Episode 63: Breakthroughs, Part 3- Having Hopeful Thoughts

Peace to Live By Episode 63: Breakthroughs, Part 3- Having Hopeful Thoughts - Daniel Litton
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[Transcript may not match broadcasted sermon word for word]

       Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at breakthroughs—things in our lives, that once we realize, can be of great advantage to us. These truths from God’s Word can help us grow into becoming more like Jesus, and in the living happier, healthier lives. The first week we considered how we have already been accepted by God’s grace—that we are his, his children. We considered that we don’t have to earn God’s acceptance, as we already have this through Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Last week we considered the first part of having a godly mindset, one that makes us more pleasing to God and that helps us in our daily lives, causing us to enjoy life more. Now, this week we are going to continue the discussion on the mind.

       Today I want us to focus on looking at the bright side of things. I want us to consider how negativity can be very detrimental to having a right mind, and how we should be thinking positive thoughts throughout the day. One foundational verse to this concept is found in Proverbs chapter 15, in which we read in verse 15: ““All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast” (ESV). We want to be laying a foundation of good thinking, right thinking which leads us to a having a better mindset. The Apostle Paul at the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 talked about the three most important things we are to have. Recall, he said they are 1) faith, 2) hope, and 3) love. Today, we are going to be focusing on hope and faith. Operating with a ‘hopeful’ mindset, which is full of faith, is really important for the believer, yet many of us don't live in hope with faith.

       So, the breakthrough we are considering today is: God wants us to live with a hopeful mindset, and not with a negative, unbelieving, and faithless one.

       Negativity is a poison that can ruin our lives. It is written in Proverbs 15:13: “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed” (ESV). Some of us have developed such a negative mindset that we cannot see anything without a tinge of negativism. It is rooted deep in our brains. We have negative eyeglasses seemingly affixed permanently to our faces. And why are some of us more negative than others? Sometimes people are negative because of the way they were raised. They had a negative mother or father, or both were negative, having a grim outlook on life, and this was passed down to the child. And sometimes children and young adults have experienced failures and rejections over and over that have built up this type of mindset. They feel like they’ve been dealt a bad hand in life.

       I know we have been taught to think bad of ourselves because of all the sin that resides in us, that is, in our flesh. But we need to see ourselves how God see us, and that is perfect in Christ, made righteous by his blood, as we discussed the first week of this series. If we are constantly thinking bad about ourselves, we aren’t going to advance very far in life. If we are continuing to focus on our failures instead of the things that we do right, we are going to be downtrodden and unmotivated to do much of anything. It is written in 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31: “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (ESV). Jesus has made us right with God, and we should live in that truth. We have righteousness, sanctification, and redemption from God, and we ought to live like we do. We shouldn’t be living feeling unrighteous, unwashed, and unredeemed.

       One thing I want you to realize is that most people who suffer from negativism don’t even realize it. They have become so used to being negative that it is just part of their being, part of their attitude, and they look at everything with a critical, faultfinding mindset. And it is true that, as Christians, many of us have been taught to be critical of things. We have been taught to be critical of the world, to watch our own behaviors carefully, and things like this in order to protect ourselves from sin’s influence. And these are good things (see Proverbs 14:15). The problem is that we have let the critical mindset get out of control in many instances. You cannot be around some brothers and sisters for long just because they are too negative and critical. You may make a statement at a Bible study and all this type of person does is point out what’s wrong with your statement, what you missed, or what needs improved upon. They feel they have to correct everyone and everything.

       It all comes down to the law of reaping and sowing. You harvest the fruit of what you plant. If we have a negative mindset, a negative focus, and we live out that in our character, we will reap negative, bad, uncomfortable results. If we are always correcting people, for instance, we will find that people generally don’t like us. That’s because they don’t want to be constantly corrected. Or, if we are like this we may find that they end up constantly correcting us in return, or being on the defensive, because we have been critical toward them. If we are always saying what is wrong, saying negative things, again we may find that people tend to avoid us. That’s because they have figured out that we are no fun to be around; all we see is the negative, and certainly, that’s no fun. Again, if we are always tearing down others, that’s no fun to listen to. It may be interesting at first to hear what the person has to say, but then once we understand that the person tears down and cuts on everyone, we come to know that’s a person we don’t want to be around. If they are cutting at everyone else, they will talk behind our backs too when we’re not around. I guaranteed you.

       Things will never get better for those of us who are negative if we don’t make a concerted effort to get better. Really, it all starts with seeing things differently. We have to gain a new perspective, and continue to put on that perspective as we live each day out. As we try to think positively, to think the best of everyone, to think the best of our situations—not the worst—it will take a constant renewing of our minds, our attitudes, and our speech (more on this next week). If you take a day and analyze your thoughts, and how you think about things, some of us are going to become aware, very quickly, that we have a serious problem on our hands. Do we worry about different things constantly, whether they be big or small? Do we fear different things that could happen? Do we tend to think the worst about everyone, that they are doing things against us? When we can see that we have these types of thoughts, that we are contemplating on them and letting them control our lives, we see that we have a lot of work to do.

       And we may try to excuse the negative things we think about by saying, “Everybody thinks like this.” For one, I would certainly say that not everyone is led about by worry and fear. And two, I think that even if many around you are, that doesn’t mean you have to think and live like that. I believe if you spend a day saying, “I am not going to worry about anything today,” and focused the entire day on not worrying, you would find that you have a tremendous amount of peace in your mind. But even trying this out may be almost impossible for you, because you have let the roots of worry dig a channel in your brain by which everything flows into, and you may find that even spending a half hour not worrying about something is next to impossible. So, the problem you have developed in your mind is going to take a considerable amount of time to fix. It’s not something that can just happen in one day. It’s like losing weight. It took a long time to put the weight on, and it’s going to take awhile to get it off. We have to form new habits.

       To get a sample of what I am talking about, I would say to those who suffer from a negative mindset to just spend one evening, when you drive home from work, at just focusing on the present. When a thought comes to your mind about anything outside of the present, just cast it down. Don’t think about it. And trust me, many thoughts will come! Just try on your drive home to only focus on the present. If you are able to pull it off, and I’m sure many of you will be, you will find that you have gained a substantial amount of rest. Your brain will feel so at rest that you’ll realize how much you’ve been overworking it by considering thoughts of worry and fear. Then once you realize you have a problem, you can work with God on correcting the problem.

       The Bible tells us that God will help us to grow and bring us to completion (see Philippians 1:6). You see, God wants to help people overcome negativism. You shouldn’t feel that God doesn’t want to help you. He wants us to go to him in prayer and discuss these things with him. He loves us; we are his children. You may realize that you have a serious problem on your hands, but you should not let the realization of that issue stop you from talking with the Lord about it. That means you should talk to him all the more about it. God’s Word tells us we have to draw near to God first, and then he will draw near to us (see James 4:8). It’s not that God comes to us first, but we are told to come to him and he will then come to us.

       So, if we are not thinking negative thoughts, we want to be thinking about positive things. It seems obvious that when we don’t think negative thoughts, we can then allow our minds to be filled with good things. One way we display our positivity in life is by living through the mindset of ‘faith’ instead of ‘fear.’ Really, these are the opposites of each other. In Matthew chapter 9, when the woman with a discharge of blood for 12 years went to Jesus, he told her that it was actually her ‘faith’ that made her well—that allowed her to become healed. It wasn’t that she just went to Jesus and was healed, but she had to have faith that he could in fact make her well. In the same way, we need to have faith in Jesus that he will make us well—that he will restore our minds. The Apostle Paul stated, ““For in it [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, ESV).

       We need to use ‘faith’ and not be living with a negative, unbelieving mind. If you don’t ‘feel’ something is going to work out, that is when you use your faith. Think of faith like a bottle of medicine. We don’t feel good, so we take a tablet to help us feel better. Faith is the same way. Even though we don’t feel like something is going to work out for the good, we can still take our tablet of faith and we’ll see the results in a little while. Back in Matthew chapter 9, the woman with the discharge had not lost faith that she could and would be made better, or she wouldn’t have gone to Jesus looking for a cure. We cannot give up in life—give up in the fight to make our minds new in Christ. When we give up, there is no more hope for us. We have thrown in the towel and cannot expect to get better. Some days are going to be harder than others. And even though disappointments will still come every once in a while, we still need to have a hopeful mindset. Being able to find the good in a situation is really important. We cannot let disappointments get us down. We have to remain determined, and not stop when we have failed, but get right back up and keep strong at work.

       Part of being positive is believing that good things are going to happen in the future instead of bad things. Many folks get into the trap of believing only bad is going to happen for them in the future. They’ve had negative experiences in the past, perhaps even limited to certain area of life, and they just don’t think things are going to get better for them. And interestingly enough, when we don’t feel things are going to get better, they won’t because we are not exercising and using faith that things will in fact be more fulfilling for us. Faith is the driving force behind the power of God. We can make ourselves miserable by having a lack of faith, or we can believe the best is going to happen and make ourselves happy for the time being. Jesus on many occasions rebuked his disciples for a lack of faith. He was telling them that they should have believed they were in God’s hands—that God would take care of them—instead of believing that something terrible was going to happen.

       To state it plainly, God isn’t going to give us as much help in life when we aren’t thinking positively with hope by using faith. This is because we are being disobedient to him. Again, he wants us to be looking at things—looking at our various life situations—through the eyeglasses of faith. That’s what he commands us to do in fact. When we chose instead to worry, exercise fear, respond to things being afraid, etc, this is being rebellious toward God. And he isn’t going to come to our aid when we are willingly not obeying him. It is true that many of us are disobedient in this area of the mind without even realizing it. It is inadvertent. We have a grand problem, and we don’t even know we have such a serious issue. Once more, we question everything, worry about everything, fact-check everything, exercise fear first, and if we get around to it, maybe faith on a rare occasion. The thought processes in our minds are so out of alignment and we have become so use to things being that way. We are always afraid Satan is going to get us, and that bad is going to happen, that we fear and fear and fear. And really, we fear things into existence because of our lack of faith. We become a self-fulfilling prophet. If had just exercised faith in the first place, God would have given us our needed assistance. But because we didn’t have any faith, God didn’t help us.

       So, then, we have to deliberately choose to believe that good is going to happen instead of bad. And there are many out there who are thinking, “Bad always happens to me. I don’t want to believe good will happen because then if it doesn’t, I will be disappointed.” But remember, you need to be believing good is going to happen. Your very fear inside your mind that bad is going to happen is exactly what allows the bad to happen. This is because you are not exercising faith. Our God is not a deistic God. He didn’t set the universe in order and then walk away from it so that you have to hope you don’t get burned by bad luck. Bad things happen to all, but how we respond to those things is what is really important. You need to believe that good will happen instead of bad, and even when bad does happen, you need to remain positive with the mindset that this time of negativity will pass. If you remain hopeful when bad happens, it allows God to aid you in your negative situation. But be thinking bad, with no faith, and only more and more bad is going to happen for you.

       You see, Satan will present us with lies in our minds, which are negative and usually worse case scenario. It’s our responsibility to block and protect ourselves from his lies when they come to our minds, even when he presents them to us frequently. Remember, the Apostle Paul said to “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16, ESV). See how he said “in all circumstances” we are to have faith. And notice that “in all circumstances” Satan will fire darts at us—that is, lies, untruths. We have to resist his lies, and realize that what he is telling us about our situation or our future just simply isn’t true. It’s can be very tempting to believe the unfavorable things he is telling us, and to dabble in self-pity and a negative mindset, but those things aren’t going to help us to cultivate a positive, hopeful mind. We have to choose to believe that good is going to happen and not fill our minds with unbelief. You can feel sorry for yourself when trouble arises, or you can think positively and believe you’re an overcomer.

       To state it again, unbelief will rob our souls of life. How can God come to our rescue when we don’t believe he will? When you don’t believe God will assist you in your life, you are undercutting his character. Even if you don’t believe that God will help you because your too sinful, that undercuts his character because he paid for all of your sin through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He bought us with a price. God is a good God. Remember what Jesus told the Jews in his day: “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:9-11, ESV). So, while we as sinners give good things to each other, and even expect good things, all the more should we expect and anticipate that God himself will give us good things—just as he already has in many ways. God wants us to believe that he will be good to us. He wants to show us his goodness.

       In finishing today, I do realize that there are some people out there who may feel left out, who may feel that they would like to benefit from these teachings, but that they don’t know God. They feel estranged from him, and they feel like that are not on good terms with him. Well, if I am describing you today, I want you to know that God wants to be in a personal relationship with you. He wants to be your God, and he wants to help you in your life. Remember, we discussed the fact that God is not a mean killjoy of a God. No, he is kind, being the one who has given us our lives, everything we have, and he wants to continue to bless our lives. He wants more blessings in them now, and he wants to give us good things in the future. Many of these things we will see in this life, and many of the good things we will get will be in the next life—in eternity. God gives us Heaven for the future, for those of us who believe in him. We get to be with him forever, having everything we need.

       God loves everyone in the world. The Bible says that he loved the world so much that he sent Jesus, his Son, to die on the cross so that anyone can have a personal relationship with him. Because we all have sin in us, we all from birth were separated from God. But through Jesus, we no longer have to be separated and estranged from God. By believing in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins, the wrongs we’ve done in our lives, we can be made right with God today. Jesus rose from the dead to give us new life. And he will be on our sides. There is no fear of anything really after that.

       If eternal life is something you would like today, and you do want to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your offenses against God, then please follow my lead in this simple prayer:

God, I believe that I am currently separated from you. I don’t have a personal relationship with you. But I know that by believing in Jesus, by counting on the blood he shed for my offenses, that I can be made right with you today. And I want to be right with you. So, I believe that Jesus died for me, that he rose from the dead, and that today he is with you in Heaven. I want you to be my Leader from now on; I want to follow your ways, which are the right ways. Father, please help me to change, and to become like your Son, Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton