The following is adapted from a sermon by Jeff Swart.
Philippians 4:8 may be the most important verse in the Bible concerning a Christian’s mental health. In this verse, Paul tells us what thoughts should occupy our minds. Those thoughts, he says, should be on things that are…
In short, Paul is telling us that we should be thinking positive thoughts. And this is where the battle begins. It is much easier for us to think negative thoughts. To think about things that are
The only way to keep from thinking negative thoughts is to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. There is a law of physics that says two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
When applied to our attitude, that means negative thoughts and positive thoughts cannot occupy your mind at the same time. Paul understood this principle and this is why he told us what kind of thoughts we were to be thinking.
One of the most important subjects we could ever talk about is our “attitude.” If a Christian has the proper attitude there is no mountain too high or valley too deep in his spiritual life.
But what do I mean by attitude?In his book The Winner’s AttitudeJohn Maxwell defines attitude as, “An outward expression of an inward feeling.” Our attitude is a mindset—it is a way of looking at things.
Consider the glass-is-half-empty principle:
The way a person describes a glass of water glass tells us what their attitude is.
The positive person will see it as half full—looking at what they do have. They believe that half a glass of water is better than no water.
The negative person will see it as half empty—looking at what he does not have. I do not have a full glass; therefore, I am not satisfied
The way we look at things is going to affect every other area of our lives.
We all have pre-conceived ideas in our mind—an attitude. Everything we see and think, we see through that preconceived idea. You and I are what we are and where we are because of the dominating thoughts that occupy our minds.
Your Attitude: Negative or Positive?
The Pessimist: I personally don’t like the negative attitude, so we’ll discuss it first and get it out of the way. There is a negative attitude influencing many people’s lives today—we might call it “the spirit of pessimism.”
It has been said that two pessimists met on the street and instead of shaking hands they just shook heads. They believe in the original Murphy’s Law, which says the following:
“Nothing is as easy as it looks; everything takes longer than you expect; and if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong at the worst possible moment.”
And when something does go right, they worry about what might happen tomorrow.
John Maxwell says there are seven liabilities for people with a negative attitude. Negative thinkers . . . .
1. Are afraid to make a decision because they are afraid of making the wrong decision.
It’s called the “paralysis of analysis.” They do not realize that no decision really is a decision and things do get worse when no action is taken.
2. Spread negative thinking. It is contagious.
Go to work or school tomorrow spreading “negativism”, and it won’t be long before the people around you will have the same negative attitude you have.
Negative people are miserable people, and they want the rest of us to be as miserable as they are!
The cliché is true: “Misery loves company.”
3. Blow everything out of proportion.
Negative thinking makes “a mountain out of a molehill.” Little things become big things to the person with a negative attitude.
4. Make their own faith waver and that of others.
Someone said, “If you have to borrow money, always borrow from a pessimist. He never expects to be paid back anyway.”
5. Limit God.
Negative thinkers do not participate in building up the kingdom of God.
6. Limit their potential.
Henry Ford said, “Think you can or think you can’t—either way you will be right.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower noted, “Pessimism never won any battle.”
7. Keep themselves and others from enjoying life.
Negative people are miserable people!
The Optimist: John Maxwell says there are seven things a positive attitude will help you do:
- Affect a successful outcome more than anything else will
- Determine life’s attitude toward you
- Determine other people’s attitude toward you
- Look for good ideas everywhere
- Look for the best in everyone (There is good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us. What you look for is what you see.)
- Radiate the confidence of a person who knows where he is going in life
- Treat everyone with whom you come in contact as the most important person on earth.
Attitude is important. William James offered this insight, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
Whose Attitude is it Anyway?
Solomon wrote this in Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
When it comes to your attitude, the choice is within you:
We all chose today what attitude we would have.
We will all choose the attitude we will have tomorrow.
Every day of our lives, we make a personal choice concerning our attitude. You and you alone are personally responsible for your own attitude!
The following illustration aptly portrays the idea of attitude as a personal choice:
Viktor Frankl, a Jew living in Germany during World War II, was arrested by the Nazis and taken to Gestapo headquarters. There they separated him from his family, and took his wedding ring, clothing, and all his personal possessions. Then they shaved his head.
In his book A Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl said at that moment, as he stood naked before his Nazi captors, he realized they could take away everything he had but one thing—his positive mental attitude.
He said it was at that point that he realized he had the power to choose his own attitude. He could choose
bitterness or forgiveness
giving up or going on
hatred or love.
He still had the power to choose his own attitude.
Years ago, I saw a full-page picture in an airline magazine. Its caption explained the weather in Canada. Apparently, somewhere in Canada there are only two seasons—winter and July. During July, the ground thaws and gets really muddy.
Trucks cut deep ruts in the dirt logging roads and in August the ground freezes again. The ruts that were cut in July are there until the next July when the ground thaws again.
The picture showed a logging road cut with ruts and a sign on the side of the road that said, “Choose carefully which rut you drive in, for you will be in it for the next twenty miles.”
That’s the way our attitude is:
Please choose carefully which attitude you will have, because you may have it for the rest of your life.
Attitude is an important choice and it is a choice. We have the power to choose our own attitude and God will hold us personally accountable for that choice!
The Apostle Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel. While he was in prison, he had every right to complain and to gripe. But he didn’t. He could have said, “Lord, look how much I’ve done for you. God it’s not fair. Look at how much potential I have and here I am in prison.”
In Philippians 1:13 Paul could have said, “These are prisoner’s chains,” but instead he said, “I am in chains for Christ
In Philippians 1:17, Paul did not say, “I am on trial for my life,” he said, “I am put here for the defense of the gospel.”
In Ephesians 3:1, Paul did not say, “I’m a prisoner of Rome,” instead he wrote, “I am the prisoner of Jesus Christ.”
Paul was looking at everything from a positive spiritual perspective. To Paul, the glass was always half full! He was looking at what he did have and not at what he didn’t have.
You made an attitude choice today and you will make a choice tomorrow. Choose a positive attitude!
How Does God Factor Into Your Attitude?
The writer of the book of Hebrews said:
Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
We please God when we trust him. We need to anchor our life by placing our faith in him. We must not place our faith in others, but in God.
If your faith is in others, you will get only what others can do. But if your faith is in God, you will get what God can do!
Perhaps we have forgotten that there is a God who is just as powerful now as he was when he spoke the world into existence. He is still a miracle-working God, a prayer-answering God, and a God that delights in blessing his people. Remember that:
♦ For every problem you have, there is a divine answer.
♦ For every need you have, there is a divine resource.
♦ For every hurt you have, there is divine healing.
♦ For every weakness you have, there is divine strength.
Most of us have no trouble believing that God can one day take us to heaven. Yet, we fail to realize that the same God that will one day take us to heaven can sustain us day by day until he takes us there.
A fundamental concept of a Christian’s life is that God rewards those who trust him. One of the greatest statements in the Bible is repeated four times: ” . . . .the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; and Hebrews 10:38).
A man is saved by faith.
A Christian lives by faith.
A soldier of God fights by faith.
People who have the most positive attitudes are those whose faith in God is the strongest.
People who have the most detestably negative attitudes have a very weak faith in God: Jeremiah 32:17says, “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.”
Those words are as true today as they were when Jeremiah penned them! We serve a God who can do anything—a miracle-working God! Those whose faith is weak are discouraged, worried and negative.
Focus on what you have in Jesus Christ and not on what you don’t have by the world’s standards.
There is a God above us and we need to tap into his resources, his strength, and his power. Without God, we can do nothing.
We need to adopt the attitude that “Yes, I do have a ministry. Yes, I can make a contribution to my church and my Lord. Yes, I can make the difference in the lives of people through the power of Christ.”
We need to believe that God can use men and women like you and me!
The purpose of the Old Testament is twofold:
#1: To teach us that God is faithful to his people. The same God that was faithful to his people throughout the 4,000 years of the Old Testament era will be faithful to his people today.
#2: To teach us that God uses common, ordinary people who are yielded to him. This means that God can use you and me.
God led the children of Israel out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. When they came to Kadesh Barnea, God told them to go in and possess the land. Instead, the children of Israel appointed a twelve-man committee to survey the land.
When they returned, ten of the twelve members said the land was full of giants and that they could not take it. The other two, Joshua and Caleb, said that they could take the land because God would be with them.
Israel accepted the majority report and decided not to enter. As a result, God declared that every person 20 years old or older would die in the wilderness and never enter the land due to lack of faith and disobedience (Numbers 14:28-30).
However, God did allow Joshua and Caleb, two ordinary guys, to enter the land because of their faith (Numbers 14:30).
When the children of Israel heard these words, they felt sad, confessed their sin and decided to enter the land that God had promised. But when they did, the people of the land defeated them and drove them out of the land (Numbers 14:39-45).
To the person with a positive attitude, the best is yet to come!
The saddest thing I have observed among Christians is a negative attitude
The Bible has the solution to every problem. Not every problem is addressed specifically in the Word of God, but there are principles that can be applied to every problem.
The winner says, “Let me do it for you.”
The loser says, “That is not my job.”
The winner sees an answer for every problem.
The loser sees a problem for every answer.
The winner says, “It may be difficult but it is possible.”
The loser says, “It may be possible but it is too difficult.”
What Can You Learn From Nature, God’s Creation?
Steve Goodier offered this insight:
Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation’s deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet.
But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants.
The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone.
But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life.
Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do.
What are you looking for in life? Depending on your attitude, you will find what you seek.
Begin searching for the positive and find that optimistic, Spirit-filled Christian attitude today.