Our attitude is how we think, act or feel toward something — God, a person or a thing. Our lives are shaped by our attitudes. We translate into physical (or spiritual) reality the thoughts and attitudes we hold in our minds, no matter what they are. If we have a good, positive attitude we will accomplish much. Over the years we have tried to teach this principle to our children: If you take the attitude that you cannot do something, you generally will not do it. With an attitude of failure you're defeated, whipped before you start. On the other hand, whenever you find a person doing an outstanding job you'll find a person with a right attitude. These people take the attitude that they can accomplish whatever they set out to.
Take on Christ's attitude
Paul wrote about attitude in his letter to the Philippians. "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:4-5, New International Version). I think it is safe to assume that the little group of saints at Philippi had their share of conflicts, that they fell short in vital spiritual growth at times. Paul's letter was to help them catch up. One reason we need to study his letter is that we have some of the same problems they had attitude problems. We might well ask ourselves: What is my attitude toward my brothers and sisters in the Church? Is it positive or negative? Does being a Christian give me an optimistic outlook on life in general? Is God's Holy Spirit growing within me? Am I helping others to grow? It's seldom comfortable to answer such sticky questions, but it's good to face the facts. If we're right with God, we should be right with God's people. We should even be right with ourselves. Our action, can be motivated by pride. Our actions and attitudes can be prompted by personal ambition, greed, vengeance or some other unworthy motive. These ungodly characteristics do creep in, and we must be on our guard against them.
Esteem for others
That's why Paul exhorts us to do a little self-study and check out our true motivations. How can we tell when we're on Christ's wavelength? The answer: When we consider others better than ourselves. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Philippians 2:3, Revised Authorized Version). Carnally speaking we might react: "Better than myself? You mean that lamebrain who contradicts me every time I open my mouth in Spokesman Club meetings? Or that holier-than-thou couple who want to spoil everybody else's fun? "Are you referring to that superhero who grabs the credit for everything the rest of us do? Where do I find what it takes to think of people like that as better than me? I don't even want to think that way!" Now that's an attitude tester, right? Paul doesn't mean that we should become incapable of discerning others' weaknesses or overlook our own strengths and abilities either. Paul's next statement explains: "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others" (Philippians 2:4, RAV). He is saying we shouldn't be so wrapped up in thinking how great we are that we have no time to be concerned about others. We should be other-centered, not self-centered. This is the right attitude of a true Christian. That doesn't come natural to human beings, does it? But it's worth working at — and with God's Holy Spirit it can be done.
Attitude of Christ
The King James Version uses a word in verse 5 that gives us additional insight on our attitude. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Every time I read that scripture I put my name in place of you. It makes me stop and think before I act or react to any given situation. The mind is where the whole personality is formed. Our decisions are made and our priorities are established in our mind. So to have the mind or attitude of Christ we need some input on what and how He thinks about things. There's plenty of input in the verses that follow. He "did not consider it robbery to be equal with God... made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant... he humbled himself" (verses 6 to 8). Do we follow Christ's example and attitude? This is the kind of attitude we ought to have, and need to be developing daily. But it's easier said than done, I know. How often do you succeed in putting yourself last? Do you usually consider the welfare of others more important than your own? Half the time? Twenty-five percent? Even 10 percent? If you're like most of us it's about as often as gooney birds fly in formation. It would do us all good to read and reread Paul's letter to the Philippians. Every day we face choices. In our choosing, our exercise of our will, we shape our character. We develop positive or negative attitudes. If we choose to follow Christ's example, He will honor our efforts and with God's Holy Spirit help us become more and more like Him. It's worth the effort. Read how Peter explained our calling: "Finally, all of you be of one mind [Christ's attitude], having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing (I Peter 3:8-9, RAV). How is your attitude today?