A young boy in the neighborhood lost his father last winter. This spring as father-and-son teams hit the front yards to pitch and hit the baseball, he felt alone. Not to be outdone, however, he took his bat and ball to the old familiar spot in the front yard and started his own game. With a chipper spirit he threw the ball into the air and swung with all his might. The bat cut only air, and a watching neighbor boy yelled, “Strike one!” The lad hastily retrieved the ball threw it into the air and swung again. “Strike two!” echoed from across the way. With a tinge of fear and a ton of resolve, he flipped the ball for the final swing. “Strike, three, you’re out!” screamed the unwanted umpire, along with the cruel words, “You’re a lousy hitter!” The undaunted boy sucked up his chest, marched over to the fence and yelled back, “I’m not a lousy hitter; I’m a great pitcher! I just struck myself out!”
This young man displayed a great attitude and enthusiasm toward life. He obviously had learned well that attitude can make all the difference.
Authentic Christianity has been characterized by an enthusiastic attitude. Paul, awaiting martyrdom in a Roman cell, wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). When Peter was placed in Herod’s prison to await his death, the Scripture tells us that the very night before his planned martyrdom, Peter lay down between two soldiers and slept. No whining or the wringing of hands in misery! He just slept. He looked Herod’s sword in the face with perfect peace and went sound asleep.
When we focus on ourselves what we see can be very discouraging. When we look at the world around us, we can be over-whelmed by its problems. But when we look to Christ we always come away with hope.
The secret of an enthusiastic spirit is in understanding the sovereignty of God. Joseph looked up from the long years of separation from family years of prison and slavery, and saw that though others “meant it for evil, God meant it for good.” Had Joseph just chosen to look at things horizontally he could have walked away a sour, bitter man. But because he chose to look at things vertically, he went through the dark years of his life and came out a man with the right perspective and a good attitude.
A failure to trace the divine purpose of God in our trials will make room for a negative critical spirit toward what has happened to us. Jacob fell prey to such bitterness over the tragedy of Joseph. “All these things be against me,” he wailed when God was simply planning the preservation of his own life and that of his family.
When I was a small boy I would follow the steps of my father as he plowed a long furrow through the field. I was amazed how he was able to make the rows so straight. The secret, he told me, was to find a fixed object at the end of the row and keep an upward look toward that object rather than constantly looking down at where you were walking. This has proven to be good advice for living. The man who buries his gaze in the temporal troubles of time will lose his perspective on life and ultimately lose his way. He will become so problem-conscious that he loses his God consciousness.
We certainly are no match for the situations of life, but God is! For every need we have, there is a corresponding fullness found in Him. God is sufficient!
Can you feel the spirit of optimism when Paul looks up and taps into the divine resources as he speaks to us in Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” He looked up again and said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
The key to tapping into the sovereignty and sufficiency of God is not through the popular self-help teaching, but through real surrender and submission. We are flooded with articles and books on “four easy steps” to spiritual happiness. The real formula, however, is not “help yourself,” but “yield yourself.” As we yield ourselves to Christ, we open our eyes to the sovereign ways of God and avail ourselves of supernatural strength.
Negativism, unbelief and despair are spiritual viruses that have lethal consequences to the soul. They are contagious and will leave death in their wake. On the other hand, a positive confident attitude, born out of looking unto Jesus, will help dispel the demons of despair and usher in an optimistic, confident trust – a trust that will straighten our shoulders, lift our heads, and make us far more effective Christians.
So remember! If the outlook is bleak, try the uplook!