Here at LifeBrook International we have as part of our ongoing mission statement to provide publications, materials, and programs to assist individuals and organizations to:
Become the optimal version of themselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.
After many years working with people that are sincere about living a life of excellence we have discovered many interesting things about what works with people and what doesn’t. Further, by the grace of God, we have been given enough wisdom to weed out those elements that are non-productive and, in contrast, strengthen those elements that seem to be beneficial.
Today, I want to talk about two principles that we have found that are absolutely essential if you want to make positive changes in your life and grow toward becoming the person God designed you to be, wants you to be, and equipped you to be. It goes without saying that there are more than two principles involved in our spiritual growth, but in the context of this brief article, let’s limit our discussion to a pair of principles that are foundational. These are: Positive Thinking and Open-Mindedness.
Let’s briefly explore the first principle, which can be stated this way: thought is the ancestor of action. What we do begins in our thoughts and eventually is translated into our actions. In light of this fact, if we truly wish to develop our capacities, grow more consistently with fluency and grace, and live more effective and productive lives the place we must begin is with our thinking. The formula is really quite simple. Positive thoughts translate themselves into positive actions. Negative thoughts translate into negative actions. Positive actions, in turn, promote growth and development. Negative actions result in wasted effort, stagnation, and lack of fulfillment.
The good news in all of this is that we are masters of our own destiny in regards to improving the level at which we live. Of course, all of us have natural limitations to our talent. However, the fact remains that we can stretch that talent much farther just by believing in ourselves and trusting that we have as a divine partner, a dynamic Spirit that will come to our aid.
Let me repeat the statement, “thought is the ancestor of action“. In applying biblical principles of spiritual growth we must keep this principle before us at all times. You learn to live the way you want to live when you learn to think what you want to think. It all starts in the mind. Granted, there are many things in the world that you cannot change through your thinking. But the one thing you can certainly change is yourself! So start with yourself. If you want to improve yourself remember:
Create your own positive thought and you become what you desire to become because the truth of the matter is that your thought creates your experience.
Let me repeat, it is your thoughts that determine your attitudes and it is your attitudes that determine your actions. The great American President Thomas Jefferson said it far better than I can:
Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
More than anything else, becoming the optimal version of yourself requires a positive mental attitude at the outset. Without it, failure is guaranteed.
Attitude is everything. The fact is that we often defeat ourselves before we begin a project or pursue a goal. The cause of this self-defeat is negative thinking. In order to grow and develop we have to embrace a more positive outlook on life. We must incorporate into our being the firm belief that I can if I think I can. It really is as simple as that. Base your life on this belief and you will see miracles happen every day!
I think it is tragic that many people fail to utilize simple, spiritual principles because of just that: they seem too simple. I remember reading in the autobiography of Robert Schuller an episode regarding this issue. Shortly before he was due to graduate from seminary, young Robert had the opportunity to go to a lecture being delivered by Norman Vincent Peale. Being the brilliant young theologian that he was, Schuller relates that he felt this would largely be a waste of his time because Dr. Peale was “too simplistic.” Schuller had just completed his major graduation paper, had studied deeply in arcane theological texts, and figured he pretty much knew all there was to know. Certainly, someone who wrote things as superficial and trendy could have nothing to say that would be meaningful to someone as deep as he was.
After the lecture by Dr. Peale, Schuller and his classmates joked about how shallow the message was and, like all good young students of religion, believed they were just far too sophisticated to be bothering with such petty lectures. My, how interestingly God works sometimes.
Schuller ended up receiving mail outs from Peale’s ministry and, to make a long story short, something Peale said hit Schuller right between the eyes. Eventually, Robert Schuller in a sense became Peale’s successor. And more amazing, Schuller began writing the same kind of simplistic books that Peale did. I recall that back in the early ‘70’s, when I first read Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking I believed it was far too simplistic, sophomoric, and a complete waste of my time. After all, I had two Bachelors Degrees, a Masters Degree, and was working on a second Masters Degree. The pop psychology offered up by Schuller was far beneath my great intellect. Now I know better, thanks to the Lord. I’ll get back to Dr. Schuller in the second part of this article. For whatever reasons, Robert Schuller is a controversial figure among Christians. I find this an unfortunate reality, but a reality nonetheless. Like I said, more on this later.
One of the greatest lessons that I have learned in my life, and learned with great difficulty I might add, is expect the best and the best will come to you. Get out of all your old negative habits of thinking and be open to new, positive patterns of affirmation. Develop a joyous and optimistic outlook on each day. Fall in love with life and live it fully. Above all, develop the habit of positive thinking. Believe in yourself! Believe in your abilities! Be confident! Be Proactive! Take the following affirmative words, by Robert Schuller actually, and plant them deep within your mind:
This may seem very simple and, in fact, it is. Yet it is this very simplicity that makes positive thinking so powerful and profound. If you don’t believe, try it out for six months and see what happens. In fact, why don’t you, the reader, do that. Do a bit of research on simple practices like positive thinking. Work with affirmative prayer, praying the scriptures according to the positive themes contained in the Bible, and pray for the Holy Spirit’s assistance in helping you to think more constructively and optimistically. Give it six months and see what happens. The results will astound you!
In addition to being positive about our ability to be formed into the likeness of Christ, we also need to develop an attitude of openness. By this I simply mean that in order to make progress, we have to do things differently than we have in the past. This, my friend, means we have to encounter change. Many of us avoid change, choosing to stay with the familiar, with the status quo. Unfortunately, if we want to grow we have to change. And, if we want to change, we have to be flexible in our approach to life and open to new ways of doing things.
The one sure thing that can keep a person in everlasting ignorance is a closed mind. To live a life based on spiritual principles is to always strive to be open to new ideas, new concepts, and fresh and invigorating ways of doing things. So often many of us go about our daily rounds, living life in the same routine way and responding to the events of the day in the same old ritualistic ways that we always have. The same is true for our thinking. We think the same kind of thoughts, hold the same views and opinions, and approach life in the same timeworn way that we always have. No matter that some of these behaviors and thought patterns are non-productive and destructive. We cherish them because they are familiar and comfortable.
By living this way we never have to stretch our minds. The process of spiritual formation along biblical lines challenges this way of being and encourages us to venture out into new ways of doing things and fresh ways of thinking. We are challenged to look at things from a different perspective and, when we do, we are transformed – changed in a positive way. Paul called this “renewing the mind” and basically said this was the foundation stone of personal and spiritual development. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it so well: Man’s mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension.
Making this worn out way of thinking worse is the fact that the Holy Spirit may be trying to communicate with us. The blessed Spirit may be trying to show us a new and healthier way to view a specific issue or theme or may be trying to get across an important truth that we need to understand in a fresh way. If we have a closed mind that allows for no “out of the box” thinking, then we may indeed be guilty of quenching the Spirit.
Open-mindedness and positive thinking are two fundamental qualities that are great aids in growing as a Christian. Without these two tools, we can, and many often do, end up existing rather than living. Rather than being renewed in our faith and branching out into new ways of serving the Master, we choose instead to remain mired in chronic negativity and close-minded imprisonment. As a result, many of us never use our God-given, Spirit-inspired gifts for the establishment of the kingdom. More than a few of us go to our graves with our dream still locked away inside of us, incarcerated in a prison of our own making.
The irony here, and at the same time the good news, is the fact that you hold the key. The question thus becomes: Will you use it?
(c) L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved