Thursday, August 18, 2016

Change Agent: We Find What We Look For

Some people just seem by nature to be more optimistic or pessimistic than others. Two people can have the exact same experience but react in totally opposite ways. When they read Psalm 23 and get to the part where David says, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Ps. 23:5). The optimist breaks out in praise for God’s blessing and provision. The pessimist cringes at the thought of messy oil being poured on people’s heads and wonders who’s going to clean up the mess!

That reminds me or a story about two identical twin brothers. They were the same in almost every respect. But one of them was an absolute pessimist and the other was an over-the-top optimist. One year for Christmas, the boys’ father tried a little experiment. Instead of giving the boys their presents on Christmas Eve. He said, “This year Christmas is going to be a little different. I have something special planned. We’re going to have a sleepover together here in the family room. And tomorrow morning when you wake up, your Christmas gifts will be in your bedrooms!” The boys were excited. They had a great time together that night just being together, celebrating Jesus’ birthday.

When they fell asleep their father snuck off and prepared their rooms. He filled his pessimist son’s room with every electronic gadget and game he’d heard him talk about wanting that year. He thought, “Surely this will be a positive Christmas for my son!” In his optimist son’s room he put plastic sheets on the floor and loaded the room with straw and horse manure. Then he went to bed.

The next morning, the boys woke up early and rushed off to their rooms to see their Christmas surprises. A few minutes later, the father crept down the hall and listened at each door to hear each boy’s reaction. As he stood outside his pessimist son’s door, to his dismay he heard weeping. He opened the door and asked, “What’s wrong son, don’t you like your gifts?” His son replied, “Oh dad, it’s just terrible. All of these gifts are great--now, but soon they will break, or the batteries will have to continuously be replaced, or my friends will come over and I’m sure they’ll fight over them and break them. I’m so sad.” The father was mortified, but then he heard the sound of pure joy bursting from his optimistic son’s room. He hurried down, opened the door and saw him, literally dancing for joy in the midst of stinky straw and horse manure! “Wow,” said the father, “You’re sure happy this morning!” His son replied, “Oh yes father, this is awesome! I haven’t found him yet, but I just know there has to be a pony around here somewhere!”

Your perspective on life makes all the difference. Life is like a giant coin. Every issue we face has two sides to it. Life will make you bitter, or better, it’s your choice. Our perspective is the key. Will we walk through life with pessimistic eyes, seeing only what’s wrong with the world and what can’t be done? Or will we choose to see the world through the lens of optimistic faith?

“For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) 

I’m not na├»ve. I get it. This world is a broken place, but that is precisely the reason why the world so desperately needs kingdom agents of Christ-centered, optimistic hope! There are a lot of really bad and sad things happening in this world, but on the other side of the coin in each one of those cases, there is an awesome God offering grace, hope, mercy, love and victory! And if you have eyes of faith you’ll notice that there are also a lot of amazing and wonderful things happening in the world!

Take China for example, if you only tune into mainstream media you might assume that China is a communist, religiously oppressive country and that the church is dead in that country. In reality the Chinese church is thriving! China is blowing the doors off of the United States in terms of evangelism.  It’s underground. You’ll never hear it on the news, but people are accepting Christ in droves in China.

India is another great example.  Again, if you only tune into conventional news sources here in the United States you might assume that India is a purely Hindu country, locked in a stifling cast system. But you’d be dead wrong. Christ is moving in India. New churches are being planted continuously in this precious country.

I’m sure there are plenty of problems and issues in your local community or church. And if you listen only the conventional voices, you’ll probably hear only the bad news. I had a friend who worked at a television station. She would always say, “In the news business, if it bleeds it leads!” I don’t know why, but bad news sells more than good news. As a result—we get fed a steady diet of bad news and if we’re not careful we can easily develop a warped perspective on the condition of our world. God is moving and working in lives all around this world. Good things are happening in your community. There are people in your church who are authentically seeking God and growing in Christ.  Too often we don’t hear about it or look for it and so we wrongly assume God has vacated the premises. But he hasn’t! He’s alive and well! He’s moving and working, fulfilling his eternal purposes all around us every day.

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please’” (Ps. 46:9-10).

It’s all about what you look for. “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you” (Prov. 11:27, NLT)! If you look for good in life, if you look for opportunities in problems, if you choose the can-do attitude over the can’t-do attitude, you’ll discover favor! You’ll find the strength through faith in Christ to overcome the problem; the ability to be light in someone’s life, an agent of encouragement instead of a Doug or a Debbie-downer!

In short, if you look for the good, if you look for God’s hand in any situation, you'll find it! “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). But if we look for evil, there’s plenty of that to be found too.

King Hezekiah was a great king! He was the king of Judah during a really difficult season of their history. The Assyrian Empire was at full strength during Hezekiah’s life and reign as king. Assyria was ferocious and brutal. They crushed enemies without mercy. As a younger man Hezekiah saw Assyria crush the northern kingdom of Israel in 720 BC. Later in life he was king of Judah during the invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem by Assyria in 701 BC. Talk about a difficult situation? The most powerful army on earth has surrounded your capital city and fully intends to destroy you! What’s the upside? How can you possibly muster a can-do perspective in a hopeless situation like this?

Listen to what Hezekiah said to his people. “'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.  With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.'  And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said” (2 Chron. 32:7-8).  Wow, did you catch that last statement? “And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said” (2 Chron. 32:8). What a beautiful example of what it looks like to be an agent of Kingdom minded, God-centered, optimistic hope! Hezekiah’s faith in God inspired others brought strength to their lives! And this wasn’t just religious pie-in-the-shy wishful thinking. A few verses later in this same chapter we read, “King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this. And the LORD sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the commanders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace” (2 Chron. 32:20-21). 

“If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you” (Prov. 11:27, NLT)! What we set our minds on impacts how we live.

Thanks for reading!  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

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