July 22, 2014

Believe What is True

Are you a glass half-full person or a glass half-empty person?

I used to be a glass is ALWAYS half-empty person. In fact, I would say that for many years, I walked around with a negative belief that said "nothing good would happen to me."

I can tell you that I didn't start out to believe that way. I was a very optimistic and idealistic child. I always "believed" in good things, and I always dreamed anything was possible. Life was rosy, life was warm, and life was good.

Even when things were not good -- at school, at home -- I still had this cheerful outlook. Most people would tell me that I was a happy child, wistfully simple, delightfully hopeful. Always, I was sunny side up!

Later in life, toward the end of my teen years, my attitude started to sour. I think it is a natural part of growing up -- when we begin to see the real side, the gritty side -- of life. As we mature, we begin to change our thinking to align more closely with our experiences. As we suffer, as we learn hard lessons, we shift our mindset from the "everything is coming up roses" approach we learned from experiences in childhood to the "batten down the hatches" approach we learned from those first experiences in the school of hard knocks.

Life hits us hard right around this time. We may experience the first pangs of love, and then suffer the sorrows associated with unmet expectations, withering passion, and the fleeting feelings of infatuation. We may learn that jobs are hard work, that bosses expect a lot from us (like showing up on time, doing a good days work). We may leave home and face the uncertainty of earning our own way. We may experience great loss, parental divorce, or death of a loved one.

All of these things color our perception of reality. These experiences begin to shape us, to make us, to harden us. Often, we are ill-equipped to handle events such as these so we learn to suppress our emotions, our feelings, and we tell ourselves that we are OK, we are good -- when in reality -- we are not.

The more we suffer, the more our attitude sinks down low. We may become depressed, dejected or we may allow these negative thoughts and feelings to cause us to become bitter toward life, toward God (if we blame Him for our circumstances).

It is difficult to recover a "winning attitude." It can be a challenge to think that life has potential especially when what you see around you is screaming otherwise.

Some people choose to tell themselves life is good. There are books, tapes, and other "self-help/motivational" works out there that encourage a positive attitude. I have read and watched a number of them, and they all start at the same place: they begin in the mind. Recovering a new attitude is about changing your mind, changing your thoughts. They sell the idea that if you "just believe it and it will happen." Changing your mind is key, I agree. It is just the process of changing your mind that gets muddled a bit.

How do you change your mind and thoughts that are so ingrown and pervasive? 
How do you change your thoughts when they are hardwired into your very being?

I have tried the "thinking better thoughts" approach before, and I have to say, it didn't work for me. I repeated the same mantra day in and day out ("I am beautiful, I am successful, I can be anything I want to be, and so on") and my attitude never really improved. My life didn't change. I got very good at saying the "right words," but I didn't see any motivational change happen within me. What I noticed was that the more I tried to believe in a positive outcome, the more I was convinced that I was just fooling myself. I put on a good show outwardly, when all the while inwardly, I was still saying the same negative things.

So how do you recover a positive mindset and a winning attitude?

In my view, there is only one way to do it successfully, to experience the outworking results. You must change your mind. By this I mean, your mind MUST be changed. This is not something I can do. I cannot change my mind, replace my mind with a better mind, a newer mind. No, this is something that God is able to do for me, and in fact, His word promises that He he has DONE this for me.

1 Cor. 2:16 says,

Who can know the LORD's thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?" But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

As a Christian, one of the gifts of salvation is a new mind. The old mind that belonged to the old self was crucified with Christ. At the point of redemption, we are given a new mind along with a new self, a new nature.

2 Cor. 5:17 remind us of this truth,

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Our new life comes with a new mind, the mind of Christ. This new mind is not filled with the old thoughts, old habits, old patterns and old ways of thinking. No, it is filled with the very mind of Christ. We have within us the ability -- because of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection -- to no longer be a slave to the old ways of thinking, the humanistic ways that placed us at the center of our universe. Yes, we can begin to think the way God thinks, to see the world through His eyes. In doing so, our inward perception of reality becomes aligned with His outward perception of reality. We see the world, other people, and ourselves through new, improved, and clarified lenses.

Thus, changing our mind begins with salvation. Moreover, keeping our mind free from worldly thoughts, habits and patterns requires training and discipline. Since we have not been removed from this world, we are in it still, we must remember that our minds are like giant radio/satellite dishes -- we pick up transmissions from all sources. We must, therefore, carefully tune our minds to the one DISH that radiates the best thoughts, the best ideas, and the best interpretations of our world reality. That one DISH is the Word of God. There is no other source necessary for our instruction, for our edification, but the Holy Scripture.

2 Tim. 3:16 says,

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

The best way, and I would say, the only way to renew our minds, to keep positive thoughts, attitudes and beliefs is to immerse ourselves within the Word. Paul says it this way,

Romans 12:2: Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

It is possible then to have a renewed mind, filled with potential and optimism -- but only when we set the Word of God as our one true Source. In doing so, our minds will be constantly renewed, and we will find the strength to filter out the negative humanistic thinking of the world around us. We can be people of great faith, great belief, and great wonder -- people who stand in awe of God and of His marvelous workmanship. We can believe God, and we can trust Him -- take Him at His word because we will know His word, and we will see that it is true.

God is good. All the time, He is good. His word is truth (John 17:17b).

Believe today that His word is truth. Trust in Him, and allow His word to richly dwell in you, transforming you, and changing the way you think.

Selah!

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