When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box

When the Game is Over (Zondervan, 2007)

John Ortberg, senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, wrote When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box in 2007.  In this book, John’s competitive Monopoly games with his grandmother serve as an analogy to the game of life.  As Pastor Ortberg learned, the danger in Monopoly, and in life, consists of getting caught up in material pursuits.  And when you get caught up in those pursuits, you forget to ask what really matters. In addition, temporary rewards can lull you into pretending the game will never end.  Thus, you lose your focus on eternity.  Therefore, John exhorts, arrange your life around what matters most.  According to Jesus, the object of life involves being rich toward God.  For when the game is over, only God’s assessment of your life truly matters.  So, wise people build their lives around what’s eternal and squeeze in what’s temporary.

Conversely, if you spend your life climbing up the ladder, you wind up going right past Jesus.  Because He’s coming down.  As a result, people who recognize and embrace smallness keep getting bigger in God’s eyes.  Since your inward character constitutes the main thing God sees when He looks at you, make the inner you your biggest investment.  While trouble and hard stuff easily win the outer game, no one can touch the inner you.  Hence, Pastor Ortberg encourages, discard whatever holds you down.  Also, discard those wrong priorities preventing you embracing what matters most.  Yet, willpower only accomplishes so much.  In contrast, trusting God means letting go of each moment.  And when you let go, that frees you to fully inhabit the next one.  Furthermore,  freedom always increases when you give, because giving is an act of confidence in God.

Most noteworthy, make time to withdraw from human contact.  As you seek relief from the busyness and noise of life, you create space for time alone with God.  Next, begin by devoting time to honoring your deepest commitments.  And trust God with your time.  For God wants to grow you up so that you’re wise, strong, and courageous.  View life as an adventuresome partnership with God.  God promises nothing will separate you from His love – not suffering, hurt, or even death.  Consequently, we respond with gratitude, which John defines as the ability to experience life as a gift.  In the process, gratitude liberates you from the prison of self-preoccupation.  Also, people with a high capacity for thankfulness also possess a low threshold for gratitude.  They show thanks for little things like a sunset or a friend’s smile.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg observes, if we fail to pursue the mission for which God created us, we’ll find a substitute.  A shadow mission.  We cannot live in the absence of purpose, and shadow missions fail to feed the soul.  And, you don’t get to choose your mission.  Rather, your mission chooses you.  You’re where and who you are for a reason.  Finally, only at the cross do you see what grace looks like when it loses, wins, and forgives.  Yet, when the game is over and goes back in the box, Jesus, the King, has one more move!

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