TITLE: Attitudes of the Mind, Heart and Spirit by Phyllis Stokes
By Phyllis Stokes
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We have all heard that perception is everything. The way we view our situation has much to do with the direction our attitude will go. Whether we are content or dismayed, anxious or at peace has to do with the perception of our situation.
“…when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more…It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart”
Could these be the words of someone who had a flat tire on the way to work after having a heated argument with a spouse, or someone who lost their job last week or got a bad report from the doctor. Maybe it’s a parent who has suffered many years with a child gone astray? It very well could be since all these things are definite challenges. These words, however are not the words of someone who just got a bad perm. They are excepts taken from the personal diary of Anne Frank, a 15 year old German -Jewish teenager who became a Nazi prisoner of war.
Because of her courageous attitude, Anne’s story has inspired and encouraged the hearts of countless thousands. Her diary has been translated into many languages and is said to be one of the most widely read books in the world.
After Anne’s family was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust, they were soon discovered and deported to a Nazi concentration camp.
An average day in one of these camps consisted of watching the freight cars arrive loaded with men, women and children who would either be made slaves or put to death immediately. Daily mass murders and beatings were the norm, while others perished due to malnutrition, disease, or sheer exhaustion.
How could anyone existing in the face of such devastation, find even a glimmer of hope to cling to? It would seem that at some point in her experience, Anne made a very conscious decision. She came to the decision to have faith that something good could still happen. Anne decided she would think about and focus on the good; in spite of what her eyes saw, or what her ears heard. Making a decision about how to think about your situation is always the first step in having a good attitude. As a man thinks in his heart so is he. Proverbs 23:7.
God has given much instruction in the scripture concerning our thought life. Isaiah 57:7 admonishes the wicked to forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts in order to return to the Lord. God has gone a step further for those who don’t know what to think about. “Finally my brother, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weight and take account of these things (fix your minds on them.) Phil 4:8 amp
Our thoughts are like a steering wheel leading us to a positive or negative attitude. On days when we just can’t seem to kick a bad disposition, we need to examine our thoughts to find out how we got to that place. As we use our mind to adjust our thoughts our attitude is sure to follow. Changing our attitudes does not always change our situation immediately, but it does change how that situation affects us and ultimately how we affect others around us.
It is vitally important to God that we touch the lives of the people He has placed around us. Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people we deal with in the market place on a regular basis, the grocery clerk, the bank teller are all a part of our sphere of influence. Obviously, we will have more influence over some than others. Each encounter, however, is an opportunity to plant a seed that brings forth fruit in that person’s life. Planting a seed in a person’s life does not always mean having to preach a sermon, quote a scripture or give “a word of knowledge”. Yes, surely all that has its place, but we don’t necessarily need to walk around with a pocket full of tracks to shove in the face of the first unsuspecting person to who dares to come within reach. As we allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us as willing vessels, a friendly word, a genuine smile, a warm handshake, or a kind deed can often open a previously closed door in a person’s heart.
Without our being aware of it, God will use us as HIs ambassador to speak exactly what some person needs to hear at a particular moment. A woman who was going through a dry period in her prayer life felt she had done something to cause God to withdraw from her. Several days passed and she had not gotten the answer she sought from Him. The woman begin to feel God did not care about her situation. A friend of this woman who lived in another state kept thinking about her. She did not know why the woman kept coming to mind, but decided to send her a card to say hello. The friend said and silent prayer for her friend and then wrote the words “Psalms 23” underneath her signature. On the day the card arrived, the woman was by this time at a point of despair. She read the card immediately and though she knew this passage of scripture by heart, she decided to open her bible to read it. The tears streamed down her face as the words spoke directly to her situation. As a result of a friend being sensitive and obedient to the Holy Spirit, this woman was reminded that God was indeed still with her and her hope was restored.
God has not called us into the kingdom to consume all the abundant blessings of kingdom living on ourselves alone. He in His extravagantly gracious love, wants us to be so filled with the blessings that come with the gift of salvation that it overflows to others. When we freely receive the gift of salvation, it is so much more than a ticket to heaven and an escape from hell. To say the least salvation is a huge, marvelous, beautifully wrapped and ornate treasure; a packaged inheritance containing every single thing a person could ever want or need in life. So you think this is perhaps an over-statement? No, it is a drastic understatement!
As with all truths, we can find this truth in the word of God. “May grace (God’s favor) and peace (which is perfect well-being) all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in the full, personal, precise and correct) knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that (are requisite and suited) to life and godliness, through the full, personal knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).” II Peter 1:2-3
Sadly, some people receive Christ as their savior, but never tap into the total package the inheritance offers. For the sake of example only, let’s say our salvation is like the most lavish, enormous mansion in the world. This mansion is filled with never ending rooms. Progressing through the mansion, each room is more elaborate than the last.
Imagine ceilings so high, you almost fall backwards as you look up to take in the wonder of the space. All around are marble winding staircases, crystal chandeliers, acres of tropical gardens, exotic flowers, and flowing fountains so magnificent it leaves one speechless. Though the entrance itself is breathtaking, there is so much more to behold with every step forward. Just when you think it can’t get anymore wonderful; you cross the threshold and it does!
Now, imagine a particular man has been invited to live free of charge at the mansion for the rest of his life. An invitation that exceeds his highest expectations - he accepts. Upon arriving at the mansion, having never seen anything so spectacular, he stands in awe night after night, and for years to come in the foyer. Others enter as well, and like this man they too are overwhelmed and never leave the foyer. Some stay awhile, then curiosity of what lies beyond motivates them to continue their journey. For whatever reason, maybe out of an attitude of guilt, shame or condemnation, the first man doesn’t feel worthy enough to seek more. He lives and dies… in the foyer.
Had this man chosen to move to the other rooms in the mansion, he would have discovered many other things were there for him as well. So many things, he would have plenty to give to others outside the mansion. In the foyer, there was only enough for him. In a sense this is what happens to us when we receive salvation but never tap into the total package of our inheritance.
The total salvation package comes chalk full of peace, joy, contentment, deliverance, healing and prosperity. Our failure to mature in our attitude causes a deficiency. As disciples (followers of Christ) we have been called to go into all the world and make other disciples. This deficiency robs us personally, and it robs us of being the light that attracts others into the kingdom.
Salvation is free, but the total package that includes the inheritance comes as we allow God to bring us to a level of maturity where the inheritance can be possessed, experienced and shared. Possessing and experiencing the inheritance does not happen overnight, but is a process of maturity that happens over time. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside. I Cor 13:11 amp If we are to become mature we must stop talking, thinking and reasoning like a child. As long as we are in this state we can only see and understand in part. Children by nature are selfish in their attitudes. Thinking mostly of their own comfort and happiness, they cry and pout or throw various other tantrums until they are given what they want or are given proper instruction. No two year old child stops to consider how his or her actions might inconvenience the parents or a sibling. Sharing is not usually a top priority when it comes to a special toy. When the child wants something, he wants it now and he wants it at any cost. The cost is somebody else’s problem. As the child grows into a pre teen, through the teenage years to young adulthood, he is more prone to be concerned about others.
Levels of maturity can be reached only as we mature in our attitude. Our daily aim should be to add to our faith through developing virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. We will not hit the mark all the time, but through faith, each day we can pick ourselves up, shake off the dust and start again. God’s mercies are new every day, and every day He is there to meet us where we left off. As we take the hand of God, he will lead us further. The challenge is not to be overwhelmed with discouragement, not to complain, and never give up.
An attitude of complaining is a primary weapon used by the devil to prevent progress in our maturity. A person can seem to be doing all the right things on the outside, but if their attitude is not right it does not profit. Since God is concerned about our hearts, we benefits only as we inwardly and outwardly behave in a way that is pleasing to Him. Continuously praying for God to help us know truth in our inward parts, is a good way to stay pure in the attitude of the heart.
It is important to remember growing in our attitude is a work of the Holy Spirit. In our own strength we can do nothing, subsequently we can not change our attitude in our own strength. To do so, we need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit at all times. We do however, have a part and that is yielding to the work being done. The practice of spending quality time in God’s presence will give us strength to resist temptation. As we are tempted to be angry, impatient, rude, judgmental, or whatever the bad attitude flavor of the day is, we find God gives us a space to choose the better way of interacting with people. It is as if a tiny alarm goes off in your spirit. Little by little we learn to hear and heed the warnings.
In His presence, we will also gain confidence and discernment. Without confidence toward God, we are powerless to fight even the weakest enemy. Deep inside we need to know God is with us, He is helping us and leading us through the snares and traps laid by the devil. Without discernment we can not sense the still small voice of the Lord as he quickens us to adjust or correct our attitude. God is always speaking, but if we have not spent time with Him, how will we know His voice? Knowing God’s voice enables us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
With a strong spirit nothing shall be impossible. While saying no to temptation, two very distinct things are taking place at the same time. Our flesh, the culprit of bad attitudes becomes weaker with each denial, while the spirit becomes stronger. By resisting the devil, we have submitted to God, thereby winning another victory. Starting with one bad attitude at a time, resistance is applied. The flesh puts up a tremendous fight, and doesn’t give in easily, but eventually through diligent effort the flesh takes it’s final sigh and is put to death. We can then, move on to the next bad attitude to conquer.
Conquering one bad attitude after another, something behind the scene is taking place we might not be aware of. People are starting to take notice. God’s name is now being exalted and glorified. People who paid no attention to you before are suddenly being drawn to the light. Jesus speaking to his disciples in John 12:24 explains what happens when one chooses to allow their own fleshly desires to be put to death. “ I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, unless grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies, it remains (just one grain; it never becomes more but lives) by itself alone, but if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest.
By resisting the temptation to have a bad attitude, it is put to death. Without words we have expressed that God is more important than how we feel. Silently we have proclaimed that the name of the Lord is a strong tower, a refuge for the righteous! He and only He is able to keep us from falling. We have been that living epistle for people to read. Suddenly people are able to see clearly God is the true and living God.
God has blessed us in order to make us a blessing. No matter where we are in our attitude, there is room for growth. God wants us to have an attitude where we are not so consumed with ourselves that we can not see opportunities or needs around us. Bad attitudes are preventing us from running a good race. According to Hebrews 12:1 we are to “ …strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, …and run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us.“ We can make a decision today to work with the Holy Spirit to bring us to a higher level in our service to Him. Let us choose this day to serve God with our whole
mind, heart and spirit through our attitude.
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