One of the books I'm currently reading emphasizes the importance of staying positive in our thinking, our words, and our attitudes. This evening it hit me just how difficult it is to stay positive. One would think that anyone who knows Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior would find it easier to maintain a positive outlook on life, but we also know that isn't always the way it is. Christians face the same challenges and struggles that non-Christians experience. It becomes easy to take our eyes off our Lord and begin to focus on the circumstances, and when that happens we can soon fall into a negative mindset that doesn't do anyone any good. Yes, it even happens to ministers.
Several years ago when I was still pastoring I spent an afternoon reviewing some of the sermons I had preached that year. It became obvious to me that I had become quite negative in my preaching. This wasn't intentional on my part, and I hadn't even realized it happened until I began looking back at some of the sermons I had preached in the previous months. But, there was no mistaking the fact that I had become quite negative. I was probably tired and frustrated that things were not going the way I hoped, but that's no excuse. That afternoon the Lord really convicted me about my sermons and my attitude. He showed me the people were beaten up all week by their own circumstances, and they didn't need to get hammered again when they came to church.
The next Sunday I apologized to our congregation for my negativity. (BTW - it never hurts to apologize to your church when you mess up. They already know you did and will be relieved to find out you now realize it as well!) I explained that I could preach the same sermon from a positive perspective as I could from a negative one, and I promised them future sermons would come from the positive perspective. During my remaining years with them I tried very hard to remain positive even if I had to address difficult subjects.
We live in a very negative world, and I am convinced that unless we intentionally take steps to remain positive we can fall into that negativity. Some of those steps are to read positive books, surround ourselves with positive people, watch what we view on TV or at the movies, and avoid news programs that major on the sensational. If one eats nothing but junk food it will have a negative impact on his or her health, and the same thing is true of the material we feed into our minds.
I would encourage you to examine your recent sermons. Were they designed to build people up or tear them down? Would you say you have been mostly positive or negative in your relationships with family members? How are you feeling about yourself right now? Your ministry? If you've allowed negativity to creep into your thinking and your words, what do you need to do to turn that around?