Monday, 29 June 2015

Are You Positive?


Are you an Eeyore or Tigger? A glass half-full or half-empty person? Are you naturally an optimist, pessimist or somewhere in between? Does it matter?

The great church leader of the 20th Century, John Stott, said of Christians:

We should be the most positive people in the world. We cannot drag our way through life, moaning and groaning. We cannot always be looking on the dark-side of everything, as negative prophets of doom. No, “we exult in God”.

Yet would our friends and family describe Christians as the most positive people they know? 

I have been thinking a little recently about how important the will of the mind is in living as Christians. To be more specific, how essential it is to align our minds and thought patterns to the story that God has given us.

I believe we can enter more fully into the joy that is to mark us out as Christians by choosing to live like the Christian story is really true. Conforming our minds, not to the pattern of thought the world offers, but to the great things the Bible says is true about us with regards to where we have come from, whose we are, what we are doing and where we are going.

Our story, the Christian story, is about how Jesus Christ, in his life, death and resurrection has come to save us from the destruction of sin and evil and to bring his kingdom of hope, love, peace and grace. It is a story that transforms not only my past, present and future but the whole world's. 

As we start to allow this story marinate in our minds we will begin to see life in light of it. We will see things with Jesus-tinted spectacles. We will find that whatever is happening in our lives, good or bad, we always have a reason to sing, a reason to praise, a reason to be overwhelmingly positive because ‘the Lord has done has done great things for us, and we are filled with Joy’ (Psalm 126:3).  

This is no self-help, empty optimism and it does not deny the reality of life’s hardships. This is the Bible's approach to discipleship. Time and time again the message we get is, ‘this is reality, now go and live in the light of it’.

It is easy to fall into negative habits of thought, looking for what is against us rather than the abundance of what is for us. Here are three things we can do to cultivate a positive attitude...


1.     GIVE THANKS

Spend a few moments, at least once a day if you can, to speak out things you are thankful for.

Give thanks and praise to the Lord for all he has done in your life. Thank him for his favour in your life - for things like your relationships, friends, family members, for your job/vocation, for somewhere to live, for the beauty of creation, for your health.

Give thanks to him for the truths of the Bible - for Jesus and your relationship with him, for his obedience to the Father, for the cross, that he is ascended and interceding for you, for the hope of heaven, for the Holy Spirit and his presence, give thanks that you can trust him with everything, that he has plans and purposes for you and that he is with you and he loves you more than you know.


2.     CALL TO MIND YOUR STORY

We all live according to stories, with a past, present and future. The Pastor Tim Keller points out that all humans think and act according various 'cultural narratives' regarding things like identity and freedom.

When we look at our lives, when we look back over our past and see the mistakes we’ve made, when we look at our present and the challenges that face us and when we look to the future and see uncertainty it is easy to become discouraged. The Bible says that when we become Christians we receive new stories: our past, present and future is painted in a new light.

When we look back instead of seeing our mistakes we can see God’s grace and forgiveness, we see his faithfulness and provision, not only to us but also to those men and women of faith who went before.

When we look to the present we see Jesus by our side and we see all the wonderful things he is doing in our lives and the lives of those around us and when we look to the future we see the amazing hope of heaven, where there is no sadness and we will be with Jesus in His full glory in this world made totally new.

In the Old Testament Israel’s perpetual problem was that they kept forgetting their story - that God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, that he was with them and that he was taking them to the Promised Land. Instead they looked to their circumstances and the idols around them and started to live according to the stories they were telling. 

In the book of Judges Israel falls into a spiral of sin and the reason given is that they “did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side” (Judges 8:34).  The Apostle Paul encourages the Church to learn from Israel’s mistakes (1 Cor. 10:11). Call to mind your new story often.


3.     WORSHIP

The third thing we can do is to worship and the let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly as we sing (Col 3:16). This is a sort of happy indoctrination, where our perspectives are changed as Jesus takes first place in our hearts again. This is where we get to enjoy and celebrate all that God has done for us and allow our emotions to fall in line with reality. This is where we can profoundly encounter the transforming power of God’s presence and know his love in our hearts through the Spirit (Romans 5:5).

This can happen in many ways: maybe we need to ‘enter in’ more fully with our whole minds and bodies during our worship in church. It could be we play an instrument and can spend time on our own worshiping through song and music. One very simple thing I find helpful is to put on a worship CD in the background at home or in the car and allow the songs to minister to my heart and mind in spirit and truth.



Are you and Eeyore or Tigger? Half-full or empty? What ever your natural disposition is, if we commit to wearing Jesus-tinted spectacles, living in light of what he has done, is doing and will do, we will surely be the most positive people in the world. 

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