One of the things that I don't do is debate religion with people. I am solid enough in my faith to know what I believe, and respect others that don't agree with me. I do not apologize for my faith, and nor would I ask anyone else to... but the one thing that I think all faiths and beliefs don't pay enough attention to (in general) is the gift of CHOICE.
Since the beginning of time, man has had opportunities to exercise the gift of choice. I remember telling a friend of mine not too long ago "We are God's people, not God's puppets." In other words, we have choices that we make that help mold and shape our destiny. There are forks in the rode... pick a path. There are decisions to make... so decide. Not all choices are good ones, but the worst choice of all is the choice that never took place at all.
Life throws you curve balls, my advice to you is SWING! We all will make mistakes. Hopefully we all learn from them. The most important thing is not the mistake itself, but what we take from it and how we move forward. Christian scripture reads "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." If we were puppets, why would our minds even matter? They matter because we have the ability to select our paths.
Will you be tested along the way? Of course! No great man or woman was ever created in easy times. Islamic scripture reads "Is it enough to say you believe without being tried, when those before you have been tried?" So you will have to fight your way through some things. But you do have the choice in how you respond to your circumstances.
How we act has a lot to do with what happens to us... Even the Buddhist teachings say something like:
1. Act with Loving-kindness;
2. Be open hearted and generous;
3. Practice stillness, simplicity and contentment;
4. Speak with truth, clarity and peace;
5. Live with mindfulness.
The funny thing is, all three religious practices mentioned above have the same concepts in their writings or teachings... the parallel each other in many respects. What they cal God differs, but we understand that many of the principles are the same. So people pick their religion (not here to make a judgement call, that's God's job).
Ultimately though, we do have some say so in how our life turns out. If you don't get up and go to work, you will lose your job or business. If you do not eat, your body will perish. You can make good choices or bad choices. You can have a direct effect on how your life turns out. Don't just sit by and wait for some huge hand to emerge from the heavens and do for you what you can do for yourself. I'm not taking away from the power of miracles. There are plenty of things that I can't explain how they happen... I believe that it's God's doing! But I also know that He created me in his own image, and gave me power while I am here, so I intend to use it to not only help myself, but also to help mankind! I hope that you will do the same.
The Gift of Love by Joel Goldsmith
The Moses Code by James F. Twyman
The Pursuit of Happyness by John Gardner