Games People Play
One of the fruits of a world trying to make it without God is the games played. The superficialities. The masks. The embellishments, the little “white lies” to outright fabrications and deceit that undermine and short-circuit the foundations to enduring relationships.
Whether international diplomacy, politics, business, dating, marriage or simply the broad illusive category of what are labeled as friendships, 21st century relationships too often have at their core games that people play. A world of reshaped perceptions that challenge what is real. Long ago, the prophet Jeremiah faced this same issue with God’s people’s response to the world and those around them. He admonished: “Stand at the crossroads and look. Then ask for the ancient paths where the good way lies. Then walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.”
For those called by His Name there is a standard. It begins with God, but then defines our relationships and views of reality. Yet, whether due to cultural pressures or approval-needs, most waffle in embracing the standard. Be it the choices we make, the influence around us or the games we consciously or unconsciously play, most tend to fall short of this standard.
Job was a man who God considered as upstanding and righteous. Yet, Job was stuck despite many who looked up to him as a standard-bearer. Despite his renown, something was missing. His world and his thinking were far short of not just the blessing God desired for him, but the realm, the spiritual dimension the Lord wanted Job to be drawing his life from.
And THAT is the crux of the dilemma for the household of faith today. Based on the lives we live; is our faith a philosophy or is it driven by the relationship with the One who created us in our response to the reality of the world around us? Until that difference is recognized by the world, until the fear of the Lord radiates from God’s people in the lives they live, the world can be expected to reject and replace this higher standard, resetting it to the standard in which relationships and reality are defined by the games people play.
In 1964, Eric Berne, a psychiatrist, published what has become a classic in the realm of human relationships: “Games People Play.” Not giving his school of thought the justice it deserves, his treatise of transactional analysis has maturity or the lack of it at its core. Responding as a child or adult. It carries the suggestion that people need to grow up in their responses to one another if enduring relationships are to be expected.
Over the centuries, whether as a rite of passage or as judgment to reset their response to being a people of influence or digressing into being those influenced; for the people of God, the issue calls for a commitment to the higher standard. That standard is driven by the response to the realities around us. Truth. It requires facing the realities of the alternative head-on, which bears significantly on the maturity of thinking that becomes immune to the fickle tendencies of relationships and responses to reality based on playing games.
Recognizing and Penetrating the Gates of Hell
In preparing His inner circle, Jesus made reference to a standard against which the gates of hell would not prevail. There are two sides to why God’s Messiah stressed this point. The first is recognizing the source of the conflict that has been the hidden, driving force, behind the good versus evil clashes of cultures since the beginning of time. The second part of this preparation involves the strategy required for good to conquer evil. In short, uncovering the hidden to embrace the standard that would be needed to overcome the unseen forces.
Such preparation requires an undivided mind. It is the preparation that raises one of the hardest questions of the gospels: “When the Son of Man returns, will he really find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)?” Jesus is not coming for a impotent, lukewarm, unfocused church, one that is playing games. He will be returning for one that, like the heroes of faith who paid the cost to live by the standard required, made a difference in this age-old conflict. Such will be the role of the modern-day Joseph and Daniels, who serve as remnant forerunners in penetrating the gates of hell in this season. It is a role and strategy that will be accomplished, not from monastic cloisters, but from within the infrastructures of the world’s seats of power, as the influencers rather than the influenced.
Awareness of the Dynamics of the Hidden Realm
Awareness of the dynamics needed to operate within the spiritual realm is a prime requisite to the journey in the life of the believer. Jesus’ testing in the wilderness reveals profound insights into the preparation for what is to be faced by the remnant in today’s time of reset.
The result reflected Jesus spiritually mastering the hurdles required to take responsibility to embrace the authority for His significant mantle. There were three areas He faced. Each was uniquely tied to key dimensions for the employment of righteous power in a corrupt world. Together, they represent the foundation needed to bring the change against which the gates of hell will not prevail: provision, power and purpose.
When the evil one challenged Jesus with “command these stones be made bread,” the issue involved the authority over provision. When the challenge was “throw yourself down for He has given His angels charge over you,” it was the foundation needed to employ righteous power. Finally, when shown all the glory of the kingdoms of this world and being offered “all these things I will give to you,” the matter addressed Jesus’ key purpose and that of His followers, of restoring the Kingdom.
For Jesus to embrace the power of the standard required for Him to set in motion the spiritual shift that is now our task to walk out, He had to face the reality of His adversary, unmasked.
This faceoff was nothing new. Job had to be shaken out of his reverie of self-satisfaction and face it head-on. Yet in doing so, there came the recognition of an entirely new dimension that he would begin living in. Elijah’s dramatic encounter with the prophets of Baal and Asherah served to awaken God’s people to the reality of the seductive spiritual games being played against God’s people. This ultimate spiritual game against the household of faith sought to entice the leaders of the brethren into being “influenced,” rather than being the influencers. Elijah’s encounter became a spiritual reset that has sobering parallels to the lukewarm, seduced condition of much of today’s church.
Reclaiming the Standard and Identity
Facing the season and taking responsibility is not passive. Yet, in large part, the church today has become culturally assimilated and passive to the games being played. They’ve lost their grip on both the standard and their identity in God. The standard is not the one imposed by the surrounding world, of meek, smiling, passive lambs, but rather the Lion of Judah that Jesus emerged with from his encounter with evil; one that wielded the standard with the authority for power, purpose and the required provision.
It is the authority for power, purpose and provision during a time of extreme conflict when everything changes. It is one of the identity being, not of those laying over and playing the world’s game, but that of a lion wielding and resetting the standard. Not to be confused with a hop-skip-hallelujah form of churchianity, the standard is the standard of the Kingdom, the one that resulted in worldly observers in the Book of Acts proclaiming: “These are those who are turning the world upside down.” It is the one embraced by Daniel and his companions within the heart of Babylon.
Recognizing the Mantle of the Remnant Forerunners
Forerunners are ones who take the initiative. They set the course and are an example for those who will follow. Jesus was strong on the interim spiritual maintenance required, not just for His own role, but for that of His followers. Scripture notes that he spent entire nights in prayer with the Father. He took the initiative, responsibility and paid the cost. The initiative, responsibility and cost tied to bringing change. It is the unbending standard for those who are “turning the world upside down.” Turning the world upside down is the hallmark of being revolutionary. Yet, what Jesus set in motion with the Kingdom standard is just that. Indeed, we are to be in the world, but not of the world.
Yet, we acquiesce to playing the game by the world’s standard. We major in minors and minor in majors and dance to the beat of the world’s drummer, seduced and deceived.
The Fine Line: Righteous Power in a Corrupt World
Upholding the standard and the identity embraces a fine line. As God’s people, we are to be engaged in the world, but not be of it. Recognizing and calling the games for what they are and resisting them. Daniel and his companions put their lives on the line in doing so. That’s walking a fine line. Maintaining the focus Jesus mastered in His wilderness encounter with evil, wielding purpose, power and provision will involve fine line thinking and decisions. In essence, there’s a progression to the cost paid.
Entering the portal of the Kingdom is in itself a fine line, one almost imperceptible. It begins with laying down the games. Neither the identity nor the standard is compatible with the games people play. Unfortunately, some of the highest-stakes games are ones played by believers. Jesus dealt with it in grooming His inner circle. Think betrayal and Judas. Paul addressed fine line issues with his new Gentile believers who were largely unacquainted with both the identity and standard of becoming a people of God.
Laying down the games people play is an absolute requisite to employing righteous power in a corrupt world. It is the step that shuns manipulation, control games and deceit and not just acknowledges truth, but becomes immersed in walking in unadulterated truth and honesty.
Aside from believers who explain their blended lifestyles and faith by denying the power of God, there is a corridor, one Jesus described as being narrow and difficult, that is designed to gain traction and bear fruit, fruit that endures. It begins with the face-off with evil that lays down the games and regardless of the cost, embraces truth. It requires a higher standard of thinking, one that is pure and other-directed, not self-absorbed. One that is in oneness with and depends on the priorities and perceptions of the mind of the Lord. It is an other-directedness that seeks for the good for those on who they bear responsibility.
With that simplicity of faith and focus will come the access that will consistently overcome evil with good. The portal with the authority for purpose, power and provision. It’s the identity and standard that the gates of hell will not prevail against.
It’s the thinking and the response of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to the ultimatum of facing death with their words in refusing to compromise to a blended faith: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
This mantle upholding the identity and standard will trigger the fear of the Lord for the community, the heritage of honor and the maintenance of the ancient paths across the generations.
The Fear of the Lord and Community
Establishing the fear of the Lord outside the household of faith will not happen without its consistent operation within the community of believers. The community of Abraham, as did that of Isaac exuded a recognition by the surrounding societies that God was with them. Abimelech recognized it and sought to live in peace with them.
On the other hand, Joseph’s brothers failed with the standard of being God’s people. Although they considered their actions just, they treated their neighbors with deceit, being unjust representatives of their God. They lost the protection and fear of the Lord that resulted in the judgment that came when Joseph was sent ahead to Egypt, to preserve the lineage of God’s people.
When God’s people are in righteous alignment with Him, it will provoke an awe and fear of God in the surrounding societies.
The Heritage of Honor
The fear of the Lord and the honor established by Abraham and then reestablished by Isaac was lost in the fourth generation. Honor is the lynchpin that establishes the fear of the Lord for the community from one generation to the next. This generational link is significant.
The heritage of honor is subtle. It is subtle because it is linked to God’s honor, as His people serve as His representatives to the surrounding societies. The glue maintaining it is tied back to the identity and standard as a people of God. The identity and standard observed by the people of the world that is designed to transcend the generations.
It encompasses a responsibility as it is passed from one generation to another. The Jewish bar mitzvah or rite of passage is no accident. It is one of the means of fulfilling the generational mandate of telling “these things” to your children, speaking of them as you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you arise. You shall tell your children of it, and they shall tell their children and their children another generation. (Deut 11:19; Joel 1:3).
It is a heritage than can be lost by deceit and unjust actions. As was the case with the sons of Jacob defending the honor of their sister, honor was also lost with the lifestyles of Job’s children. Honor can be lost by giving heed to evil reports as was the case with the ten spies scouting out the promised land. Honor can be lost, together with the spiritual atmosphere surrounding a work of God by the loose, misguided tongues of those anointed for service, whether by gossip, badmouthing or in entering the games of exaggeration, embellishments and the pride of self-exaltation.
The Reciprocals: Truth and Trust
The reciprocal to truth in relationships is trust. Living in the spiritual dimension with the Holy Spirit, also referred to in the New Covenant as the Spirit of Truth, requires a progressive trust response. Doing so, unlocks deeper and deeper insights into the truths required to uphold the standard and maintain the identity. Trust, based on truth is what engenders deeper access relationally with God. Trust is what lines the corridors of a path of walking with God during seasons of uncertainty.
When actuated together, truth and trust becomes the foundation of both our faith and our calling. As faith and the calling deepen, what follows is not unlike the encounter of Job that took him to a higher level spiritually. It is illustrated by the time Jesus pointed out to Peter that Satan had asked to sift, not only Peter, but the rest of His inner circle. To sift them, trying their faith to the point of it being overthrown. Their journey was intimately entwined with that of the prophetic events that were unfolding for Jesus
Yet, Jesus revealed that He had made petition concerning Peter’s faith, that it not be eclipsed or overwhelmed. That it would not fail. When Peter had prevailed and returned to the original stance of his faith, that he should then go and strengthen the rest of those of the inner circle, who Satan also sought to overwhelm (Luke 22:32). When Peter’s faith was restored, he was beyond the lure of the games the evil one was using to hook him.
Maintaining the Ancient Paths Across the Generations
Uncertainty, whether in the times or in relationships, tends to provoke the playing of games. Changes in the times and seasons triggers uncertainty. The time in the wilderness for Jesus, marked a time of transition, significant change in which Jesus would emerge from the wilderness to embrace His greatest hour as God’s Messiah. It required a higher standard and an undefiled identity in God ….and a cost of being willing to risk everything.
The proving ground was and is this unmasked encounter with evil. It was the way forward for Jesus and has been for the people of God with the courage to face the reality without the games, by embracing the passage established by the ancient paths. From one generation to another, there will be a time of embracing the wilderness and in doing so, of identifying the wells established and named by former generations in need of being re-dug.
The antidote to the games people play, both within and outside the household of faith is truth and the fear of God. Truth combined with honor and the fear of God when serving in capacities like Daniel and his companions in the court of the king. Within these contexts, truth that triggers trust.
Years ago, I struggled with a man who worked for me, but who was shirking an important aspect of his responsibilities. It involved an issue in which trust had broken down and games were being played. After repeated attempts at kindly advising him to get with the program, I digressed to a default of expressing my displeasure in a manner worthy of a seasoned, salty Marine captain. He got the point.
However, the Lord spoke a word to me following that encounter that I’ve never forgotten. The Lord simply asked me if I understood that I could be wrong when I was right and right when I was wrong. While I knew immediately that I had been wrong in my manner, despite being right in my correction, this wisdom carried greater meaning. I’ve since come to realize there are times when one acts with a pure heart, that even if in the natural it might appear wrong or feeble, when the Lord is brought into the equation, that He will make it right. This is the season. It’s the season in which worshipping at the altar of what we deem right or wrong may be just another game diminishing the identity and standard.
When truth and honor are operating within just a remnant of God’s people, it becomes a strategy and launch-pad that God uses to put an axe to the root of the games people are playing. It’s the catalyst that triggers the fear of the Lord. Like when Daniel’s companions refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol and emerged from the burning, fiery furnace.
The book of James begins by speaking of pure religion, undefiled before God. It’s a Kingdom thing. A contradiction. Innocence while tapping the deep things. The authority for provision, purpose and power. Upholding the identity and standard higher than our own lives, even in the face of death. The passageway into the faith that turns the world upside down.
“Stand at the crossroads and look. Then ask for the ancient paths where the good way lies. Then walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16
Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and voice for the higher dimensions of spiritual game-changers and intercessors since the mid-90s. As founder of Global Initiatives Foundation and designer of the God’s Economy Entrepreneurial Equippers Program and the Jewish Business Secrets YouTube series, Mr. Ruddick equips economic community builders with strategy where God’s light is dim in diverse regions around the globe.
He is author of “The Joseph-Daniel Calling;” “Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;” “The Heart of a King;” “Something More;” “Righteous Power in a Corrupt World;” “Leadership by Anointing;” and “Mantle of Fire,” which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders with destinies to impact their communities. They are available in print and e-versions from www.Amazon.com, www.apple.com/ibooks and www.BarnesandNoble.com.
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