Living With the Right Attitude
During World War II, Dr. Victor Frankl from Austria was imprisoned at Auschwitz, where he was stripped of everything he worked for his entire life – his identity; his profession; his family and his possessions. He couldn't practice any more as a neurologist and psychiatrist and was forced to work as a common labourer. His father, mother, brother and wife died in the Nazi concentration camps. All the notes from his life’s work, were destroyed. And yet Frankl emerged from Auschwitz and made the comment: “Everything can be taken from a man, but one thing: his attitude in any given circumstance.”
Isn't that true my friends? We can never choose our circumstances, but we are fully in charge of how we think about our life situation and what we're going to do about it.
When the letter of St. Paul was read the first time to the Philippians, there must have been some of them who had thoughts of “Now Paul has lost his mind too. Just listen to him. How can he rejoice under the circumstance of a cold prison cell and not too much to eat? How can he rejoice after all that he stood and worked for brought him nothing more than persecution? How can he rejoice after close companions abandoned him?” But you see, the apostle Paul discovered the secret of the life in Jesus Christ and nothing was going to take that away from him. Listen to what he wrote - “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”
Perhaps there are those who would like to say to Paul, “It's different in the age we live than what it's been like in your time. We have more things to be concerned about. Paul you had only the Roman oppression to deal with – we have the whole world against us as Christians. There is more pressure in the lives of individuals today. The majority of people in our world just can't cope any more.” Can we really say that we have it worse than what it was for Paul and the Church of his time? No, my friends, when we take the Word of God and read passages about injustices, immorality, selfishness, deception and anything else we can't think of we have to acknowledge that Paul and the other apostles had a good comprehension of what the world would be like 2000 years after they wrote their letters.
From Philippians 4: 8-13 there are valuable lessons we can learn about Living With The Right Attitude. The first is 1 Meditate On Wholesome Things. The apostle says in verse 8, “Finally, brothers, 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.” Paul didn't know anything about computer programs in his time, but when he wrote “...think about such things...” he had in mind how Christians are supposed to program their minds. We all have to agree – what is put into the mind of any person will determine what that person will become in life. The man who went on a shooting rampage at a movie theatre in Colorado expressed to a psychologist, “It all started with violent video games I played and I wondered what it would be like to kill people in real life.”
Our society has become sick with many things that occupy people's minds. There have to be better things to focus on. Those things come from the Word of God. In Psalm 1 we read that the man who meditates on God's Word day and night will be like a tree planted by streams of water. He will prosper. Only the Word of God can program our minds on what is wholesome. Paul described it as true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. It was told of Francis of Assisi that when even the slightest sinful thought came into his mind he went into isolation to cleanse himself. We need to do the same; we need to take the Word of God and put it in our hearts and minds. Then our thoughts will be in tune with what God wants for us. Then we can confess with David in Psalm 19: 14 as we read it in the Good News Translation, “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable to You, O Lord, my refuge and my redeemer!” You know my friends, if we truly want to think as God thinks, we have to plead, “Program my mind, O Lord; program it with Your truth and Your thoughts.”
The second lesson in Living With The Right Attitude is 2 Care For Others. Let's listen again to verse 10, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.” Paul’s words here were in response to the gift that the Philippians had sent with Epaphroditus. It was the last thing he expected from the Philippians. They didn't have any resources to share, because authorities came and stripped them from everything they accumulated to help them in their ministry. So, all the members had secretly put away gifts of money so that when the time was right, they could show a gesture of appreciation to God's apostle who served them so well. And you see Paul didn't rejoice about the gift. No, it was the simple fact that they cared about him. Those things he taught them about brotherly love in the example of Jesus sank into their minds and hearts and here they demonstrated it. And now Paul wanted to encourage them even more by mentioning their concern for him. Do we have the right attitude in our care for the world my friends? Do the heart and the hands of Jesus reach those around us who cry out for help? Do we care enough about others to show it's not about us, but about those we can serve?
Rev. Overduin, a Dutch pastor in Amsterdam, once told his congregation, “You are good people, but you are cruel people. Here you sit well dressed and well fed week after week, but as close as the steps of this church, there are beggars dressed in rags with hunger in their eyes. You haven't done anything to change their life situation.” We have to live with Jesus' attitude my friends – we have to go and do deeds of compassion for those who feel that there are no people who care any more. Can we unconditionally show them the same attitude in our hearts that was in the life of Jesus?
St. Paul gave a last lesson about Living With The Right Attitude – 3 Learn To Be Content. Verse 12b, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” The word content comes from a Greek word “periechomeno.” It means to be self-sufficient or independent in what you have that you don't search for anything more. Contentment can be an elusive pursuit. We go after what we think will make us happy only to find that it didn’t work. In fact, we were happier before we started the quest. It’s like the story of two teardrops floating down the river of life. One teardrop asked the other, “Who are you?” “I’m a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost him” the answer came. “But who are you?” The other one answered, “I’m a teardrop from the girl who got him.”
The reality my friends is, no matter the situation, there are those who will never be content. Paul wanted to make the point – happiness or contentment isn't to be found in whether you have good weather or bad weather; whether you have a full stomach or an empty stomach. No, contentment is all about in whom or what you have found fulfillment. For Paul it was in Jesus. Therefore he could cry out, “Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again, rejoice.” It didn't matter to him that he reached the end of his rope or everything was literally taken away from him. No, he had the presence of the Lord in his heart. That changed his outlook considerably. You know, if we can't be content with what we have around ourselves in our personal lives, we will never be content. Perhaps we need to think of the attitude of contentment our Lord Jesus demonstrated. He didn't have a place He could call home, He didn't have any possessions to show to companions, but He was content in the fact that He obeyed the One Who sent Him into the world. Yes, Jesus didn't once take anything for granted. Why don't we come before our Heavenly Father and rejoice about what we so abundantly receive from His grace. Let's then confess, “Lord, You have satisfied all of my needs.”
Let's be honest before God this morning – do we live like Paul with the secret formula in Jesus Christ? Do we want to show throughout everything we do in life – it's about the Lord of my life and the service He has called me to? The Right Attitude is something that should live in very Christian's heart. I would like to close with a quotation from Gerald G. Jampolsky, a Child Psychiatrist, “As a child I was told and believed that there was a treasure buried beneath every rainbow. I believed it so much that I have been unsuccessfully chasing rainbows most of my life. I wonder why no one ever told me that the rainbow and the treasure were both within me.” In a Christian's life the rainbow is our attitude and the treasure is the Lord of our lives. We have all we need within our lives. Let's live each day to the fullest and bring our praises to God.
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall