iResolve: To See the Cup Half Full

Part 4: To See the Cup Half Full
Philippians 4:4-8

January 28, 2018
Pastor Morris Brown

So, earlier this week I watched an interview with Marc Randolph. Randolph is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of a fairly successful company you may have heard of. The company is called Netflix. Over the last twenty years, Netflix has grown from a small video rental startup into a multi-billion- dollar corporation.

Anyway, during the interview Randolph, who successfully started five other companies, was asked if he could name some traits that make for an effective entrepreneur? Randolph thought for a minute, and then he said, “I think one of the most important traits an effective entrepreneur must have is an incredibly positive attitude! That’s because starting a company is tough! And sometimes, having a positive attitude is the only thing that keeps you going!”

Well, Randolph’s wisdom not only applies to entrepreneurship, it applies to life! That’s why we’re continuing our iResolve worship series with a message entitled, iResolve to See the Cup Half Full! You see, if we want to make 2018 a great year, even when things get tough, we need to resolve to approach it with a positive attitude!

The questions, of course, is how do we do it? How do we have a positive attitude even when life gets tough? I think some of the answer lies in the scripture we heard from Philippians. You see, Philippians is a letter that was written by Paul to early Christians in the Macedonian city of Philippi. It is a very positive letter. It’s filled with joy and hope and light. The interesting thing, however, is that when Paul wrote this letter he was in a Roman prison where he was waiting to be executed for his faith. And the people to whom Paul was writing were being persecuted for their faith! Yet, within in the passage we read Paul not only has a positive attitude and calls the Philippians to have a positive attitude; he gives us some biblical techniques that can help us keep a positive attitude in any circumstance of our lives.

For example, one thing Paul says we can do to keep a positive attitude is to PRAISE God.
In Philippians 4:4 Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I say, rejoice!” You see if we want to develop a positive attitude Paul says we don’t begin by focusing on ourselves, we begin by focusing on God.

One thing that can help us “focus on God” is to participate in worship. For example, I recently read a study published by a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin which said people who attend worship regularly tend to be happier, more optimistic and better able to deal with life’s difficulties than those who don’t!

I have an African-American friend who used to kid me because worship in my church’s 11:00 service rarely went past 12:00 noon, while the 11:00 a.m. worship in her African-American church would last until 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. So, one day I asked her, “Why do African-American worship services last so long?”

My friend looked at me and said, “Listen, people in my community live difficult lives. And all week long, in a thousand different ways, the world sends us negative messages. It tells us we’re nobody, tells us we’re no good, tells us we don’t really matter! And to be honest that can give us a negative attitude toward life.

So, when we gather for worship on Sunday mornings - we sing lots of hymns, and we share lots of testimonies, and we offer lots of prayers, and we read lots of scripture, and we listen to the preacher - who spends a whole lot of time reminding us that we ARE God’s children, we ARE important people, and our lives DO matter!

Why do we spend so long in worship?” she continued, “We spend so long in worship because it takes us a while for us to get a positive attitude back!”

Do we want to have a positive attitude, see the cup half full – even when life gets tough this year? Then like Paul, like my friend, we need to spend time in worship, rejoicing in the Lord!

A second way Paul says we can keep a positive attitude is to spend some of our time serving PEOPLE. In Philippians 4:5 Paul says this, “Let your gentleness be known unto others.” In other words, “take every opportunity you can to be kind to people, make every effort to help people – especially those who are in need!”

Some of you may have seen the story about the elementary school in Mt. Airy in the news this week? Morale at the school was low, so the principal and teachers decided to have a “Random Acts of Kindness Week.” As students arrived at school each day all the teachers lined up to cheer each child and give them a “high five.” Then, throughout the week they not only did special things for the children, but encouraged the children to find creative ways to be kind to each other.

“By the end of the week” the principal said, “our school was like a different place. There were smiles on most every face, and you could feel the positive atmosphere all around.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “One of the most beautiful compensations in this life is that no person can sincerely help another person without helping themselves.”

Ray Croc, the founder of McDonald’s said, “One of the greatest discoveries has been that when I help others with their live I always feel better about my life!”

But, perhaps a Buddhist proverb puts it best. It simply says, “When you light a lamp for someone else, it brightens your path!”

Here’s the point! If we want to develop a positive attitude this year, if we want to “see the glass half full,” we need to “let our gentleness be known to others.” We need to find a way to serve people!

Third, Paul says we can keep a positive attitude this year by remembering God is always PRESENT. How does Paul put it? “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to others. The Lord is near!”

You see, even though Paul was confined to a Roman prison, he knew one thing. He knew that God was with him! And although the Christians in the church at Philippi were experiencing persecution, Paul knew one thing, that God was with them too! And because Paul knew that the Lord was with him in that prison, and that God was with his friends in their persecution, Paul could stay incredibly positive, and he could call them to be positive. He could stay positive and call them to be positive because he knew that as tough as his circumstances were, and as tough as their circumstances were, God would surround them all with the strength they would need to get through.

That gave them peace in the midst of the storm.

I love the story of the little boy who got scared one night during a thunderstorm. He called out for his mom. She came into his bedroom, told him everything was alright and laid down beside him. After a

few minutes, she got up to go back to her bedroom. When she did, her little boy said, “Mommy, where are you going?”

“Oh”, she said, “I’m going back to my bedroom to lay down with your daddy.” The little boy thought about that for a moment, then said, “The big sissy!”

Listen, whether we are facing a big storm or a crisis or difficult situation at work, or some kind of failure this year, Paul reminds us we can still have a positive attitude. Why? Because like that mom, the Lord is near! God is always with us. No matter where we are, no matter what happens to us, God will be there to strengthen us, help us, encourage us and work on our behalf! Just knowing that can help us keep a positive attitude in every circumstance. This leads to my fourth point.

Paul says we can keep a positive attitude by regularly engaging in the practice of PRAYER.
“The Lord is near,” Paul writes, “So, I present my requests to God, with thanksgiving, through prayer. And when I do, I find the peace of God, which passes all understanding, begins to guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.”

Paul was in prison. He couldn’t change his circumstances. The Christians in the church in Philippi were being persecuted. They couldn’t change their circumstance. But there was one thing they could both do that would help them stay positive, and that was to pray. They could talk to God about their circumstances.

They could ask God to help them meet the challenges of their situation. They could invite God to help them experience God’s presence in their lives. By doing so, Paul said they’d experience a peace that passed all understanding. A peace that would enable them to have a positive attitude, in the worst of situations!

I love the story of a woman who went to a garage sale and came home with a wooden plaque that said, “Prayer Changes Things.” She decided to hang it over the mantel. A few days later, however, she noticed it was missing. So, she asked her husband, “Do you know what happened to the plaque I put over the mantel?”

“Yes” he replied. “I took it down.”

“You took it down?” she said, “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you believe that prayer changes things?”

“Of course, I believe prayer changes things” he replied, “but to tell you the truth, I don’t like change!”

Listen, I don’t know if prayer changes things. But I do know it changes me. I know that when I have a negative attitude about the things that are happening in my life, it’s usually because I’ve been neglecting to spend time in prayer. And I know that when I have a positive attitude toward the things that are happening in my life, it’s because I’m spending a few minutes in meditation and prayer each day.

So, do you and I want to approach this year with a positive attitude? If we do, we need to engage in the practice of prayer each day. “With thanksgiving” we need to “present our requests to God.” If we will, we’ll soon discover that the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds.”

Finally, to keep a positive attitude this year Paul says we must focus on the POSITIVE things.“Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.” In other words, “Whatever is happening in your life focus on the positive, keep your mind on the good stuff!”

I recently read a story about the 18th century concert violinist, Nicholi Paganini. Once he was in the middle of a concerto when one of the strings on his violin broke. When it did there was a gasp from the audience. But Paganini ignored it and continued to play on three strings he had left. A few minutes later another string broke. There was another gasp from the audience and the audience thought he’d surely stop, but he didn’t. He kept right on playing on two strings. A few moments later a third string broke. A third time the audience gasped and was sure Paganini would quit, but he didn’t. Instead, he completed the concerto on the one violin string.

When he finished the audience cheered and gave him a standing ovation. Afterward someone asked Paganini, “How is it you were able to keep on playing when you had broken three strings on your violin?”

Paganini smiled and said, “I chose to keep my focus on the one string I had left.”

That’s the key, isn’t it? That’s the key to keeping a positive attitude! We can’t always control the circumstances of our lives, but can control our focus. We can choose to focus on the negative, which will usually leave us pessimistic and glum. Or, we can choose to focus on the positive, which usually ends up leaving us feeling optimistic and full of joy!

There’s little poem that says, “Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud, one saw stars.” What was the difference in these two men? It wasn’t their circumstance. It was their attitude!

Can I ask you something? As you make your way through this brand-new year, will you see mud, or will you see stars? I hope you’ll resolve to see stars! I hope you’ll resolve to see the cup half full! I hope you’ll resolve to have a positive attitude! You can make that resolution a reality by participating in worship, serving other people, remembering God is present, praying regularly, and focusing on the positive in every situation!