We are surrounded. No matter which way we turn, we find criticism, cynicism and complaining in this world.
At work, a co-worker always gripes about the problems in his life, what he does not like about the manager, and everything else under the sun. When he enters a room, a black cloud of misery follows, which soon erupts into a thunderstorm of pessimism.
Flip through television channels. Try to find a show that contains positive lessons, does not foist a political agenda on viewers, and can be labeled “clean entertainment.”
Instead, you will see main characters clawing their way to the top through corruption, thievery, murder and lies. All this is interspersed with gratuitous sex and violence, including increasingly full-frontal nudity from both male and female actors. The state of entertainment brings to mind the warning of Matthew 24:12: “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”
Or watch the news. There is so much bad going on that it can make it difficult to tune in. Terrorism, vile conduct in society, political catfights, and constant ideological spin permeate it. All of this drives many to simply turn off the news or refrain from reading about the state of the world on the internet because it is “simply too negative.”
As Christians, however, we are commanded: “Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
We are to diligently watch world trends and conditions. In addition, while we are not part of this world, we do live in it (John 17:16).
Those living God’s Way cannot live in a bubble. So how can we do it? How, in a bleak world that is worsening by the day, can we live the Philippians 4:4 command to “rejoice in the Lord always”?
There are specific, concrete ways to help you stay positive in this negative world!
Improve Your Life
Going against the grain of the world’s ways is not easy, but it can be done. It simply requires keeping the big picture of what God has in store for you in mind.
Start by evaluating your environment at home. The longer you are a Christian, the more you come to understand that our Creator God does everything decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40).
Is your home clean and neat? Is your Bible study environment conducive to seeking God? Does the location where you pray lend itself to peace and tranquility?
An organized living and study setting, free of clutter, will help you maintain a positive approach to life. In addition, it will create an atmosphere in which you can focus on seeking God first.
Think back to messages you heard at the Feast of Tabernacles. They were filled with detailed and tangible suggestions about planning for our future roles in God’s Kingdom.
Take these personally! Develop a plan to improve your capability as a manager, no matter your age. Be a problem solver, and determine to overcome obstacles that hinder your growth or accomplishments.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 states, “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.”
God expects us to use our talents in profitable ways—to produce good works. It is our responsibility to discover and develop our unique aptitudes and apply ourselves in developing our full potential.
For example, you might desire to learn a musical instrument so you can help with entertainment nights in your congregation. With some hard work, you may even be able to one day play special music during services!
Or you may be inspired to plant an organic garden so that you can make healthier meals for brethren on the Sabbath. You can also learn how to do woodworking and sell your products to help your congregation’s fundraising efforts.
Be a doer—not a person who sits on the sidelines. Establish firm goals to change for the better, and write them down on paper. Get out on the “field of life” and fulfill your capabilities. Those who take action—who respond to instruction given at the Feast to improve their lives—can avoid being negative or feeling self-pity.
New accomplishments and changes are possible. Notice what it states in Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (4:13).
Maintain Forward Momentum
Negative emotions often result from focusing on mistakes of the past. If God has forgiven our sins, then we should forgive ourselves. Dwelling on the past will rekindle the same negative thought patterns and emotions that created a fertile ground for the offending behavior. We must set our minds on the future, not the past.
The apostle Paul said: “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).
In this passage, Paul mentions forgetting past errors or mistakes and focusing on the future—and the goal of fulfilling our calling.
Another way to move forward is to develop deeper bonds with Christian brothers and sisters. Think about everyone you met at the Feast of Tabernacles. You can probably recall many special meals, humorous stories, and wonderful conversations.
But be honest. How well have you done with staying in contact after returning home?
Strive to continue to build the rapport you established with brethren at the Feast. With modern communications, we can telephone, email or write notes to continue to bond with brethren of like mind—even across the globe. They are our true friends, and we will be working with them in God’s Kingdom. We must do our part to cultivate friendships just as we cultivate our relationship with God.
The book of Proverbs provides steps one can take to solidify camaraderie with others:
- “A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (18:24).
- “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (27:17).
- “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (17:17).
These instructive scriptures show us we need to be friendly to have friends. This involves communicating with others. In so doing, we hone or sharpen each other as Christians.
Additionally, we should express love and be available for others under any condition, as it states in Romans: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another…rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (12:10, 15).
Having friends to rely on and using opportunities to encourage others will take the focus off ourselves and enable us to have the mind of Christ. Notice what it says in Philippians: “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (2:4). Helping others and looking out for their needs will put each of us in the positive frame of mind that comes from living God’s give way of life.
Do not be afraid to take control of the circumstances that affect you; turn minuses into pluses and negatives into positives.
Delaying to act on a problem will only cause it to grow worse, or cause you to rationalize the problem away entirely—despite knowing a proper response from God’s perspective is required. You will then violate your conscience, which can lead to negative feelings and a strong sense of guilt. This will ultimately create a pessimistic approach to life.
Harmful emotions then follow, and it remains difficult to avoid destructive behavior.
Look to God
At times, it can be hard to stay positive and you may find that your attitude starts to slip. It could be due to a certain trial that you are experiencing or even pessimistic family members nagging you about your beliefs. Remember, learning to stay positive is part of the character-building experience.
Yet God is merciful. He wants you to get back on your feet and continue moving toward His Kingdom.
If you find yourself spiraling into despair, what measures can you take to restore stability?
First and foremost, go to the source of a Christian’s strength: God. He knows the proper responses for our particular situations. He has given us His Spirit to overcome negative forces impacting our lives. Since He is the source of all good things, we must ask for help.
Notice Jesus’ words to His disciples: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
“Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him” (Matt. 7:7-11).
Often when someone in God’s Church is struggling with a problem, it is because he or she has not asked God for help. But remember, even when praying for intervention, we must still do our part in solving whatever problem is at hand.
Think on These Things
Another way to banish negativity is to examine what we put in our minds. What do you meditate on—the cares of this life? The emotional pain you are suffering? Hurt feelings? Physical pains? Your economic circumstances?
Or do you focus on the truth? Do you focus on the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33)?
Paul’s instruction to God’s people makes it crystal clear that we must take our thinking to a different level to keep an upbeat view in this mundane, evil world: “If you then be risen with Christ [in baptism], seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection [mind] on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).
Notice the categories into which our thinking should be directed: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise think [meditate] on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, good reports, virtue and praise are not thoughts upon which the world commonly focuses. The news media, business world, governments and educational institutions do not bring this line of assessment to their audiences.
Therefore, to remain positive in a negative world, we must sidestep from this world’s agenda and reflect on God’s perspective.
Obedience Brings Positivity
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 life. Being in harmony with God’s laws brings assurance that our lives have value and that He will guide us. Notice the blessings that bring contentment when we obey God:
- Peace: “Great peace have they which love Your law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psa. 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 your neck; write them upon the table of your heart: so shall you find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:1-4).
- Answered prayers: “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).
These substantial benefits, which come from acting upon instruction from God and the messages from His ministers that He inspires, will increase our faith and desire to more fully serve Him.
As we walk with God, we will recognize the need to claim more of His promises. Our conviction will increase as God actively helps us each day. We can overcome the blues, upsets, bad attitudes, unresolved problems, disputes, anxiety and fear.
Will you operate in “panic mode”? Or will you keep your composure and operate in a peaceful, positive mode?
Choose to act positively and come to God boldly (Heb. 4:16). Claim His promise of help in time of need.
You are not alone in your struggles. God is with you. Christ’s sacrifice has made God’s intervention in your life possible.
Christ told His disciples He would not leave them comfortless: “Hitherto have you asked nothing in My name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
Approach God as you would a loving parent, making your requests in gratitude, and you will experience His intervention in your life.
There is a potential for people to become negative when they realize they must leave family, friends, business associates, and jobs to obey God. Yet should this dim our outlook on life? No!
Notice Christ’s answer to Peter when he realized he and the disciples had given up everything to follow Him: “Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed You; what shall we have therefore?
“And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That you which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matt. 19:27-29).
God promises to give those who have had to forsake family to obey Him a new Family much greater in magnitude and importance.
When you stumble or fall spiritually, pick yourself up and start running again. Remember, God can lend you a hand. Again, claim God’s intervention when you misstep.
Notice how David described the merciful help God provides to His chosen ones: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delights in His way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his seed is blessed” (Psa. 37:23-26).
Will you trust God to uphold you when events turn sour? If you do, and ask for His help, He will bring happiness and joy back into your life.
See the Big Picture
Plan now to go forward with your life as a begotten son of God. Each of us is a unique individual with awesome potential. Ask God to mold your abilities and talents into distinctive tools of service. Do not overlook the little things that you do well and strive to develop those further.
Being a servant to others is the ultimate means of using your abilities. Serving others will bring love, joy and peace into your life and reward you with a positive view of your role in God’s Church.
See the big picture. Focus away from self. You are being trained to teach others God’s Way. See this world’s need for problem solvers who will apply God’s laws and principles in every circumstance. Visualize your part in restoring righteous government to the Earth.
Think as a servant and you will be joyful. Notice Christ’s words: “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John 13:15-17).
Realize that God has guided you to achieve the very best. You have the truth. You are being taught a God-ordained lifestyle. Unlike most who have ever lived, you are not ignorant of God’s Plan. You know you have a glorious future ahead. You can become a son of God and inherit all things (Rev. 21:7).
Go forward each day as a representative of God. You are one of the most blessed individuals to ever walk the face of the Earth. Be positive, thankful and joyful as you contribute to your part in God’s Work!