Saturday, November 30, 2013

Positive Thinking; What were your thinking?

The Colonel and his wife were the epitome of happiness! We called them Mr. and Mrs. Terrific. "How are you both?" In unison they would say "We're terrific!" Ask Jack and he would bellow "I'm terrific!" Unknown to the casual acquaintance the Colonel and his wife were undergoing marital therapy. By "being positive" Positive Humanistic Psychologists believe that people can overcome roadblocks to happiness. They are able to flourish. Obviously, the Colonel and his wife were in therapy because their marriage was not so "terrific".

Although Positive Psychology is relatively new, it's been around for years in the writings of humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow.  Even religeo-psychologist Norman Vincent Peale in his book The Power of Positive Thinking encouraged readers to change things with positive thoughts. The Pacific Institute Seminar on New Age Thinking used the concept of "positive affirmations" to change negative thinking which, they all believed, lead to failure and dysfunction.

We've been taught for years that optimism is a key to success, and that pessimism leads to losing. A positive thinker is an optimist and a negative thinker is a pessimist.  People are supposedly able to change outcomes by what they think! Perhaps believing "I will succeed!" is a confidence-builder, but there are too many people who place too much importance on thought processes.

If one examines "positive thinking" from a scriptural standpoint a different model emerges. By faith we can accomplish anything and be joyful. However, we need to look to the Lord's Prayer for further guidance:

Matthew 6:9 " In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be doneOn earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."
Everything must be in God's will. Some say that you're not trusting God when you pray "if it's your will, Lord". That's "negative thinking", according to them. You fear that God won't answer your prayer so you give him "a way out" if he fails to deliver! Those who don't pray for God's will are those in the "positive thought" school.
A typical verse from the Bible which is positive is:
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things."
Truth, noble, just, pure, lovely and good are all positive aspects. I would be stupid to say that you should not think on those things! In fact Paul defines them as "virtuous" and "praiseworthy". You certainly wouldn't want to think on lies, poor character, impurity, ugliness and evil talk; all negative thinking!
We are to meditate (think) on these attributes which are all righteous in the sight of God. We're not to think on what's unrighteous. Meditation, too, is more than "thinking".  Christian meditation is a devotional exercise where one praises God, thinks about the things of God and seeks God's will. It is different than Buddhist meditation in that eastern philosophy proposes that the person who's meditating block-out thoughts and for the person to allow the flow of energy to enter the mind. They are entirely different. Do not be deceived!
Yes, it's okay to think positive thoughts. It's God's will that you accept the positive things that he has provided! However, there is no "power" in positive thinking as Peale's book suggests. The power lies entirely within God. People thinking positive thoughts fool themselves by thinking thoughts which are out of God's will.
For instance. I "want" a new hot sports car! Is that God's will. Likely not. If you "need" reliable transportation and instead of "hot sports" your thoughts are "inexpensive dependable" you may be in God's will. Of course, he may have other plans for you so don't put that in concrete! The key phrase goes back to the Lord's prayer. "Lord, your will be done." If a person's heart is on God then it's doing "right thinking"! If God's merely a genie to whom a person turns to to get things, then that's not the God of the Bible.
Peale's book The Power of Positive Thinking focuses more on "power" or "God as a genie" aspect than it does on God's will for Christians.
2 Samuel 22:33 )NKJV) "God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect."
By faith in God we too have power, but the source of our power is God! We can move mountains if we have enough faith, but is moving mountains in God's will. Let a positive-thinking civil engineer try building a new highway by moving mountains. It won't happen unless it's in God's will, and normally, it probably won't be!
Positive thinking places the emphasis on the person and the person's thinking. While it never hurts to think righteous thoughts, some of God's word isn't positive. It's impossible to keep a reprobate person out of hell by thinking good things about that person. However, if you tell the person that he or she is a sinner, that's negative talk, but that's what we're to do. We're to rebuke unrighteousness using the word! (For you optimists out there, I'm sorry I had to talk negative talk!)
Here's some more negative talk from Proverbs. They're called cardinal sins:

  • A proud look.
  • A lying tongue.
  • Hands that shed innocent blood.
  • A heart that devises wicked plots.
  • Feet that are swift to run into mischief.
  • A deceitful witness that uttereth lies.
  • Him that soweth discord among brethren.

  • Solomon, the author of the Seven Cardinal Sins,  was a negative talker. He spoke truth!  Even the Ten Commandments are all written in a negative context! Paul added a few more sins to the list:

    Galatians 5:19 (NKJV) 19  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
    If one obeys the "positive commandment", The Greatest Commandment," loving God and your neighbor", that's positive talk. It will empower you, but not for you to have power. It will provide power to get others saved. Now, that's God's will.  The great things you can do is not for self, but for God.
    "Positive Affirmations" read something like this: "Today I will meet my quota in sales". While it's self-defeating to think "I won't meet my sales goal today.",  just be realistic. Do the best that you can. Writing and repeating a mantra won't change the course of events, but praying to God to "provide my needs" will be honored. In other words, it's not the mantra, but the heart that matters.
    Many will say that "being realistic" is not depending on God because God is irrational. That's the person talking who has no hope! Having faith is being realistic because it's in any person's best interest!
    Mark 11:22 "So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God."
    Having faith in God is the pre-eminent positive thought. It's the only positive thought that will get any person anywhere with God! Quit trying to manipulate a "genie God". He abhors that! It's been tried before any it just doesn't work. Belief in, acceptance of and obedience to God is positive thought. Try that. It will work!
    Back to the Colonel and his wife. I saw the Colonel some time later. I said, "Where's your wife?" He replied "We're divorced." Not only did the Colonel not say that "We're terrific!", but his demeanor reflected his melancholy.
    About a year later I ran into the Colonel's now ex-wife. I asked "How's the Colonel doing?" She replied "He committed suicide." To shorten the story, Mr. and Mrs. Terrific weren't really so terrific, and by trying to change things with inaccurate thinking is dooming oneself to destruction. We need to be realistic and deal with our problems. The Colonel and is wife failed to flourish.
     "Positive Psychology" just won't work, but faith in God will  work for those truly faithful. We're called to be meek, not empowered by our own thoughts and actions. God help us in our lack of faith and our wrong approach! By being God centered, then we can flourish, but that doesn't mean the things of this world will go our way. Just look at Paul from his own writings. This most faithful man was persecuted. All the positive thought in the world would not change God's will for him!

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