and make our goals; we choose our jobs and our kids’ education; we believe we know where we’re headed, and we make decisions accordingly.

However, sometimes our decisions or events are beyond our control―like landing on opponents’ hotels or receiving Chance cards in the game. These cause us to change direction. These changes might be job losses, errant behavior or learning issues in our children, sickness, or anything else, and that is when we usually become more aware of the second dimension. And, it is this second dimension that really matters. It is our attitudes that determine whether or not we will have a wall of separation with our family members or friends at the end of the game.

Isn’t it interesting that most often we refer to God’s will as it relates to decisions and “happenings”―the surface. But God’s will for us is actually all about the second dimension―our attitudes and heart condition. God’s will is essentially summed up in these two things: His desire for the salvation of all men (2 Peter 3:9) and for the saved to become conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). (For more specifics on that one, check out Galatians 5.)

How is your life going? Are you happy? Disappointed? Struggling? Worried that you somehow missed God’s leading? The answer to that is a different question: What is your attitude while you are following? Share on X

Landing on the wrong properties

When we were in college, my wife and I were fed the philosophy that says you can pick your future and, with careful planning, expect certain results. So we prayed and planned and designed and anticipated. We focused on the game board.

We played the game the best we could, but when we turned the corner of the game board, we found properties covered with hotels and unfortunate Chance cards―in other words, obstacles to our game plan―and we wondered if we had heard God’s leading correctly.

This question first surfaced when we were living in San Francisco. I needed a job, and I interviewed with an association in Southern California. After much prayer we became convinced it was the right job and certain it was God’s will.

But then after weeks of waiting, I learned that someone else had interviewed, and I had moved down to second choice! What?!  We were thrown into confusion. How could God allow the company to make a mistake like that―we were absolutely convinced the job was supposed to be mine!

Two months later I was offered a different position. We moved 3,000 miles east and set up a new home.

Four months after that, the association in Southern California called me. They said they had made a mistake by hiring the other guy; could I come now?

So there we were. We had been right in the first place, but now what? At this point it didn’t seem right to abandon the fledgling organization I had joined, so we turned down the revised offer. But six months later, the organization I had been faithful to stay with in Washington laid me off for lack of funding.

What was this game? From my perspective, I had landed on all the wrong properties. And it was made much worse when the unemployment stretched out.

Focusing on the Right Thing

It is not easy at a time like that to trust in the Lord with all your heart. We had operated on what information we had, but my question was, had I done the Lord’s will in moving east? Should I have waited for that Southern California opportunity? I wrestled with that for a long time…until I discovered that I was not asking the right question.

As I brought this in humility before the Lord, He comforted me with Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.

We were focused on the game, but God operates on the higher, second plane. You see, in God’s eyes it wasn’t that important which or how many of the properties on the game board I owned. It likely didn’t matter that I ended up in Virginia versus California―maybe He would have eventually moved me to Virginia anyway, and I just got here a little faster. The game board is only important as it affects the higher plane: the attitude of our hearts and the perspective with which we face life. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 states: “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The Lord does everything “according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11) and Isaiah 14:27: “The Lord Almighty has purposed…and who can annul it? His hand is stretched out and who can turn it back?”

We tend to believe that God’s will is evidenced primarily by “blessing”―reliable income, good health, certain behavioral and educational results with our children―surely not by suffering! We get confused when things don’t go well and wonder where we went wrong on the game board.

But God is leading according to His purpose and vision, and He keeps us ultimately on track. The issue is really “What do our hearts look like in the midst of His purpose?” If we operate within the framework of the Lord’s vision for us, viewing all decisions through the grid of his criteria and standards through prayer, every decision can be within his will. How can I say that? Romans 8:28.

So, how is your life going? Are you expectant? Happy? Disappointed? Struggling? Are you worried that you somehow missed God’s leading? The answer to that is actually a different question: What is your attitude while you are following?


  • Brad Smith

    Brad Smith is the executive director of Men of Valor International.

Picture of Brad Smith
Brad Smith is the executive director of Men of Valor International.
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