We should focus on who we truly are in God’s eyes; holy and specially made by God for a great purpose. When we keep God’s Word and purpose for our life in mind we can block out negative thoughts. This is important because our thoughts and what we see, hear, and say have a large impact on how we view the world and ourselves.
A researcher from the University of Tennessee studied the effects of media on how people think. Two groups of participants listened to a five-minute radio program. One group’s radio program was filled with negative news stories: an earthquake, riots in the street, a bus accident, and other negative stories. The other group listened to more positive uplifting stories.
The researcher found four discernible effects of the people that listened to the negative news stories: (a) they were more depressed than before, (b) they believed the world was a negative place, (c) they were less likely to help others, and (d) they began to believe that what they heard would soon happen to them. Our concept of reality is shaped by our thoughts. If we realized how powerful our thoughts are, we might never think a negative thought again. If we focus our thoughts on the positive uplifting grace of God’s Word, then God can use us to bring light, hope, and joy to the darkness of this world.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:6-8
God’s vision for our lives is that we loving serve Him in response to the love He has shown us. God created you. He has a plan for you and a purpose for your life. Ephesians 2:10 reinforces this. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Knowing this can provide great motivation and joy as we approach each day! We can strive to make each day count for the glory of God!
Ludwig van Beethoven was a prolific composer and pianist. His music is among the most performed classical music of all time and he is one of the most admired composers in history. Over forty-five years of composing he created 722 compositions including nine symphonies. Beethoven drew on his Christian faith for motivation for this consistent effort. He described the aim of his music. “My chief aim was to awaken and permanently instill religious feelings not only into the singers but also in the listeners.”
Beethoven sought to develop the abilities that God had given Him. He wanted to keep learning his whole life. He described this God-given vision quite well. “Then let us all do what is right, strive with all our might toward the unattainable, develop as fully as we can the gifts God has given us, and never stop learning.”
There is a joke about how deeply committed Beethoven was towards this goal. When Beethoven passed away, he was buried in a churchyard. A couple days later, the caretaker of the cemetery was working when he heard a strange noise coming from the area where Beethoven was buried. The caretaker quickly ran and got the priest to come and listen to it. The priest bent close to the grave and heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming from the grave. Unsure of what it could be, the priest ran and got a police officer.
When the officer arrived, he listened and did not know what it was. By this time others from the nearby church had come out to the cemetery. The church organist bent his ear to the grave, listened for a moment, and said, “Ah, yes, that’s Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, being played backwards.” He listened a while longer, and said, “There’s the Eighth Symphony, and it’s backwards, too. Most puzzling.” So the organist kept listening. “There’s the Seventh…the Sixth…the Fifth…”
Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned on the organist. He stood up and announced to the crowd that had gathered in the cemetery, “My fellow citizens, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just Beethoven decomposing.”
We can seek to serve God our whole life. The Beethoven joke has a good message besides being funny. When we die, we know that death is not final. We will have eternal life in heaven where we will continue to praise and worship God. Psalm 23:6 describes this promise. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In 1522 Martin Luther gave a brief, simple, but expressive eulogy for a pastor named Nicholas Haussmann. Luther said, “What we preach, he lived.” We can strive to emulate this statement in our lives. What Jesus preached, we strive to live out!
God knows what is best for us and longs to help us. When we focus on God’s Word, we will have wisdom in our daily decisions. Colossians 1:9-14 describes expertly what a long-term desire to follow God in our lives will bring. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
There is an old saying that our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another. The saying should really be that our potential is one thing. What God can do with it is quite another. With God’s strength we have unlimited potential. It is important that we do not get caught listening to the lies of the devil that tell us that we are no good and have no worth. God loves each one of us and each one of us is valuable to Him! In 1921, Myra Brooks Welch wrote a wonderful poem that lets Christians know of their worth as a child of God.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
Twas battered and scarred and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good folk?” he cried.
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar…now two…only two…
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars once, three dollars twice,
Going for three”…but no!
From the room far back a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow.
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
As sweet as an angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?”
As he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars…and who’ll make it two?
Two…two thousand, and who’ll make it three?
Three thousand once and three thousand twice…
Three thousand and gone!” said he.
The people cheered, but some exclaimed
“We do not quite understand…
What changed it’s worth?” And the answer came;
“Twas the touch of the master’s hand.”
And many a person with soul out of tune
And battered and scarred by sin
Is auctioned cheap by the thoughtless crowd
Just like the old violin.
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul, and the change that is wrought
By the touch of the master’s hand.
O Master! I am the tuneless one
Lay, lay Thy hand on me,
Transform me now, put a song in my heart
Of melody, Lord, to Thee!
It has been said that the only person who likes change, is a baby with a wet diaper. Those who have lived long lives know that change is inevitable. We can embrace change and improve, or avoid it. If we avoid improvement it is not living what God calls us to do. Prolonged inactivity dulls our senses, numbs our minds, and atrophies our muscles. God desires for us to seek continuous improvement motivated by His love.
It is important to note here that change does not refer to God or His Word. Malachi 3:6 states, “I the Lord do not change.” We can trust that God’s Word and His promises to us are true. 2 Corinthians 1:20 reads, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Amen means, “so be it,” and it is an affirmation that what was spoken or written is true. We can wholeheartedly trust God in our lives!
The change that God wants us to embrace in our lives is change that strives to diminish sin in our lives. God desires for us to pursue change for the better so that we build our relationship with God which in turn enables us to better serve others in our life. When God’s will directs our life, our heart’s desire will align with God’s Word. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4. God seeks to change us so that what we desire is what God desires. The next verse in Psalm 37 describes how to do this. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this. Psalm 37:5.
Poet Deborah Ann Belka has a great poem, Change me Lord, that we can pray to seek God pleasing change in our lives.
Change me Lord,
I know that I should be.
A different kind of person,
Than the one that I call me.
Change me Lord,
There’s so much You can do.
Take this old life of mine,
And make me someone new.
Change me Lord,
From the inside out.
To trust in only You,
And never need I doubt.
Change me Lord,
Make my heart grow true.
Help me to see the sin,
In the things I say and do.
Change me Lord,
Show me the things I do wrong.
Take away my weakness,
And make me someone strong.
Change me Lord,
So I can see You’re all I need.
To live my life like my Savior,
In my every act and deed.
We all have days when we feel tired or lacking in energy. Sometimes all it takes is the right words from someone else to provide us a renewed spirit for our calling. In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He went to a local monastery, and asked to be accepted to spend the rest of his life in the monastery.
The leader of the monastery, Richard, replied to the King, "Your Majesty, do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king."
"I understand," said Henry, "The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you."
"Then I will tell you what to do," said Richard. "Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you."
King Henry did just that and served until his death. When King Henry died, a statement was written: "The King learned to rule by being obedient."
If we ever tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has placed us in a certain place and with certain people for a reason. God wants us to be faithful in the responsibilities He gives us. He will provide us strength and encouragement to do our work with joy. Nehemiah 8:10 states, The joy of the Lord is your strength.
God’s love is more than enough for what we need in this life. In response to God’s love we can strive for excellence, do small things well, care about others, work to improve ourselves, and give our full effort. With the right mindset and encouragement from others we will have energy for each day.
Eliminating negative thinking can make a big difference. It is something that everyone can do. This does not mean that we have to always be positive. We can also practice neutral thinking because not everything in life should have a positive reaction. For example, if you lost your job a positive reaction would not be natural. A negative response to this would be to think that everything is hopeless and I should give up. A neutral response would be that this is not good news, but God is still with me. I will continue to work hard and trust that God has a purpose for how He will use me. When we eliminate or reduce negative thinking, our minds are then freed to solve problems more clearly.
To avoid any negative thinking we can seek to cultivate great thoughts. This can be done by thinking great thoughts about God, yourself, others, your life, the future, and the past. To accomplish this, the Bible provides ample resources. The following are a few examples.
Great thoughts about God
No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Jeremiah 10:6.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23.
Great thoughts about yourself
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1.
Great thoughts about others
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17.
So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Romans 12:5-6.
Great thoughts about the future
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1-2.
Great thoughts about the past
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Psalm 90:1.
True power comes from God. God’s power is unending and unchanging. It does not depend on earthly things or the opinion of others. When we rely on God’s power to strengthen us and guide our lives, we know that we can be empowered our whole lives. There are many motivational speakers who may make people feel energized for a day, but do not provide anything of lasting value. Jesus was a motivational teacher. A motivational teacher provides you energy and wisdom that will last your entire life.
There was a website that recently published a list of the “50 least powerful people in the world.” This is a list of people who once held positions of power or esteem in the world but then lost their position or the public view of them changed for the worse. The introduction to the article provides a fitting illustration for people to see the folly of chasing worldly desires. “Fame, fortune, and power in all its forms are glorified in American culture…However, power can be fleeting. Circumstances can change rapidly; fortunes can be lost overnight; and the masters of the universe today can wind up unemployable tomorrow.”
If we rely on worldly values and ideals for how we get our sense of belonging and worth, it will never be lasting. If we draw our power from God at work in our lives, our power supply will be unending and able to withstand any difficulties that come. Colossians 1:11 notes the perseverance and power that comes from being a Christian. Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.
We can be full of energy because we know that we have the wonderful free gift of salvation given to us by Jesus’ great love and sacrifice for us. The energy that we can draw on is God’s energy, an energy that is firmly placed deep within us. In the early 1900s, S.D. Gordon was a prolific author and sought after speaker. One of his quotes perfectly describes the unending joy and energy we receive from God. “Joy is distinctly a Christian word and a Christian thing. It is the reverse of happiness. Happiness is the result of what happens of an agreeable sort. Joy has its springs deep down inside. And that spring never runs dry, no matter what happens.”
S.D. Gordon wrote twenty-two books in a devotional series called “Quiet Talks”. His quiet manner, simplicity, and gentle spirit led him to be well-received wherever he spoke. It is a fitting lesson that true energy does not come from being boastful or a self-promoter. It comes from a right understanding of who God is, what He has done for us, and then how that affects how we live our life. Non-Christians take notice when Christians share God’s love by seeking to uplift others. We can be the light of the world and show where true power comes from!
Any good thing that we do is from God. It is only His power at work within us that enables people to make a difference. Jesus states this in John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The fruit of following Jesus is a new heart with a new mind, new desires, a new will, a new way of relating to people around you, and a new purpose.
God causes us to grow not for a self-centered purpose but so that we can better serve others. Remember that God loves you and longs to help you. In response to God’s love we can make the right decisions so that we are able to show His love to others. Christian author C.S. Lewis stated, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” All of us are capable of meditating on God’s Word and then taking action based on how we feel God is leading us. God’s Word is powerful and will change us for the better.
We can pray to God for wisdom and boldness to not seek comfort but to seek His will in our lives. Sir Francis Drake was an English sea captain who lived in the sixteenth century. He definitely had a growth mindset that was driven by his faith in God. One of his prayers was for God to continue pushing Christians for how we can be used to accomplish His will.
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity, and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizon of our hopes; and to push back the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ. Amen!
If we stay focused on God’s Word, God will cause us to grow. We do not need to fear new experiences or the unknown because God is with us. We can pray to God to remove our complacency and boldly follow where he guides us.
Many people fear failure, but what we should really fear is the result of not trying. Why? Because if we do not move out of our comfort zone, we will not improve and grow. And when we improve and grow we are better able to help and encourage others. Staying in our comfort zones, does not help us overcome obstacles. It does not lead to progress.
A surprising and welcome discovery of the Bible is that God uses failures. The Bible is full of people with weaknesses who made mistakes but God’s strength is shown as He used these people for good. Moses was afraid to talk in front of people. Peter denied knowing Christ. Jonah ran from God’s will. God continued to work on these people and continues to work on us as well. None of us is perfect and we all have weaknesses. But empowered by God, we can move past fear to follow God’s will for our lives.
Pushing ourselves to improve is something that is effortful. Many people need to be motivated and receive positive feedback to continue working on it. Too often we want to seek comfort instead of letting ourselves feel vulnerable as we try something we may feel inadequate at first doing.
Noah probably felt uncomfortable and overwhelmed building an ark in the desert. Esther was willing to face possible death by speaking up to save others. David looked foolish attacking Goliath with a slingshot. All of these people moved past fear though, and responded with faith.
When God calls us to move outside of our comfort zones, His strength will be on display. Our best moments in life are not the days when we had nothing to do, but often when we face great challenges and are willing to persevere to overcome them. Journalist, George Lorimer, has an excellent quote about how to approach each day. “You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” When we are willing to stretch our capabilities during the day, we will sleep better at night. God has made us to serve Him, and it is natural to feel good when we serve Him faithfully.
When we are willing to grow it enables us to grow others. The Christian community is strengthened when we move past fears of failure. Pastor and author, Norman Vincent Peale, provides a short but powerful prayer request we can make to God. “Ask the God who made you to keep remaking you.” Colossians 2:6-7 reinforces this. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. When fear comes knocking on your door, send faith to answer! God will provide what we need to overcome fear!
There is a peanuts cartoon where a fly ball is hit to Lucy. Lucy lines up under the ball to catch it, but at the last moment moves out of the way and the ball drops to the ground. She then goes to Charlie Brown and says, “I thought I had it, but suddenly I remembered all the others I’ve missed. The past got in my eyes.”
Sometimes past mistakes can keep us from trying again or prevent success from occurring. We need to remember that God has designed us for a wonderful purpose. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10.
When we focus on God’s Word and promises in our lives, we can be encouraged to keep learning and keep improving. Paul in Colossians 3:2 implores us to Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. The message from God, who is omnipresent, is that He will always be with us. With God’s help we can pursue God pleasing goals and not be discouraged by failure. As Jesus stated, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23.
Christian, author, and professor of mathematics education.