Here is an important key that can promote your spiritual well-being.
What are your first thoughts when you meet someone for the first time? How do you react? What impresses you most? His looks? His voice? The way he is dressed? What if you already know the person? What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you see him? His faults? A misunderstanding you might have had with him? Perhaps a wrong he has done you? Do you usually have nice thoughts upon meeting a person, whether an old acquaintance or a stranger? Be honest. Take time and think before you answer. And what are your first thoughts when you get up in the morning? Good or bad? Pleasant or distasteful? Are you already haunted by the various problems you will have to face during the day? It should come as no surprise that much of your well-being depends on your attitude — your frame of mind. One beautiful morning, as I was walking on the Ambassador College campus in Pasadena, I smiled and greeted a student and said, "Isn't it a beautiful day?" Without hesitation, he answered, "Yes, sir — but it's supposed to be quite smoggy later on!" How disheartening! But this is the way we often think and reason. Overcome with dread about what is ahead of us, we are oblivious to the beauty that surrounds us. We think of the smog that may set in later, instead of the sunshine we should be enjoying at the moment.
The Bible is positive
Strangely enough, many people can even read the Bible in a negative frame of mind. First of all, they consider Bible study a repetitious chore — uninteresting — a routine they would gladly do without. Some even have so little understanding that they think the Bible's teachings — primarily the Ten Commandments and the other points of God's law — are negative. They see the "don'ts" rather than the "dos" in God's Word. Christian growth requires positive thinking and a confident outlook on life. God is positive — His teachings are positive. Naturally, all of us encounter obstacles — we sometimes face difficult situations in life. But we make ourselves miserable when we stress the problems and difficulties rather than the good side of things, the "all-things-work-together-for-good" aspect (Rom. 8:28). Read and study the Psalms. Aren't they a source of comfort and consolation? Some people reason differently — they see only the heartaches and physical pains that David, in momentary periods of dejection, expressed in those songs. Actually, every psalm contains a positive teaching. We human beings have ups and downs. That's normal. But with God's help we can pull ourselves together, control our thoughts, overcome the obstacles and go forward in life, fully convinced that God is our Master, our Protector and our Savior. Even though you may find in the Psalms some verses with negative overtones — verses where human feelings are expressed — each psalm invariably ends praising God in an uplifting tone. Take, for instance, Psalm 22. David must have written it at a time of sorrow and distress, for he cries out to God, saying: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 0 my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent" (verses 1-2). Admittedly, those are not positive thoughts. But the Psalm doesn't end there. Look what David writes in the following verses, which are filled with hope and encouragement: "Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded" (verses 4-5). Do you get the point? David didn't dwell long on his problems. He quickly shifted his mind to focus on God and regained confidence. When you are downcast and negative, try to find reasons to be positive. Count your blessings and tell God how grateful you are to Him for what you have. Do you know why Christ began what is known as the "Lord's Prayer" — the sample prayer outline we are to follow — with brief statements praising God's power and majesty (Matt. 6:9-13)? Because doing so helps us to build in our minds a strong, positive attitude toward God, even before we address Him about our problems. Indeed, we must first realize that we are speaking to the Creator of the heavens and the earth — the One we call our Father. The statements "Hallowed be thy name," "Thy kingdom come" and "Thy will be done" practically sum up the whole Gospel. Once your prayer begins with this positive attitude, you can speak with assurance. You have more confidence, more faith, because you realize that the almighty God who hears you can do all things. However, if you start your prayer with all of your problems, your focus is in the wrong direction. You haven't established a firm relationship with God. That's why sometimes your prayers are of little value, and you feel as though you are just talking to yourself — as though your prayers are not going any higher than the ceiling. David never doubted God. The Psalms do not express doubts about God. When David weakened, his doubts were about himself and about his own strength — he wondered whether or not God would come to his rescue. But he never doubted God's power and love. That's one reason David was a man after God's own heart. "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed" (Ps. 37:3). If you have this type of an attitude, you will never turn away from God or from His Church. David further stated, "Delight thyself also in the Lord" (verse 4). How can you delight in the Lord if you are negative? How can you praise God if you have a sad heart and a sad countenance? It's impossible. You cannot delight in the Lord unless you really enjoy life and are positive. Notice verse 7: "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." Do you realize that if you lack patience, you end up becoming negative? You must learn to be patient — to wait patiently in a positive attitude. That's what "rest in the Lord" means. You must be still emotionally, not entertaining doubts or negative thoughts in your mind. God can handle your problems — and He will — if you are still. Doubting and entertaining negative thoughts in your mind is not remaining still. Take time and think: Could the real cause of your negative, disturbed state of mind be something you've done wrong — something you don't want to admit? Is there something in your life that needs to be changed, but you don't want to make the necessary effort? If that be the case, your prayers won't be answered.
When you read the book of Job, do you find it negative and rather depressing, what with all Job's complaining and suffering? Actually, during Job's intense misery, Job never doubted God. He did not truly understand what was happening to him or why. He was having to overcome his self-righteousness. In his temporary discouragement he even wished he could die — he cursed the very day he was born! But Job never doubted God's existence, power and wisdom. Imagine! After losing almost everything he had — his children as well as all of his material possessions — Job still kept a positive attitude toward the Creator. He "rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:20-21). Notice: Job praised God! Later, when his wife told him to curse God and die, Job answered: "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips" (Job 2:10). Job was patient. Despite the many questions he posed, he never doubted God. Amidst his tribulations and lamentations, he said: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:25-26). It is human to sometimes doubt one's relationship with God and to question why things happen. But a true Christian should never doubt God. The best way to maintain your equilibrium is to always keep in mind the reason for your calling. This will give you the courage you need no matter what happens. The apostle James wrote: "Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (Jas. 5:11).
See beyond the dark days
Today, as world conditions worsen, some in God's Church allow their minds to dwell too much on the negative aspects of the forthcoming prophesied events. They dread the days of tribulation just ahead. But why not look beyond those dark days and think of the wonderful time when Christ will return with power and glory to rule the whole world? Too many of us forget our blessings and emphasize our difficulties. That's a sure way to become negative. Learn to be grateful for what you have. See the good in your life and help others see the good in theirs. Your positive attitude can be a key to the happiness of those around you. Be a stepping-stone and not a stumbling block. Your greatest blessing is that you are called of God to understand His truth — to be a part of His Church! Are you convinced that you are in the true Church of God? If so, how can you ever turn back — return to the dark world out of which you came? No, there can be no return for you. God is with you and will always help you — you can count on Him at all times. "The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (Ex. 14:14). This is the promise God gives all of His people. But He can only fight for you if you let Him. In order to "hold your peace" you have to chase all negative thoughts out of your mind. This doesn't mean that you have to be inactive or unproductive. To "hold your peace" means to not be anxious — to not worry. If you do your part, God will always do His. Enjoy life — enjoy being alive. Enjoy the Church. Enjoy the family God has given you. Whatever your problems and trials, take them to God who has promised to fight for you. Our forefathers, when facing obstacles, constantly doubted God and His intentions. But Moses, their leader, never doubted God. The people wanted to return to Egypt; Moses never did. They wanted to compromise with God's laws; Moses didn't. Don't ever think about giving up — returning to the world. Don't ever desire to alter God's laws — to make them more suitable to your own selfish needs or life-style. Some are willing to compromise to procure better jobs or have more friends. But when you begin compromising, you also begin doubting God. The Bible records countless promises God has made to you. But they are conditional. If you don't respect the conditions, God's promises won't be fulfilled in your life. When you forget this, you become negative. Likewise, when you complain and justify yourself — or when you accuse others — you automatically become negative.
Satan is at work
Why, in God's Church today, do we have serious problems? Why do some even leave the Body of Christ? The answer is obvious. All of us are still human and carnal. We are living in a world where Satan — the god of this world (II Cor. 4:4) — will do everything in his power to influence our thoughts, to put doubts in our minds and to persuade us to become negative. In fact, Satan himself is the most negative being in the whole universe. Do you know why? Because he is a liar (John 8:44) — and liars are cut off from God. Satan accuses the brethren before God's throne (Rev. 12:10), that makes him all the more negative. He judges and condemns falsely. Are you occasionally guilty of having the same attitude? Judging, accusing, complaining, criticizing — these are the tools Satan uses to make you negative. He wants you to disbelieve God. When the Israelites left Egypt, they had every reason to be grateful to God, every reason to be happy and joyful, every reason to count their blessings and to rely on God. However, the very next day after they left Egypt, they began to complain; they had already lost confidence in their Savior. They doubted His intentions and motives. Things are not much different today as we approach the final days of this age, when Satan is more active than ever before (Rev. 12:9-10). How does Satan accuse you? By spreading false rumors about you and your friends. By putting negative thoughts in your mind. By making you tune in to his wavelength. Satan is successful in his ravaging task because some of us allow ourselves, through discouragement and lack of faith, to be his victims.
Often, you see only the enormity of your difficulties, rather than focusing on Christ and overcoming those difficulties. Christ... will give you the power to overcome. Rely on God!
The Bible is given to us for reproof, correction and instruction. Suffering will lose much of its sting when we face circumstances with a positive attitude. As long as Satan is the ruler of this world, doubts will exist. But God is greater than Satan — and He will always help you when you turn to Him.
If God be with you
Life is not always easy for anyone. But in God's Church we have much to rejoice about, much to be grateful for, much to look forward to. The apostle Paul wrote, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). You love God, don't you? If God has truly called you and you have repented of your sins and been baptized — if you have received God's Holy Spirit and are in the process of being converted now — then you can, with God's help, live according to God's purpose — no matter what the circumstances may be. By the way, for more information about this process of true conversion, why not request our free booklet, What Do You Mean... Conversion? The Bible doesn't promise you an easy life during this present age, but it promises you a glorious life for all eternity. It warns you that, as a Christian, you will be hated, tried and even persecuted — especially during these end times. Expect, therefore, oppression and tribulation. But be courageous and positive, because you are not alone. God is with you! Set your eyes constantly on Him and on Jesus Christ. If you see God's hand in your life each day, no trials or persecutions will ever be able to shake you or overpower you, however severe they may be. Remember the apostle Peter's experience when he saw Christ walking on the water. He cried out, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water" (Matt. 14:28). Christ told him to come. Without hesitation, Peter got out of the boat and began walking on the water. "But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me" (verse 30). So long as his eyes were on Christ, Peter did not sink. He had faith and a positive attitude. But the moment he took his eyes off God, he began to doubt — and therefore sink. This is true in everyone's life. Often, you see only the enormity of your difficulties, rather than focusing on Christ and overcoming those difficulties. Christ is always ready to help you. He will give you the power and ability you need to overcome. Rely on God! He will never turn His back on you. Remember this positive, reassuring truth, as stated by the apostle Paul: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). Do you realize that there isn't a person in the Church of God, around the world, who has been called to condemnation? Quite the contrary. God has called those who are able to overcome and reach the goal. What's the Kingdom of God worth to you? What's God's presence in your life worth to you? Is living God's way depriving you of fun? God knows what's best for you. He wants you to be part of His Family. He wants you to have real fun the right way, the pure way — not the world's way,. which leads to death! You don't even necessarily have to understand God to obey Him. Obedience must always come first. It is unfortunate, but some first try to understand, rather than obey. That's why they fall by the wayside.
A certain promise
Isaiah wrote: "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:6-7). This promise is certain. If you seek God, you will find Him. But seeking Him doesn't mean understanding all of His ways, for they are infinitely higher than yours (verse 9). Understanding often comes only after obedience. Blessed is the man whose "delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" (Ps. 1:2-3). This is an absolute truth. Believe it — and live by it!