I am a bookworm, a voracious reader.
I love to take up a good book and spend a few uninterrupted hours immersing myself in whatever universe the writer has placed within the pages. I especially love to examine the way in which the writer has crafted pictures, through the use of descriptive words. By carefully choosing what aspects of a setting to accentuate, the author can create a mood to fit the scene.
For instance, contrast the following two descriptions of the same setting:
The sun set over the water, slipping slowly toward the horizon as though unwilling to bring an end to the day. The gentle call of gulls punctuated the soft rush of the surf washing over the sand. The calm evening air carried the pungent perfumes of the beach to his nostrils, provoking mental waves of happy memories across the shore of his consciousness.
The blood red sun sagged wearily toward the sea, as though to bring the day to an end by merciful drowning. The rasping call of greedy gulls punctuated the wash of the merciless waves, slowly and inevitably wearing away the condemned shoreline. The humid, dead air was heavy with the pungent stench of rotting sea creatures, paralleling the decaying thoughts of bitterness scattered across the shoreline of his mind.
Although the setting is identical, the choice of items on which the author opts to focus elicits emotions of either peace or despair.
Did you know that the same principle applies to our faith? Any situation we find ourselves living through offers up a wide spectrum of things upon which we can focus. Every circumstance of life brings with it the negative and the positive. Like an author setting the scene, it is our choice where to place our attention.
We can focus on the negative, picking out all of the barriers and challenges that stand before us.
We can complain about our own handicaps of upbringing or physical, mental and emotional limitations. We can look around us and identify all of the unfairness inherent in our sin-sick world. This way of thinking is the most natural for us. It is our default perspective, generated by a fallen flesh. It yields nothing but a mind-set of doubt and despair.
The other alternative is to focus on the positive.
We can take control of our minds and choose to search through the circumstances of life for the hand of God. We can study the Scriptures and realize that every barrier offers an opportunity to see God's mighty miracles.
We can remember His promised power and grace to overcome our personal handicaps and limitations. When we focus on the positive, we gain a God perspective on things. This yields a mind-set of faith and hope, an expectation for the will of God to be manifested in our lives.
Of the two mind-sets available to us, the Word of God exhorts us to choose the latter.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,-think about these things" (Philippians 4:8).
The apostle Paul is not telling us to be unfounded optimists. He is encouraging us to discipline our minds to concentrate on the things in life that exhibit godly virtues. We must reject the lazy, carnal, default mind-set of negativity and exercise our brains to seek out the positive, to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV).
God is always at work; He is always speaking life and encouragement to us. When our thoughts are trained to seek it out, we will see God's hand all around us. It is our choice to listen or not, to see or not. Remember Christ's exhortation? "Him who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith, has determined a happy ending to your story.
Are you cooperating with that goal? What are you focusing on today? What kind of setting are you constructing? Are you associating with people who speak life and build up your faith? Are you actively searching out the evidence of God's hand in your life?