A man joined a unique monastery in which for the first ten years he could only speak two words. For the next ten years he could only speak two more words, and so on. After his first ten years he said, "Hard bed." After the next ten years he said, "Bad food." After ten more years he said, "I quit." The rest of the monks said, "We figured that. You've been complaining ever since you got here."
In Mexico there are natural springs in which hot springs are next to cold springs. The women in the area can wash their clothes in the cold springs and rinse in the hot. One tourist remarked that Mother Nature sure is generous to provide hot and cold water, and he thought that visitors would be grateful. Villagers responded that they weren't grateful; visitors grumbled that they weren't provided with soap.
We complain and are negative in this world — and unfortunately our churches aren't much different.
A pastor who was being nitpicked to death in his church finally resigned. Later, he died of cancer and left a daughter who was bitter and broken. She entered a hospital, and a pastor friend of her dad's visited her. She read to him a song she had written about the church. The song was to the tune of Home, Home on the Range. It read like this, "Dead, dead on the vine, where they grumble and gripe and they whine. Where never is heard an encouraging word, and the Son has never been known to shine."
I have been in churches with people like that. They are confessing Christians, yet practicing pagans, and become enemies of the cross because their attitude is their witness. It's been said there are two reasons why people don't become Christ followers. One is that they have never met a Christ follower, and the other is that they have.
The key to a great attitude is to look up before you look around. We learn to interpret circumstances by the love of Christ instead of interpreting Christ's love by our circumstances. It's a faith-led life, not a fear-fed life. When you believe that God can take the bad and, in the long-term, get good out of it, you are free to concentrate and give thanks for the good. It is God's Spirit that enables us to focus on the good.
In the beginning of the space program a Russian cosmonaut went into space and said he didn't see God anywhere. Dr. Criswell of First Baptist Church in Dallas reflected on this. "If he had stepped out of the spaceship he would have seen God real quick." A few months later, John Glenn went in an American spaceship and said, "I see God everywhere." It's your focus.
In debating classes, teachers assign students to opposing sides. Whether students believe their side or not, they focus on and support their assigned side. God assigns us to His side. He assures us of His love and wants us to focus on what is good and praiseworthy. If I asked you what evidence you display of God's goodness, would you be able to provide the evidence? You are either on one side or the other. You will bless or blast, promote or provoke, shine or whine, bandage or blister.
Let me illustrate how this works in everyday life.
I play golf with many different people. I believe golf is going to be the game we play in heaven, because it will take all of eternity to get it right. The game can be frustrating. I have noticed even my friend Zig Ziglar has a hard time being motivational after a double bogey. One day I played with a very negative guy. I think he must have been a third generation deacon. He griped about everything. So I suggested that he start looking for all of the good breaks we received and we would tell each other about them. When we hit a tree and it bounced into the fairway, we would say "Wow, I didn't deserve that." He looked at me like he was playing with an idiot. After a few holes his attitude made a remarkable recovery. His game even improved. Mine didn't. (I have some emotional baggage that makes it hard for me to relax when I'm playing with a deacon with a box of big iron sticks.)
Thanksgiving is a great time of the year to look at your good breaks. I do have to be honest and say that sometimes it is harder than others. My friend went through a three-hole disaster. His swing looked like a weapon of mass destruction, and he finally yelled, "What am I supposed to be thankful for now?" I suggested that he be thankful that he is on the right side of the grass and added, just to keep him humble, "It is better to be over the hill than under the hill." We laughed and headed for the clubhouse, and I thought about the church house. Our attitude is our witness – the message must affect our mood. This November, Thanksgiving will not impress our world, but "thanks living" will. It might even make them want to visit our clubhouse or even our church house.
Editor's Note: Comic Belief, the recently released book by Charles Lowery that includes many of his most popular SBC LIFE articles is now available at www.charleslowery.com.