Troublesome Topic: Learning to See Myself as God Sees Me

At first it sounds scary to think about learning to see myself as God sees me. But it is not nearly as scary as most of us think, and learning to do so would be a blessing to many people.

God Sees Our Potential

God has put incredible potential within each of us. After all, we were created in God’s image. And that is primarily how God sees us—full of potential!

Genesis 1:26


Then ELOHIM said, “We

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will make

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in our image

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and according to our likeness,

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and he shall rule over

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the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the livestock and over all the earth and over everything that creeps on the earth.


Then THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS said, “We will make man to resemble us and be our representative, and to be like us in many important ways, and he shall exercise authority over and care for the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the easily domesticated animals, and all the earth, even over all those creatures that are hard to catch because of how they glide over the ground.

We have the tendency to look at people who are doing something that we could never do and think that they are somehow extraordinary, amazing people. We think they are so much better than the rest of us because they can do something that the rest of us cannot do. We lift them to the level of heroes. Their exploits can be in the area of ministering to the needy with great compassion and patience, or excelling in music, or making things with their hands, or any number of other things people can choose to excel in. I am not talking here about dealing with hard things that come our way in life, like cancer or bereavement. We don’t have a choice about those things happening, we can only choose how to respond.

Our reaction to “amazing people” reveals two things about us: we do not realize how much potential God has placed within each of us, and we have forgotten that God gives us each a unique role to play.

We can thank God that we are all different. Paul’s main point in I Corinthians 12 about spiritual gifts is that there is a beautiful unity amid the diversity of the body of Christ. That diversity helps us serve more effectively in different ways. The unity comes from a shared goal; the effectiveness comes from people fulfilling different roles. While there are things that we all should be doing, there are also things that only you can do, and things only I can do. Therefore, I should not be amazed when I see someone doing something I cannot do. That is the way it is supposed to be. If we think everyone should only do those things that everyone is able to do, we have limited all of us to the lowest level of accomplishment.

God has indeed placed great potential in each one of us. Those people whom our society has cast off as incapable, labeling them “disabled,” as if they are unable to do anything, are actually capable of many things, some of which are highly specialized. Maybe they cannot speak clearly, or socialize normally, but they may excel in music or math or some other field. All of us have some areas that we can excel in. We all learn differently. I am troubled by the speed with which certain systems in our societies label people as “special needs,” determining that they have a learning disability. My Dad never did well in school, he usually got Cs and Ds. But he was a brilliant man. He designed and built much of the furniture in our house when we were on the mission field. Most of what he learned from the Bible he learned from his own study of it, yet he ended up teaching at a Bible college in Honduras. He could carry on an intelligent conversation with anyone about science, theology, medicine (especially veterinary medicine), and how things work. He was good with his hands. The only problem was he could not show the things he had learned in the narrow way the school systems wanted him to show them (mainly tests).

When you see someone who is doing something you consider amazing, and you are tempted to say, “I could never do that,” tell yourself to say instead, “now there’s a person who is coming closer than most to reaching his full potential.” We have made it about ourselves when we say, “I could never do that.” When we say, “that person is coming closer to reaching his full potential” we are confirming that each of us has a different role to play, we are focusing on what God has put in each one, we are acknowledging that the potential He gave us will never be fully realized, we are also focusing on the hard work that goes into bringing out some of that potential. Rather than celebrating a person because he can do something I could never do, we should celebrate and lift up the amount of time, effort and commitment it takes to excel in something. We all have great potential, but only some of us make the effort to develop even a small part of that potential.

(This is the last lesson in this set of topical lessons about Hearing God’s Voice. Thank you for reading.)


1: “we”

A plural is used when we would expect a singular. However, we have already seen that Elohim is plural and expresses the fullness with which God possesses and displays all the divine attributes. In this case the purpose of a plural form is the same. The practice of changing a singular to a plural for the purpose of emphasis is seen various times in the Hebrew Scriptures. So, while it sounds strange to our ears, the use of a plural here was not strange to the people of antiquity. God was about to create a special reflection of Himself. Therefore, since what God is would be expressed in a small way in this creature to be made, it fits perfectly for God to express Himself in a way that emphasizes the fullness of His divine attributes.

Some have suggested that this passage indicates that God consulted either with Himself or with the angels, before making mankind. However, for Him to consult the angels would contradict Is 40:14, which says: “With whom did he take counsel, and who has instructed him, who taught him the way of justice, or who showed him the way of understanding.” Furthermore, the use of a plural here does not prove the existence of the Trinity, for that would be to assume something for this passage that is not taught clearly until the New Testament. However, it does hint at, or lay the groundwork for, a Trinity.

2: “will make”

This expression has the same force as the commands God has given earlier in the passage, but it must be translated differently because He is not commanding anyone else to do something but rather is expressing what He has determined should happen. It is stated in such a way as to communicate that His decision is firm and He will indeed do what He has decided to do. That firm determination on God’s part is not always followed by immediate action, for He knows when best to act, however, in this case the statement of the purpose is one with the commencement of the action.


The word for man is the same as the name Adam, and it is generally thought to mean “red.” Adam was red because he was formed from reddish dirt. In ancient times names were usually given which had some connection to the situation of the birth or the family at the time of the birth. That was true of the naming of Adam. We can imagine God saying something like this: “You came from the red dirt so your name will be red.” However, naming him after the dirt had another effect which was to remind man where he came from, and in so doing, hopefully avoid any tendency toward pride.

4: “image”

The Hebrew word used here means “resemblance,” and comes from a root meaning “shade or shadow.” Other possible renditions are “illusion, or a representative figure.”

5: “likeness”

This Hebrew word also means “resemblance,” but it comes from a root meaning “compare.” It can also mean “to liken, or to be like.” Genesis 5:3 uses these same two words to describe the way in which Adam’s son resembled Adam. So we see from the comparison of a father and son that we are not identical to God, but we are like Him in many important ways. Jewish tradition has strongly taught that this resemblance is not of a physical kind, and we cannot say what God’s physical characteristics are. The resemblance is therefore in regard to spiritual and moral issues.


The word means “to rule, to have dominion over, or to dominate.” In what way would man “have dominion, or rule” over the animals? Since man is God’s representative and is intended to demonstrate the qualities of God, he should rule over the animals in the same way that God rules over us. God does not force us to do what He wants but He does set limits to our actions, defining some things as acceptable and others as unacceptable. He also does more caring for us than He does judging us. Likewise, with the animals our role should be more along the lines of caring for them than anything else. While we can limits to the actions of animals to a small degree, our ability to judge or punish them is much more limited than God’s ability to judge and punish us.