Seventeen years ago Jim Warren shared a principle with me that I have repeated many times. In last week's message I mentioned it again. And on Wednesday night when I gave that message at the First Baptist Church of Tupelo, I noticed people writing it down. When I shared it at the Men's Bible Study on Thursday night, the same thing happened. It's one of those "Aha!" truths that you've always known but perhaps never put in a single sentence. All those years ago, when I was with Jim for a radio interview, he told me that whenever you go through a hard time, you need to keep one crucial principle in mind:
Be a student, not a victim.
The more I ponder those simple words, the more profound they seem to me. Many people go through life as professional victims, always talking about how unfair life is. That's because being a victim seems so right, so just, and so easy to justify. But perpetual victimhood dooms you to a life of self-centered misery because you learn nothing from your trials.
What a difference it makes to be a student and not a victim.
A victim says, "Why did this happen to me?" A student says, "What can I learn from this?"
A victim blames other people for his problems. A student asks, "How much of this did I bring on myself?"
A victim looks at everyone else and cries out, "Life isn't fair." A student looks at life and says, "What happened to me could have happened to anyone."
A victim believes his hard times have come because God is trying to punish hm. A student understands that God allows hard times in order to help him grow.
A victim would rather complain than find a solution. A student has no time to complain because he is busy making the best of his situation.
A victim believes that the deck of life is forever stacked against him. A student believes that God is able to reshuffle the cards anytime he wants to.
A victim feels so sorry for himself that he has no time for others. A student focuses on helping others so that he has no time to feel sorry for himself.
A victim begs God to remove the problems of life so that he might be happy. A student has learned through the problems of life that God alone is the source of all true happiness.
Many things happen to us that we cannot control. In that sense, we are all victims of unexpected circumstances. Unfortunately, some people never rise above the victim mode. But it doesn't have to be that way. We choose the way we respond to the things that happen to us. By the grace of God, we can decide to become students, not victims, as we face the trials of life.