Posts Tagged ‘self-esteem’

The secret of making dreams come true can be summarized in four C’s.  They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy; and the greatest of these is Confidence.” Walt Disney —

How important is Confidence?

The year was 1987. I was in the Florida Keys aboard a dive boat leaving the canal on Old Highway, MM 90.5 in Tavernier. My stomach was churning.  Seated to my right was a 747 commercial airline pilot. To my left (oddly enough) was his girlfriend, an attractive stewardess. Having just completed scuba training school, we were heading out to the reef for our final check out dives. It was January and the water was quite choppy. The tiny ship was tossed. So were my cookies – thankfully over the side. There I was; grasping the starboard rail (like the horns of the ancient alter) and watching the “professional” airline pilot joining me in the mal de mar (seasickness). I prayed, “Oh God, have mercy on me and please never let me be aboard one of this pilots flights when the plane hits heavy turbulence.”

So, (aside from the nausea) how did I really feel that day? I was definitely enthusiastic about the dive. But, I was also full of doubt, fear, hesitation and uncertainty. After all, I had never done this before.

Did I have the basic skill-set necessary to function as a scuba diver? Yes. Was I ready to move from the theoretical to the practical? Again, yes. So, why the agita? (Italian-American slang derived from the Italian “agitare” meaning “to agitate.”) Because, I was suffering from a lack of confidence.

Have you ever felt that a lack of confidence was holding you back from living up to your true potential? Are you afraid to take a “step of faith” because you don’t believe that you have “what it takes”?

Welcome aboard wayfarer. You are not alone.

Okay, in the scuba example, my lack of confidence could be blamed on a want of experience. But it seems to me that from the cradle to the grave, we are taught to embrace external sources for validation. As a result, we often hang our self-worth on the approval of other people. The resulting “confidence crisis” can stifle our true potential.

There once was a child who did not speak until he was four years old and he did not read until he was seven. His teachers were convinced that he was mentally handicapped, and anti-social (he had extraordinary temper tantrums.) In the end, he was expelled from school. When he took the entrance examination for a polytechnic school in Zurich, Switzerland, he flunked everything but the math. He did eventually win admittance to the University only to graduate and not get a teaching position because no professor would recommend him. In fact, the only job he was able to get after graduation was an entry-level position with the government. (Uh, no comment.)

Who was this poor child and whatever become of him? His name was Albert Einstein. Need I say more? It seems that no one recognized all the potential within him. Einstein could have given up, but thankfully he had the confidence necessary to persevere.

People who live without confidence will always fall short of their potential. When you do not believe that something is possible, you will seldom take the steps required to attain it. For example, you may dream of being a great musician one day.  But, if you don’t believe it is possible, you will never be willing to pay the price (lessons and endless hours of practice) to master an instrument.  Or, you may desire to succeed in your own business.  If you don’t believe in that possibility, you will never take the steps (and suffer the many sacrifices) required to build a prosperous enterprise.

People who go thru life without a healthy dose of confidence are often discouraged, perhaps a bit cynical and definitely unmotivated. Confidence affects our outlook on life and the way that we approach our work.  When we suffer from an acute lack of confidence, we often need someone else to encourage us.  The “encourager” may even need to prod, push and, ultimately show us the way past our fears into success.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”  Martin Luther —

How does this apply to my Christian life?

Spiritual growth and fruitful Christianity develops as we gain confidence in the wisdom of the Liberator Jesus for our strength.  In the process, his indwelling Spirit shows us the way to overcome our fears and doubts as we grow toward spiritual boldness.

You may desire to live a life that is acceptable to our creator, but if you have no confidence in his ability to help you “live holy as He is holy” (1 Peter 1:16), you won’t press on toward that goal. Remember this: Your (spiritual) state of affairs is always limited by what you truly believe.  Put another way, you will only do what you believe (are confident) you can do.

God wants us to place absolute trust in Him for a reason.  Trust builds our confidence in Him.  When we have a strong faith in God, we have an assurance that enables us to move outside of our comfort zones.  Our faith relationship with God helps to clarify what He wants from us (also known as being led by the Spirit).

We are learning to walk with God.  Think about that.  If we are walking with God, that means He also walks with us – every day of our lives.  He is our “ever present help in time of need.” (Psalm 46:1)  And, by the power of His Holy Spirit, God also wants to work through us as we walk together – especially when we are quick to respond to His instructions.

Oh, how great peace and quietness would he possess who should cut off all vain anxiety and place all his confidence in God….” — Thomas Kempis —

Confidence Rightly Placed

Secular culture credits a life of success to an abundance of self-confidence. The gurus of secularism say, You can do it if you believe you can”. There is some limited truth to this, but it is not gospel truth, and sometimes that view point fails. Granted, humanity can and does achieve many amazing things here on spaceship earth aided by self-confidence and a positive self-image.  The Bible however, does not tell us to simply believe in ourselves. It teaches us to believe in Almighty God and the Liberator Jesus – the one he sent to the earth. His Divine Spirit is our source of life itself. Look at this statement that Jesus made to his pupils,

“You must go on growing in me and I will grow in you. For just as the branch cannot bear any fruit unless it shares the life of the vine, so you can produce nothing unless you go on growing in me. I am the vine itself, you are the branches. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all.” (John 15:4-5 – J.B. Phillips New Testament).

Christians believe this to be the absolute truth.  According to the sacred texts of scripture, the incarnate one (Jesus) was, is, and ever shall be the sustainer of all things by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Remember: Apart from an intimate relationship with the Liberator Jesus, where you draw on His life force, you can do nothing of TRUE (eternal) value with your allotted life time.

What good is it if, armed with a positive self-image and great self-confidence, you achieve some measure of worldly success but MISS the purpose for which you were born into this temporary existence? Neither achieving great riches nor living in deep poverty has any bearing upon your eternal destiny. What will matter is how obedient you were to the otherworldly calling on your life. No one is going to come to the end of time as we know it, stand before the Almighty Creator and regret that he is calling them “a good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) – No one.

When it comes to following Jesus, self-confidence alone will ultimately fail us. Peter was so self-assured of his loyalty to Jesus that he said on the night our Redeemer was betrayed:

“Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not!” and “If I have to die with You, I will not deny you!” (Mark 14:29, 31).

Peter spoke with great confidence – in himself that is – perhaps even boasting just a bit.   When push came to shove, and Jesus was put on trial, Peter denied (with profanity) THREE TIMES that he even knew him at all. When the cock crowed, Peter went out and wept bitterly, utterly ashamed of his failure.  His self-confident boasting vanished in the mists of fear and self-preservation.

Self-confidence alone will always fail us where it counts most – in the integrity of our walk with God. Verily, God will allow things to come up in your life which will shatter your self-confidence so that you will learn to put your absolute trust (confidence) in HIM first and never in yourself alone.

(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK)

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  For more information write to:
InsightToday, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, FL 34656
Even on your worst days you are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s amazing grace. And on your best days you are never so good that you’re beyond the need of God’s grace.”  – Anonymous

Perched along the Anclote River at the end of Dodecanese Boulevard in picturesque Tarpon Springs, Florida is Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill, one of my preferred writing (and lunchtime) destinations. Besides the sumptuous seafood served in a friendly, casual, “TIKI” atmosphere, the waterfront location provides amazing views of the Anclote River complete with breathtaking sunsets. For me, Rusty Bellies has become a quick slice of “workday” paradise, just a short drive from my home – a genuine Inspiration Point.

And so there I was, sitting at my regular table, noshing on fresh Grouper skewers over black beans and rice while writing and occasionally chewing the fat with a few acquaintances. This one guy in particular kept making negative comments about himself. I really didn’t know him very well, but he seemed nice enough. Still, I couldn’t help but notice his frequent self-abasing remarks. He seemed to be obsessed with his shortcomings and failures. It is one thing to be humble – dead to self – quite another to stew in the crock pot of self-loathing.

When he finally summed up his life as a wasted, worthless and godforsaken existence, I could not contain myself any further. I looked straight at him and said, “Every human being is born with a copy of the Creator’s master blueprint flashed upon the fabric of his human spirit. God doesn’t forsake us! But, we can and often do desert him. We are all born into a world of wickedness (sin). In time, our fallen nature takes control of our lives, we mess up and thus we are all in desperate need of the Great Designer’s amazing grace. That is why He sent a liberator to the earth.”

Yea, the guy just stared at me. Uncomfortably. And for a moment I felt a bit awkward myself, wondering what to do next. He needed to know the Truth. So I told him even more about the Liberator Jesus and His power to set mankind free.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”  – C. S. Lewis, (1898-1963)

Have you ever felt like this gentleman? Stuck in a funk of disappointment, hopelessness; maybe even despair? Look, I have made a myriad of mistakes in my life. Regrets?  I’ve had a few. Missed opportunities? You bet! But I have decided that wallowing in self-pity is not the way to handle my problems, especially in the light of what is written about us humans in the ancient scriptures,

13 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. 15 You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! 16 You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” – Psalm 139:13-16 TLB

The Creator knew every detail of our lives before we were born – the good, bad and ugly. As we grow older, it’s easy to look at our cumulative mistakes and think that we’ve diminished our usefulness to God. Listen, no life is so messed up, so broken, so imperfect that the great Designer can’t fix it.

God loves the human race. He may hate our sin but he loves the sinner. He may allow the consequences of sin to manifest in our lives, but He still loves the sinner. However, one day his Divine love and mercy must give way to his Divine Justice and the final judgement of everyone who refuses the free gift of His liberating grace. Consider yourself warned.

The next time that you look at someone and think, “they seem to have it all together”, remember this: we all wrestle with personal brokenness, mistakes, and hurts.  There is not one person on spaceship earth who isn’t struggling in some way.

Most of the appearance of mirth in the world is not mirth, it is art. The wounded spirit is not seen, but walks under a disguise.”  – Bishop Robert South, (1634-1716)

There are numerous examples of broken people in the Bible for whom God had a plan – even when they seemed to be “hopeless cases.”

  • Esther was an orphan girl living with her cousin.  In the culture of her day, she had three things working against her; she was a Jew in a hostile land, a women and an orphan girl. Hopeless?  God used Esther to save the Jewish nation.
  • Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery.  Later he was falsely accused of rape and thrown into jail.  At that moment, his life sure seemed hopeless and useless.  God eventually raised him up to a great leadership position and used him to save his people from a 7 year-long famine.
  • Job lost his children and all of his wealth.  His body became covered with boils and oozing soars. His wife walked out on him when he needed her the most.  Hopeless?  Sounds like a lost cause to me. But without knowing it, Job was proving false the accusations Satan made about him to God. Eventually Job was restored and blessed abundantly.  His life and actions have provided comfort and encouragement to people who are struggling, even to this day.
  • The Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well was a mess.  She had been married 5 times and then didn’t bother to marry the 6th man in her life.  She was a social outcast and appeared to be a hopeless loser.  Jesus spoke with her, exposed her true condition and offered her His living water. As a result, God used her to bring the Samaritan people the Gospel and many in her town were converted.
  • Peter denied Jesus three times.  The shame he felt must have been overwhelming.  When Jesus saw Peter after the resurrection, He didn’t scold him.  He asked Peter to spread the Good News of mankind’s liberation to others.  Jesus knew the real Peter.
  • Paul had a reputation for killing people that followed the teaching of the Liberator Jesus. He actually thought he was doing God a favor. So, Jesus confronted him as an extraordinary light on the road to Damascus. The incident left him shaken and temporarily blind. Paul later became a hand-picked convert and was responsible for setting up the early churches. His writings make up nearly half of the New Testament.

Every one of us has a purpose. God formed us; He knows every hair on our head (Luke 12:7). Our faces and personalities are well-known to Him.  It doesn’t matter how far away we have wandered, He never forgets who we are.  His love for us reaches to the far corners of this earth and to the depths of the ocean.  He does all He can to bring us back home to Himself whenever we go astray.  And when we ask for His forgiveness, He doesn’t keep a record of our failures.   In His great mercy He sees the beautiful person He created.   God doesn’t see the mess we’ve made; He sees a diamond in the rough – a work in progress.

If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, and His ear open to our prayer–His grace sufficient, His promises unchangeable.”  – John Newton, (1725-1807)

Broken people are not rubbish to God.  Whatever the state of our affairs, God loves us.  He sees the value in each of us.  He knows the gifts he has placed within our DNA.  As his workmanship, we are continually modeled by his Divine hands into a new creation based on His original and marvelous design.

 10 “For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above – spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].”  – Ephesians. 2:10 AMP

GOD DOES NOT MAKE JUNK…

Almighty God, we confess our faults to you. We have messed up; but we can depend on your faithfulness to forgive our many failures, making us blameless in your sight. Our hope rests upon the Liberator Jesus. He paid our ransom and set us free. Help us as we journey along life’s road until the day of our final walk on the trip back home. We ask this all in the name of Jesus – our kinsman redeemer. AMEN.

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is an author, broadcaster, and a popular Bible teacher.
© 2015 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  – Ephesians. 2:10

I was sitting around a table at an outdoor restaurant with a group of acquaintances. There was this one guy in particular who frequently made negative comments about himself. I knew him to be compassionate and helpful. He had a good reputation and everyone liked him. But in listening to his numerous self-abasing remarks, what I heard was a man who seemed to be obsessed with his own shortcomings and failures.

When he finally said something about God being let down by all of his screw-ups, I could not contain myself any further. I looked at him and said, “Every human being starts out in this life as a copy of God’s master blueprint. God doesn’t make junk!” Sin is what has tainted us.

Have you ever felt like this man. Stuck in a funk of disappoint. Look, I have made plenty of mistakes. Regrets? I’ve had a few. Missed opportunities? You bet! But I decided that wallowing in self-pity was not pleasing to God at all. When I mess up, I ask Him to forgive me. I gather my wits, take a deep breath and I move on.

And why not? Look at what the bible says about us:

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
the days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day. – Psalm 139:14 (The Message)

As we grow older, it’s easy to look at our cumulative mistakes and think that we’ve diminished our usefulness to God. But no life is so messed up, so broken, so imperfect that He can’t fix it.

The next time that you look at someone and think, “they seem to have it all together”, remember this: we all struggle with our own brokenness, mistakes, and hurts.  There is not one person on this planet who isn’t struggling in some way.

God loves each and every one of His children the same. He may hate our sin but he loves the sinner. He may allow the consequences of sin to manifest, but he still loves the sinner. He may even have to allow eternal damnation to one day lay claim to everyone who refuses the gift of His grace, but he still loves the sinner notwithstanding.

There are several examples of broken people in the Bible for whom God had a plan – even when they seemed to be “hopeless cases.”

Esther was an orphan girl living with her cousin.  In the culture of her day, she had two things working against her; she was a women and an orphan girl. Hopeless?  God used Esther to save the Jewish nation.

Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery.  Later he was falsely accused of rape and thrown into jail.  At that moment, his life sure seemed hopeless and useless.  God eventually used him to save the people from a 7 year-long famine.

Job lost his children and all of his wealth.  His body became covered with boils and oozing soars. His wife walked out on him when he needed her the most.  Hopeless?  Sounds like a lost cause to me. But without knowing it, Job was proving the accusations Satan made about him to God were wrong.  Eventually Job was restored and blessed abundantly.  His life and actions have provided comfort and encouragement to people who are struggling, even to this day.

The Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well was a real piece of work.  She had been married 5 times and then didn’t bother to marry the 6th man in her life.  She was a social outcast and appeared to be a hopeless loser.  Jesus spoke with her, exposed her true condition and offered her His living water. As a result, God used her to bring the Samaritans the Gospel and many in her town were converted.

Peter denied Jesus three times.  The shame he felt must have been overwhelming.  When Jesus saw Peter after the resurrection, He didn’t scold him.  He asked Peter to spread the Good News of salvation to others.  Jesus knew the real Peter.

Paul had a reputation for killing people that followed Christ. He actually thought he was doing God a favor. So, Jesus confronted him as “an extraordinary light” on the road to Damascus. The incident left him shaken and temporarily blind. Paul later became a hand-picked convert and was responsible for setting up the early churches. His writings make up nearly two thirds of the New Testament.

Every one of us has a purpose. God formed us; He knows every hair on our head (Luke 12:7). Our faces and personalities are well-known to Him.  It doesn’t matter how far away we wander, He never forgets who we are.  His love for us reaches to the far corners of this earth and to the depths of the ocean.  He does all He can to bring us back home to Himself whenever we go astray.  And if we ask for His forgiveness, He doesn’t keep a record of our failures.   In His great mercy He sees the beautiful person He created.   God doesn’t see the mess we’ve made; He sees the potential for good in our restored righteous state.

“I alone am the one who is going to wipe away your rebellious actions for my own sake. I will not remember your sins anymore.” Isaiah 43:25 (God’s Word translation)

Broken lives and broken bodies are not junk to God.  Whatever the circumstance, God loves us.  He sees the value in each of us.  He knows the gifts he has placed within us.  As His workmanship, we are shaped into a new and a beautiful design.  We are His children, created in His image, by His hands.

 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!” 1John 3:2

GOD DOES NOT MAKE JUNK…

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

What? God let you down?

Some of you just got so uptight. Performing intellectual cartwheels through all of your theological platitudes.

“Why dear brother, God can never let us down.” “God’s ways are simply not our ways.” “We must never question God.” “Just keep believing.” “God always answers prayer.” Miracles are just around the corner, etc., etc.”

Well done. You’ve memorized some good Biblical principles. Line upon line they have been written upon the tablets of your human spirit. And for the record, I agree.   27 “…Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10:27b)

But tell me, what happens when you meet someone who says,

I love God. I go to church and I practice tithing. I talk to the Lord regularly about the things that weigh heavy on me. In my prayers, I ask… I seek… I knock. Then I wait and wait and wait some more. In the end, God remains silent. He takes no action that I can see. Instead, the awful often happens. I am hurt and angry. I don’t understand why he chooses not do things that seem so clearly right to me. Why doesn’t God keep His word like the preacher said He would? What happened to all those exceeding great and precious promises that I read about in His book?” I’m confused and empty inside. God has let me down.

This person is clearly dejected. And there are many more just like him.

“Why did I pray so intently for a healing… and that person died?”

“Why did I ask God for a child for twenty years… but I never conceived?”

“Why didn’t the Lord help me raise the money to save my home?

“If God is so good, why is His world so miserable and unhappy?”

There are no easy answers for these questions. But this is certainly not the time to start quoting all of those well-ordered one liners from the promise box.

The raw concerns of real life are painful to confront. It’s easier to carry the burden of pretending everything is going to be just fine. So we tell ourselves, “God is going to make all this crummy stuff disappear one day soon and everything will be much better”.

What happens when “someday soon” never seems to come?

Hiding your hurt, anger, and disappointment behind facades of God-speak and mechanical Christianity is poison to the soul. Your spirit slowly fills with a contagion that destroys your faith in God.

If perception is your reality, then I might as well just say it; from where some of you sit right now, it sure appears that God has let you down.

But here is what I believe; it’s your expectations that have been dashed upon the rocks of disappointment. And now, it’s hard to navigate the waves of this life with a faith that has run aground.

Inadvertently, we absorbed many erroneous and unconfirmed “facts” about God in the course of a lifetime. We read books about what He has promised to do for us when we pray. All of the sermons, seminars and a million casual conversations have molded our interpretation of what we can expect from Him. Some of these expectations are spot-on. Some are not. The trouble begins when things don’t go the way we expect. We begin to feel deceived. And over time, our faith grows weaker.

Unfulfilled expectations are worse than low expectations.  It is okay if you sometimes feel like God has grown silent and even turned away. In reality, He has not. I know this because He plainly said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

But that is not how you feel right now.

Take a deep breath. Cry if it helps. But please, do me this favor, listen carefully as I retell some important spiritual realities.

  • Prayer isn’t an extraordinary process for getting things to go your way.
  • Prayer isn’t a guarantee of satisfaction.
  • Pain and struggle cannot be removed with simple requests.
  • As a rule, God doesn’t wave supernatural wands and instantly change things.
  • God exists outside of our time dimension and, because we are chained to the ticking of the clock, He will often seem to move agonizingly slow.
  • Life isn’t fair and you cannot change that.

Welcome to the Ragamuffins. We are the waifs and strays who follow that marvelous incarnate man from heaven who once visited this planet by way of the Galilee. Daily we struggle to “work out the salvation that God has given us with a proper sense of awe and responsibility” (Philippians 2:12). As one among us, it will always be safe for you to share your individual fears, disappointments and pressing concerns. We will laugh and cry with you as we patiently await His return. And I promise you, one day all will be understood.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

Zig Ziglar was a motivational teacher and trainer who traveled the world delivering a messages of humor, hope, and encouragement. As a talented author and speaker, he had a unique delivery style and powerful messages that earned him many honors. Ten of his twenty-eight books topped bestseller lists. Zig was a committed family man, an enthusiastic patriot, and an active Christian. He passed away from pneumonia on November 28th, 2012 at the age of 86. Here is a quote from Mr. Ziglar:

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude – Zig Ziglar

 

I totally agree.

Your accomplishments in life (altitude) are determined more by your desire to succeed (attitude) than by your natural talents (aptitude). Attitude is a choice. Nothing – person, place or thing – can force you to have a bad attitude. Yes, our environment and daily circumstances can influence our attitude but in the end, attitude is still your choice. So, choose wisely.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. – Thomas Jefferson

I think Mr. Jefferson can speak with some authority on this subject. He was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809). Jefferson believed (in so many words) that your attitude will make or break you. The right attitude moves you forward toward achieving your purpose in life (goals) and a bad attitude renders you helpless.

An Old Testament Proverb says, For as he thinks in his heart, so is he… – Proverbs 23:7a (Amp)

Just as our food intake affects our physical health (you are what you eat); our thoughts affect our mental and spiritual health (you are what you think and believe). Dwelling on undesirable thoughts will never result in a good and positive attitude (being around negative people doesn’t help either, but we’ll save that for another lesson).

Here are three things I want you to remember:

  • Thoughts Determine Attitude
  • Attitude Determines Behavior
  • Behavior Determines Outcome

When your mind is focused on negative things, you will develop a bad attitude. As a result of a bad attitude you will behave accordingly. And your behavior (actions) will determine the results you achieve in your life.

Paul, the New Testament writer and apostolic minister, knew the profound impact that our thoughts have upon our attitude. He wrote,

 8 “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”. – Philippians 4:8 (New Living Translation)

Peace of mind comes from the right kind of thinking. Spiritual peace comes from God, when we pray. Paul knew this also and he told the Christian community at ancient Philippi (a city in eastern Macedonia in the southern Balkans),

6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (New Living Translation)

The Bible is an awesome book because it contains everything our creator wants us to know about this life and the life beyond. Keep your mind fixed on the promises of God. His assurances (as found in your Bible) are THE TRUTH. That is why we look to it for “… what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.”

Chuck Swindoll is an evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher. His radio program, Insight for Living, airs on more than 2,000 stations around the world in 15 languages. He is currently the senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church, in Frisco, Texas. Here is his take on Attitude:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.  And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.” – Chuck Swindoll

What could I possibly add to that?

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

16-18 We know and, to some extent realize, the love of God for us because Christ expressed it in laying down his life for us. We must in turn express our love by laying down our lives for those who are our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brothers in want but shuts his eyes—and his heart—how could anyone believe that the love of God lives in him? My children let us not love merely in theory or in words—let us love in sincerity and in practice!  19-20 If we live like this, we shall know that we are children of the truth and can reassure ourselves in the sight of God, even if our own hearts make us feel guilty; For God is infinitely greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  21-23 And if, dear friends of mine, when we realize this, our hearts no longer accuse us, we may have the utmost confidence in God’s presence. We receive whatever we ask for, because we are obeying his orders and following his plans. His orders are that we should put our trust in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another—as we used to hear him say in person.  24 The man who does obey God’s commands lives in God and God lives in him, and the guarantee of his presence within us is the Spirit he has given us. 1 John 3:16-24 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

One of the great threats to our faith is our tendency to be extremely hard on ourselves. Every time our heart finds us guilty of some new transgression, we struggle with loving ourselves. I mean really, how do I love myself when I do bad things (or even when I think about doing bad things)?

The problem is, we can’t love others if we do not love ourselves. You have heard people (including me) say we should shun self-admiration. That doesn’t mean we are not to love ourselves. There is a big difference between being “IN” love with yourself and LOVING yourself. Jesus said that we were to love others the same way that we love ourselves. In fact, he does not suggest that we do this, He commands it. Listen to what he said,

28 “Then one of the scribes approached him. He had been listening to the discussion, and noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he put this question to him, “What are we to consider the greatest commandment of all?”   29-31 “The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second (command) is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.” – Mark 12:31 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

The more insecure and uptight we are, the more difficult it is to keep from spiraling into self-debasement. When you have a low opinion of who you are in Christ, it doesn’t take much pressure for your heart to denounce you.

Even when we feel pretty good about who we are, daily shortfalls present us with opportunities to marinate in guilt, shame and self-condemnation.  We can then become our own worst critic and consequently we fall into a trap of our own making. I recognize (based on the lessons of the scriptures) that God forgives me. And, I am always learning to forgive “those who trespass against me”. So why is it so hard to forgive my own under-performance and daily nastiness?

Good question. I think it is because all of us walk around with a picture of an ideal self in our minds. We can see with reasonable clarity the person we would like to be and sometimes we even pay attention to the person God wants us to be. Try as we do to live up to that idyllic imagining, we fail.   And let’s not forget all of the helpful voices reminding us we are not so good.

Voices you say? Yes, many voices.   Like an overly critical parent, an angry spouse, an insensitive boss, an infuriating colleague, a selfish neighbor, and even the innocent observations of impertinent children can hurt.  Teenage children are experts in making parents feel totally inadequate and completely inept.

And what about our society? How many ways do we fail to measure up? Let me count the ways.

  • We don’t look the way we should,
  • We don’t dress the way we should,
  • We don’t make the money we should,
  • We don’t have all the material possessions we should,
  • We don’t have the popularity or the prestige we should,
  • We don’t have the independence, power, or control we should.

Need I continue? The sad thing is, that while we should know better, our hearts often buy into this garbage, and when they do, they condemn us. Self-condemnation leads to a life of discouragement. When we are discouraged, it is hard to do much of anything. All we feel is the pain of defeat and disappointment.

The good news is that God does not condemn us like we condemn ourselves.  John reminds us, God knows everything. That means God sees the positive in us. God recognizes our intentions, even if our actions don’t always bring about the result of what we envisioned. Our hearts may condemn us, but as John explains, God is greater than our hearts.  Remember, we have only a limited picture of ourselves. It is easy to measure our lives by one mistake, one failure, and one defeat at a time. God sees the big picture – all that we are and even more importantly, all that we can become.

This is the truth of which our hearts need to be reassured:

  • We are loved so much by God that through Jesus Christ, He was willing to lay down his life – to give everything – to get us back.

A Divine rescue was required and God refused to let anything, even our depravity, stand in the way of our redemption. He prepared a great sacrifice – his Son – in order to provide the means by which we can be liberated from the burden of our sin nature (the seat of condemnation).   If God loved us that much, John reasons, we too, out of genuine love for others, ought to be willing to share whatever we can with a brother or sister in need. Real love always leads to action.

But here’s the irony; we cannot be free to love sacrificially, as Christ has loved us, if we continue to spend our time wallowing in self-condemnation. Instead we must realize that since God has not condemned us, we are fools to condemn ourselves.  Once we have given up self-condemnation, we discover a new sense of boldness before God. As our confidence grows, we begin to ask God for anything and everything we need in order to serve him better. According to John, when our heart is right, we receive from him whatever we ask. And then as we obey God, we discover that he is pleased to abide in us and we abide in Him.

1-2 No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are “in” Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life “in” Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2 – J.B. Phillips New Testament –

No matter what happens, never give up on yourself. If God chooses not to condemn us; we have no business condemning ourselves.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.

 

#1 Get in the Game

It is our responsibility to discover and develop our unique aptitudes and apply ourselves in developing our full potential.

10 “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither you go.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10

God expects us to use our talents in profitable and productive ways here on earth.

22 “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” – James 1:22

  • POINT: Be a DO what the word says person, not someone who sits on the sidelines of life. This is NOT a spectator sport.

13 I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength.”  – Philippians 4:13

  • POINT: I can do all things. All things? That is what he said – ALL THINGS!

Why? Because, my strength comes from God; it isn’t up to me to be strong on my own.

#2 Maintain a Positive Focus

Negative emotions often result from focusing on mistakes of the past. If God has forgiven our sins, then why should we not forgive ourselves? Dwelling on past blunders perpetuates negative thought patterns and emotions. We must live for the day and focus on the future, not the past.

13 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”.  – Phil. 3:13-14

Paul made some mistakes in his past. He said that he chose to forget what is in the past and focus instead on the future. The goal of fulfilling our calling is in THE PRESENT and THE FUTURE, not the past.

#3 Ask God for His Assistance

If you find yourself spiraling downward into depression, ASK God to help you.

First: Remember:

  • God is the source of our strength.
  • He knows the proper responses for our particular situation.
  • He has given us His Spirit to overcome negative forces impacting our lives.

Since God is the source of all good things, we must ask for His aid.

7 “Ask, and what you are asking for will be given to you. Look and what you are looking for you will find. Knock and the door you are knocking on will be opened to you. 8 Everyone who asks receives what he asks for. Everyone who looks finds what he is looking for. Everyone who knocks has the door opened to him. 9 What man among you would give his son a stone if he should ask for bread? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, would he give him a snake? 11 You are bad and you know how to give good things to your children. How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”  – Matt. 7:7-11

#4 Get Your Thinking Straight

What are your mental debates like? What contemplations fill your mind?

  • The worries of daily life?
  • The emotional pain you are suffering?
  • Hurt feelings?
  • Physical pains?
  • Your economic circumstances?

If so, your’ thinking stinks!

  • Instead, set your mind on THE truth!
  • Focus on the kingdom of God above everything else!
  • Live as a man or woman who is true and transparent before God

Jesus put it this way…

33 “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need”.  – Matt. 6:33

Everything we need comes to us when we fix our mind on things above and focus on God’s kingdom while we live within a right (i.e. righteous) relationship with Him.

Paul told the Christians at Colossi…

1 “If then you have been raised with Christ, keep looking for the good things of heaven. This is where Christ is seated on the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds thinking about things in heaven. Do not think about things on the earth.” – Col. 3:1-2

Paul’s instruction to God’s people makes it crystal clear that we must refocus our thinking to a different level, to have an optimistic view in this mundane evil world.

8 “and now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you”. – Phil. 4:8-9

Truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, good reports, virtue and praise are not views upon which the world commonly focuses. The news media, business community, governments and educational institutions do not generally bring about this type of thought pattern. Therefore, to remain positive in a negative world, we must sidestep this world’s agenda and reflect on God’s point of view.

#5 Obedience Promotes a Positive Outlook

God’s Word tells us that to obey is better than sacrifice (I Sam. 15:22). Obedience to God’s Way brings many blessings, not the least of which is an optimistic view of our life. Being in harmony with God’s laws brings confident assurance that our lives have value and that God will guide us. Notice the tangible blessings that bring contentment into our lives when we obey God:

  • Peace: “Great peace have they which love your law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).
  • Vision: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18).
  • Favor: “My son, forget not my law; but let your heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of your heart: So shall your find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:1-4).
  • Requests Granted: “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:21-22).

As we walk with God, we will recognize our need to claim more of His promises. Our faith will increase as we see God actively helping us each day. We can overcome the blues; deal with bad attitudes, solve unresolved problems, settle disputes, and calm our anxiety and fear.

© 2014 by Joseph A Cerreta, all rights reserved.  Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD is an author,
broadcaster, popular Bible teacher, and the founding Pastor of Living Faith Christian
Fellowship in Holiday, Florida.