I am working at being much more positive
My personality is not naturally positive … But I am working to change my approach to life and daily circumstances
After all, with God nothing is impossible
I read the other day:
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort” Herm Albright
So, I am working at ‘being a warrior and not a worrier’
‘A fountain not a drain’
A VPP and not a VDP … Very Positive Person / Very Draining Person
I have discovered that it takes a positive attitude to move forward
And, I don’t mean all the self-help, positive-thinking teachings that are out there
Most of the ‘Have a positive attitude’ self-help preaching and teaching is not biblical
Conceive it, believe it, achieve it
Health and wealth
Name it and claim it
Blab it and grab it
Lots of motivational speakers and self-help preachers make lots of promises without preaching the whole gospel — or any of the true gospel
The self-improvement industry has become a kind of religion that says, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me”
We should guard ourselves against any self-help ideology that pushes God to the sidelines, magnifies human abilities, and doesn’t tell the whole truth
But there is a positive, hopeful, joyful, optimism that is totally biblical in its essence and comes from Christ alone
You can be a Christian and an optimist at the same time — and you should be
Faith adds a positive power to your life
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
That sounds pretty positive, doesn’t it?
The man who wrote those words was an optimist with a capital O
Read his story in the book of Acts and study his thirteen letters
They are packed with optimism
His words reveal to us his powerful secrets for resilience, optimism, and positive thinking and belief
By stepping into his story at critical moments, we can understand how he lived a life of positive accomplishment despite hardships and adverse life circumstances
1> Be Positive in Your Convictions
Paul’s optimism started with his positive convictions
He lived with “conviction”
A CONVICTION is a fixed belief
A deeply held set of certainties that lodges and lives in the center of your mind and heart
It is critical that your convictions be sound and true – in other words, biblical
Pauls’ certainly were!
He wrote his convictions down and his letters are a journal of his life and his belief system – his convictions
Paul’s core convictions were the foundation of his incredible life and ministry and the basis of his positive attitude
Paul had two very positive core convictions that motivated him and provided directions for his life
A> Be Positive About God’s Love For You
The most basic conviction in life is rooted in understanding the nature of God
Because, without a good, powerful, loving creative, eternal God, there is no basis for optimism
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Great reasons to be optimistic and positive in your life
Not only is God real but He loves us
Not only does God love us, but nothing we might experience in life can separate us from His love
The ten things Paul lists in these verses could each be a potential barrier between you and God
But Paul says, with absolute assurance, that none of them can separate you from God’s love
The loss of hope around us today is rampant – especially as we enter the second year of fighting the Covid pandemic
And lack of hope is lethal to a joy-filled, positive life
Added to the pandemic – hope has disappeared in many aspects of life because of a growing ignorance and even rejection of God’s love
Without an understanding of God’s love
Without an experience of God’s love
Without an encounter with God’s love
There is little to be positive about in every day life
These powerful words in Romans 8 about God’s love are reinforced by a blessing Paul offered toward the end of the same letter
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13)
You can make that a personal prayer by switching a word or two…
“Now may the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
That prayer, prayed often, can adjust your mindset in any given season of life
Deepen your core convictions
Strengthen your belief
Allow you to be much more positive regardless of what is happening in your life
God loves you and wants you to overflow with hope and optimism!
Never forget that
Let that conviction dwell in the very core of your being
In his book The Wisdom of Tenderness, Brennan Manning tells the story of Edward Farrell, a man who decided to travel from his hometown of Detroit to visit Ireland, where he would celebrate his uncle’s eightieth birthday.
Early on the morning of his uncle’s birthday, they went for a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney. As the sun rose, his uncle turned and stared straight into the breaking light. For twenty minutes they stood there in silence, and then his elderly uncle began to skip along the shoreline, a radiant smile on his face.
After catching up with him, Edward asked, “Uncle Seamus, you look very happy. Do you want to tell me why?”
“Yes, lad,” the old man said, tears washing down his face. “You see, the Father is very fond of me. Ah, me Father is so very fond of me.”
In that moment Uncle Seamus experienced how much he was loved by his Father in heaven, an overwhelming sense of joy flooded his heart, and he began to dance along the shoreline.
Have you ever had a moment like that?
Have you ever awakened and said, “He really does love me”?
Do you know what it means to overflow with hope and optimism?
Hope, optimism, and joy – a positive outlook on life – can become a habitual attitude if we remember that God loves us
A conviction: Be positive about God’s love for you
B> Be Positive About God’s Plan For You
The second core conviction for people who view life and live life positively — they are optimistic about their exciting future
They embrace tomorrow with enthusiasm and anticipation!
That is only possible if you know your future is guaranteed to be exciting, eternal, meaningful, and useful
Only one Person can assure you of that — the Lord Himself
And only one Book can provide the sure and certain details — the Bible
The apostle Paul constantly referred to the future
He put the past behind him and strained toward what was ahead
(See teaching: Sometimes I Lose My Focus)
Even when he was near death, Paul was excited about tomorrow
Think about it! While waiting on death row for his martyrdom, Paul was eager for tomorrow
The last known letter Paul wrote was to his friend Timothy, and it was written from a Roman prison as he awaited a certain death
Listen to what he said in the final chapter to his final letter (book):
2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
Paul had an incredible perspective on dying
Years before, he told the Philippians,
Philippians 1:21-24 NLT “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”
Perhaps Paul’s remarkable perspective flowed from the time he was caught up to heaven and glimpsed the glories that await us there (see: 2 Corinthians 12:4)
But we have a blessing Paul didn’t have: We have the Book of Revelation
Written after Paul’s death
The final two chapters describe our heavenly home in great detail for us
(See: Revelation, Chapters 21 and 22)
The more we study those chapters, the more excited we should become about tomorrow
How long has it been since you were really excited about the future?
When you went to bed last night, were you excited to see what today would bring?
- Remember when you were a kid counting the days until your birthday?
- Or a graduate looking forward to your next step in life?
- Or engaged to be married and eager for your wedding day?
- An expectant parent waiting for the baby to arrive?
A psychologist wrote:
“Although we often think the past dictates our behaviour, the future is what really motives most of our actions”
As a follower of Christ, I’m ready to die and willing to live
And in either case I can’t wait to see what God will do next
I live constantly curious about what God will do tomorrow …
Romans 5:2 TLB “For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.”
So, to be positive and excited about life:
1> Be positive in your convictions
A> Be positive about God’s love for you
B> Be positive about God’s plan for you
2> Be Positive in Your Conversations
If you are positive in your core convictions — you will become more positive in your daily conversations
In the book of Ruth, when the landowner Boaz went out each morning to check on the harvesters, he greeted them by shouting, “The Lord be with you!”
And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!” (Ruth 2:4)
What a positive way to start the day!
Sometimes we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves, saying something like: “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24)
Try saying that aloud with enthusiasm when getting up each morning
It will make a difference
Outside of praying, your most important words are the ones you say to yourself
These words are silent but significant
Self-help advocates call this ‘self-talk’ but I want to skip the psycho-babble and go straight to Paul’s words in Scripture
Did Paul ever talk to himself?
He said, he strove to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)
He said, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22 NIV)
He said, “I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12)
And, as we have learned, he also said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
Paul is saying…. When it comes to negative thoughts:
- Don’t curse them
- Don’t nurse them
- Don’t rehearse them
- Disperse them
Push out your negative thoughts – worry, anxiety, fear, pessimism
Push out the self-talk tapes from your past – you dad, your family, a friend
A doctor a Christian – who has run double triathlons (two triathlons back-to-back with only a twenty-four hour break) six times … the last time when he was 59 years old
When asked how he did it, he said, “I have learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself. If I listen to myself, I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I’m too tired, too old, too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself, I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”
In Psalm 42 the palmist said to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11)
We don’t know the author of Psalm 42, but it might have been King David, because he knew how to preach to himself when needed
As a young man, a series of disastrous problems had befallen David in a town called Ziklag
His family and the families of his men had been kidnapped, and even his own men were turning on him and talking about stoning him to death
What did David do?
He preached to himself — He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6)
And, in that strength he rose up to tackle his problems with a positive spirit that came from his belief in God’s watchful care for his life
Jeremiah did the same
After watching his city go up in flames and his nation go down in defeat, he said:
“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-22)
This is what we must do
If we listen to the negative tapes looping around in our thoughts, we will sink into the pessimism of the devil (depression)
We will hear ourselves saying:
- How could I have been so stupid?
- What is wrong with me?
- Everything is falling apart!
- This is a disaster
- Why is this happening to me?
Stop the tape!
Here’s a better one:
“I know in Whom I believe, and I am persuaded He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. Why are you cast down? Hope in God. I’ll soon be praising Him again, for He is the health of my countenance. I’m going to recall something and keep it in mind — the Lord is merciful, and His compassions won’t fail me. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Dr. H. Norman Wright … a great believer wrote:
“Depending on how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. Whew! It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind.”
To complicate our minds more, noted Dr. Wright, not all these are conscious thoughts, and sometimes they pass so fleetingly we barely notice them
But listen to what Dr. Wright says next:
“Every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body … Each thought sets off a biological process — about 400 billion at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through the body, producing electromagnetic waves. Those setoff emotions, which affect how we behave … Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: We are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts.”
2B> Speak Positively to Others
Learn to talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself
Learn to encourage yourself in the Lord
It will change the way you speak to others
Your mood and message will be different, even in the midst of difficulties
This was another of Paul’s secrets
Once he was caught in a vicious storm with a terrified crew on a sinking ship
The typhoon threatened to rip the ship into matchsticks — and even the captain gave up hope of survival
But Paul rallied their spirits, saying, “Keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God” (Acts 27:25 NIV)
Nevertheless the storm grew worse
It was the deadliest storm the sailors had ever seen, and there were 276 souls on board
Two weeks of unbearable strain drained the crew of their last drops of hope, and none of them could eat or rest through the wild hours of the worst night
Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. (Acts 27:33-36 NIV).
Do you know someone struggling to keep their head above water?
Think of the power of saying to them — in the right way at the right time — “Keep up your courage! I have faith in God. Take care of yourself. You’ll get through this storm. Believe God and His Word.”
There is power in an attitude that is positively biblical — and biblically positive
As London recovered from World War II, a prominent minister, Leslie Weatherhead, wrote a book to help his British congregation recover from the emotional trauma of the conflict.
He warned his people to avoid talking all the time about what was wrong with them
We all need a very few close friends, of course, to whom we can unburden our hearts and share our troubles, he said. But telling everyone we meet about our troubles gives our woes “persisting power.”
It’s tempting to share our difficulties, because we crave sympathy
“But we must realize that every recital of our woes and every brooding hour etches on our minds the picture of the weaker, not the stronger, self.”
The more we talk about our troubles, the more we rehearse and reinforce them, and the more we spread the pessimism that’s endemic to our culture
Instead, focus on others.
Help those around you to take courage
Help them to believe
“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)
Our world is wrecked, and as we work to accomplish what God wants us to do — the last thing we need are endless critics
Instead, we need to camaraderie of Christ-centered people who say what is good and helpful so our words will be an encouragement to many
We need people who believe and who inspire belief.
3> Be Positive in Your Crisis
Only after you have learned to be positive in your CONVICTIONS and in your CONVERSATION can you learn to persevere with a hopeful attitude through CHALLENGES that will inevitably come
During times of conflict and crisis, you can be optimistic and positive — this was true of Paul the apostle
In fact, he was very positive and thus resilient — always getting up after hitting a crisis or a tough circumstance in his journey with Jesus
He said in Romans 8:35-37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
The apostle lists seven persecutions he had constantly endured
It felt like “being killed all day long”
But, he said he was “more than a conqueror”
The phrase more than conquerors is a translation of a Greek word: hypernikomen.
Notice the letters “nik” are in the middle of the word — hypernikomen
‘Nike’ is the Greek word for victory, which is why a great company chose it for its name
It means “overcomer”
And look at the first part of the term — hypernikomen
You know the term ‘hyper.’
It means extra, obsessive, over and above, over the top
So the phrase more than conquerors is a super-term
It means super-overcomer
Paul isn’t just overcoming his difficulties
He kept overcoming them again and again through the power of Him who loved him — the Lord Jesus Christ
We can’t control everything that happens to us
We have little say in the affairs of the world
But we can choose our response to what happens
We can mope, cope, or hope
I’m here to tell you that biblical hope is the greatest source of optimism in the world
It is relentless, rewarding, and bring new life to our heart and soul
At this point I want to shout:
On the authority of Scripture and because of the love of Jesus Christ, be an over-the-top overcomer
Believe! Trust Him!
And, be positive in your CONVICTIONS, your CONVERSATIONS, your CRISIS, and #4 – in your COUNTENANCE
4> Be Positive in Your Countenance
Your mood is always reflected in your countenance
When optimism is in your heart, a joyful countenance is on your face
Someone said, “What’s down in the well comes up in the pail.”
The Bible states:
“Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11)
Unfortunately, we don’t have a photograph of the apostle Paul, so I can’t prove his face was radiant
But it would be hard to doubt it
His positive attitude infiltrated all of his writings
For example, he told the Corinthians, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV)
People see your face before they know your heart
Psalm 34:5 “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed”
“A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance” (Ecclesiastes 8:1 NIV)
That inner wisdom comes from believing
It’s not believing in positive thinking or the power of a positive attitude
It isn’t even believing in ourselves
True optimism comes from deep biblical convictions about the nature of God
Knowing He loves you and has an exciting plan that is uniquely yours
It comes from reminding yourself and others of His goodness and of the incredible future He has for those who trust Him
A firm belief in the God of Scripture will bear you through the crises of life and put joy on your face
Your faith will make you radiant.
Some wise advice as we conclude …
A smile is an asset; a frown is a liability
Some people grin and bear it; others smile and change it
Being happy and enthusiastic in life is always a choice
Both enthusiasm and pessimism are contagious
How much of each do you spread?
Story to end the teaching…
In November 2007, a tough old Alaska fisherman named Alan Ryden took a month-long trip at sea in his forty-two-foot boat
The trip became a nightmare when the boat capsized in a terrible storm
Ryden managed to get into a raft wearing his survival suit and fleece jacket, and he got off a Mayday signal to the Coast Guard. But the weather was wicked, and the little raft tossed around like a cork.
Shivering in the buffeted raft, Alan felt himself losing hope. His mind panicked and quickly sunk into deep discouragement and hopelessness. He began wondering if his life insurance would provide for his family.
Suddenly, Alan realized his own thoughts were pulling him under more than the seas, and he made one of the toughest decisions of his life. He determined to cast out negative thoughts and to toss them out of the raft like weights.
He began quoting Scriptures to himself, speaking God’s Word aloud. He started thanking God for any good thing that came to mind. He said to himself, “Well, at least I am in a survival suit. My suit does have a top-of-the-line strobe light attached … At least I am in some kind of raft, and at least I got that fleece jacket on … I am strong, a good swimmer, and have no fear of the water.”
Ryden’s mental struggle deepened as the darkness set in, but he remained committed to hanging on with all his strength to the anchor of hope. He later said, “There was definitely a grace from God … I had to fight for every inch in my thoughts.”
Ten hours later, Ryden was rescued. Tracie Miles, who wrote about his story in her book Unsinkable Faith, said the real rescue was inward. It had been achieved during the storm when, by grace, Ryden had “anchored himself in God and embraced positive thoughts, which helped him stay buoyant.”
Believing and learning to be optimistic requires us to stay positive in our convictions, even in the middle of a crisis
It’s an essential skill you must develop if you want to move forward in life
So, anchor yourself in the hope of Jesus Christ
Cling to the promises of the Bible
Determine by God’s grace to keep your mind buoyant and your soul unsinkable even in the storms — Be positive!