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People are often negative. We know how to find the bad in every situation.
I recently received a piece of my neighbor’s mail by accident. Two of my daughters and I took a walk and returned it to him. When I told him what had happened, he replied, “I’m not surprised.”
What was the point of saying that? I think this was the first (maybe second) time we had received mail that should have gone to a neighbor. Our mailman has always shown himself to be kind and diligent. Frankly, I was surprised it happened. On top of that, I could have just thrown it away or put it back in the mailbox and wrote, “Wrong address!” But I didn’t. I was concerned it could be something important. Someone was concerned for him (and he was kind to me) but he still found a reason to be negative.
The thing is, I think my neighbor’s reply had more to do with his outlook on life than our local mail service. This was my first interaction with this neighbor. So, this may not have been normal for him. However, I see consistent negativity in others I have more regular contact with. Actually, I think this really struck me because I have seen it in myself and other Christians.
Have you ever considered a negative attitude could be one of Satan’s weapons? Well, consider how a negative attitude keeps us from obeying God. It makes us bitter not joyful (Phil. 4:4). We are more likely to snap and be angry with our families (Eph. 6:4) and others rather than speak with gentleness (4:2). Negativity causes us to slack in our work rather than “work heartily” (Col. 3:23). If we are often negative, people are not going to see hope in us and we are not going to want to tell people about a hope that we aren’t allowing to change our hearts (1 Pet. 3:15). More could be added but these make the point. Negativity may not be sinful in and of itself but the ways it often affects us certainly can be.
So, what do we do about it? I believe the three commands found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 can help us to eliminate negativity.
Rejoice always. How do we make ourselves rejoice? Joy is not simply an uncontrollable emotion that comes and goes but the result of what we think and how we act.
Most understand the connection between joy and what we think about (which we will discuss next) but how can our actions make us joyful? Joy has a physiological component. If you don’t believe me, purposefully smile as often as you can and, especially, at everyone you meet for the rest of the day. You will notice a difference in how you feel. An article in Psychology Today reports, “The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.” God created us in such a wonderful way that we can begin to obey this command to rejoice simply by choosing to smile.
Your choice to smile won’t last long, however, unless what you think about keeps you smiling. This is where Satan comes in. “The whole world lies in” his power and he wants us to know it (1 John 5:19). He may not can get us to lie, steal, or live sexually immoral but he is satisfied with getting us to dwell on all the evil that everyone else does and the damage it causes. How can we be joyful if we are constantly thinking, “The world is full of evil, suffering, and sadness and it just seems to be getting worse”? We won’t be. We will live like we are beaten and without hope.
Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus knows Satan can discourage us greatly through what we see and experience in the world. He says we can have the courage to remain joyful by remembering looks can be deceiving. It may look like evil is winning but we know good, that is Jesus, has already won. He proved it when He rose from the dead. “The power of death” is in the Devil’s hands but Jesus rendered him “powerless” (Heb. 2:14). Jesus said that, through His death and resurrection, “the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (14:1).
When Satan starts to steal your joy, remember, Jesus died for our sins- in Christ all our sins are forgiven. Jesus rose from the dead- He is the King who will raise the wicked to be punished and the faithful to be with Him forever (John 5:25-29). “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). If we let our faith guide our thoughts, we will “not lose heart” but “our inner man” will be “renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:7-18). Our faith enables us to “rejoice always.”
Pray without ceasing. Our faith is a powerful shield against Satan’s efforts to discourage us and make us negative people (Eph. 6:16). Praying several times a day helps us stay focused on God. You’ll pray more consistently if you remember prayers don’t have to be long (some of my prayers are only one sentence).
Sometimes, the evil and suffering in this world hits us with overwhelming intensity. A consistent and persistent prayer life is vital when our spiritual wind is knocked out of us. In those moments, turning to God in prayer must be second-nature. Putting our anxious worries and concerns in God’s hands will “guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 5:7).
In everything give thanks. The negativity in the world around us is contagious and it thrives on ingratitude. On the other hand, positivity and joy thrive on thankfulness. Our faith should transform the way we think about everything. Instead of, “We live in a hopelessly evil world,” faith says, “Thank you Lord for the hope of Your promises.” Or, “Today is another opportunity for God to work through me to make people’s lives better.” We see the beauty that can rise from the ashes. We see the blessings in the mess. We see how we used to be and how God has changed us. The hope and power of the gospel is so amazing we are compelled to say, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15)! Faith teaches us to be thankful which, in turn, strengthens our faith even more.
Don’t let the negativity of the world keep you from the joy in God through Christ! Satan is using it to keep you from having the courage to live faithful. Light the fire in your heart again by rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything!
Many people talk about what God's grace does FOR you but do you know what it should do TO you? Take 3 minutes to find out then SHARE the video.
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Do you hear the message in the thunderstorm?
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