David Jeremiah - Believe: Get Your Mind Right
Some meetings you'll never forget. When I was in New York a while ago, the hotel manager pulled me aside. He knew that I loved sports and he offered to introduce me to a fellow guest, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney. I love this man, and I have followed him from almost the beginning, so my family and I sat with Dabo for an hour as he talked about his faith, his love for his football team, his excitement about his players, his zest for life. The love that he had for his team was so obvious. He was animated, he was speaking with his eyes, and he was gesturing with his hands. I don't think I've ever been around anyone more positive than Dabo.
I remember thinking, "No wonder he wins championships, he is a champion. He's a man who believes". Dabo, well, his real name is William Christopher. He was born to a mother who had battled debilitating polio. When he was a baby, his older brother Trip tried to call him Bat Boy, and Swinney was known as Dabo ever since. When Trip was 16, a horrible accident left him permanently injured, about the same time their father had business problems, fell into debt, and started drinking heavily. Dabo's parents broke up. Dabo lived from pillar to post.
At the age of 16, Dabo had a lifechanging experience with Jesus Christ, and his newfound faith bolstered his belief in the future and in himself. He tried out for the University of Alabama football team as a walk on and he got a scholarship. And during his last college game, on New Year's Day 1993, the Crimson Tide won the national championship. At the end of his college career, Dabo reconciled with his father and eventually helped to lead him to Christ.
In 2003, Dabo joined the coaching staff at Clemson University. He became head coach in 2008. At the time, Clemson was known for losing games they should've won. It happened so often, people called it Clemsoning. Coach Swinney knew that belief was at the low ebb in his university outside the program, so he posted a large sign in the training room bearing one word, and the word was believe. The coach's belief was sincere and contagious. No matter the challenges or setbacks, he believed in his players more than they believed in themselves. He believed in them so much, their confidence began to surge. And under his leadership, the Tigers have won national championships in 2016 and 2018.
Takes a positive attitude to move forward. As you read that, you may be thinking, "Uh oh, Dr. Jeremiah's fallen into the positive thinking trap". No, I'm not. I know about that pitfall. We should guard against any self-help ideology that pushes God to the sidelines, magnifies human ability, and doesn't tell the whole truth. But there is a positive, hopeful, joyful optimism that is totally biblical and it comes from Christ alone. So, I want to say this loudly and clearly, you can be a Christian and an optimist at the same time, and you should be. Faith adds a positive power to your life.
Just listen to Philippians 4:13. Paul wrote, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". I don't know how you listen to that, but that sounds pretty positive to me. The man who wrote those words was an optimist with a capital O. If you read his story in the book of Acts and study his 13 letters, they're packed with optimism. Dr. John Henry Jowett said of Paul, "His eyes are narrowly illumined. His cheery tone is never absent from his speech. The buoyant and springy movement of his life has never changed. The light never dies out of his sky. The Apostle Paul is an optimist".
So, for the next few minutes, let's sit at the feet of the great apostle and learn his powerful secrets for resilience and optimism and positive belief. So, number one, you have to be positive in your convictions. Paul's optimism started with what he believed with his positive convictions. Now, I don't know if you know what a conviction is, but it's a fixed belief, a deeply held set of certainties that lodges in the center of your mind and heart. Paul's core convictions were the foundation of his incredible life and ministry, and here's the best part. You can embrace them for yourself.
Here are two examples of how to do just that as you move forward toward everything God has in store for you in the next phase of your life. Number one, be positive about God's love for you. The most basic conviction in life is rooted in understanding the nature of God. You see, without a good, powerful, loving, creative, eternal God, there's no reason to be optimistic. Consider Paul's words in Romans chapter 8, verses 38 and 39, "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord".
Consider the reasons for optimism packed into this passage. Not only is God real, he's real, but he loves us. And not only does he love us, but nothing we might ever experience can ever separate us from that love. The ten things that Paul lists in these verses I just read could each one of them be a potential barrier between God and you. But Paul says with absolute assurance that none of them can ever separate you from God's love. The powerful words in Romans 8 about God's love are reinforced by a blessing Paul offered toward the end of the same book. Became a favorite verse for many people I know, especially for those who are going through difficult times in their lives.
Here's that promise. "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit". I'd like to suggest that you pray those words aloud every day, every noon, every morning, every evening until you know them by heart. That prayer can adjust your mindset in any given season of life, deepen your core convictions, strengthen your belief. Do you know what it means to overflow with hope and optimism? Paul did, and you can too. Hope and optimism can become your everyday attitude. So, be positive about God's love for you. And then secondly, be positive about God's plan for you.
The Apostle Paul constantly referred to the future. He put the past behind him, he strained forward toward what was ahead. And even when he was near death, Paul was excited about the future. Think of it, while waiting on death row for his martyrdom, he was eager for tomorrow. The last known letter Paul wrote was to his friend Timothy, and it was written from a prison in Rome, where he awaited certain death. Listen to what he said in the final chapter of his final book. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved his appearing".
Paul, you see, had an incredible perspective on living and dying. Some years before, he kind of expressed that to the Philippians in these words, he said, "For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ, so I really don't know which is better. I'm torn between the two desires. I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live". There is an agelessness to optimists that keeps tomorrow fresh. As a follower of Christ, I'm ready to die and willing to live. But either case, I can't wait to see what God's going to do next. I am positive about my convictions.
If you want to have the mental attitude to be able to dream and to believe, you need to get your mind right. And when you get your mind right, you will have positive convictions. Now, let me say something else. Along with positive convictions, you need to develop positive conversations. Let's talk about talking. If you're positive in your core convictions, then you'll literally become more positive in the way you talk. What does it mean to be positive in your conversations? Number one, speak positively to yourself. Sometimes, we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves.
We have to say something like Psalm 118, verse 24, "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it". Try saying that over and over throughout the day, "This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it". Outside of praying, your most important words are the words that you say to yourself. These words are silent, but they're significant. Pop psychologists call this positive self-talk, but I'm going to skip the trends and go straight to the Scripture. My thesis, remember, involves Paul's example to us. So, did Paul ever talk to himself? He said he strove to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. He said, "For in my inner being, I delight in God's law". He said, "I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he's able to keep what I've committed to him against that day".
And as we've observed and learned, he also said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". I recall preaching a sermon years ago on how to handle negative thoughts, still remember my outline. Here's what you do with negative thoughts, don't curse them, don't nurse them, don't rehearse them, but disperse them. That's still a pretty good formula. Push out your negative thoughts, worry and anxiety, fear and pessimism, by filling up your mind with God's Scripture. And then preach those promises to yourself.
"We're constantly processing thoughts", wrote Dr. Norman Wright. "Depending how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind. To complicate our minds more", Dr. Wright wrote, "not all these are conscious thoughts. Sometimes, they go past us so fast, we barely notice them". But listen to what he says next. "Every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body. Each thought sets off a biological process, about 400 billion of them at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through your body, producing electromagnetic waves. And these set off emotions, which affect how we behave. Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along, we are shaped in much of our lives by our thoughts. So, speak positively to yourself".
That's a strange thing to say to many modern Christians 'cause it sounds like it's heresy or something that shouldn't even be included in a biblical sermon. But I only give it to you because it's in the Scripture. Not only speak positively to yourself, speak positively to others. Learn to talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself. Learn to preach to yourself, learn to encourage yourself in the Lord. It will change the way you speak to others. That's one of the keys. Once you start to talk to yourself right, then you could start to talk to others right. Your mood and message will be different, even when things are going badly.
This was another of Paul's secrets. Once he was caught in a vicious storm with a terrified crew on a sinking ship. The typhoon threatened to rip the ship into matchsticks, and even the captain gave up hope of survival. But Paul rallied their spirits. In the midst of that tragedy, he stood up and he said, "Keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God". The storm grew worse, it was the deadliest storm these sailors had ever seen, and there were 276 people onboard. Two weeks of unbearable strain had drained this crew to their last drops of hope, and none of them could eat or rest because the nights would just captivate them, they couldn't sleep.
In Acts chapter 27, we read about Paul. Here's what we read. "Just before dawn, Paul urged them all to eat. 'For the last 14 days,' he said, 'you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food. You haven't eaten anything. Now I urge you to take up some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from your head.' After this he said, he took some bread and he gave thanks to God in front of them all, and he broke it and they began to eat, and they were all encouraged.'"
Do you know anybody in your life who, in the midst of what you're going through, can impart positive things like that to you? The power of an attitude that is absolutely biblical and biblically positive. You see, the more we talk about our troubles, the more we rehearse and reenforce them, the more we spread the pessimism that's endemic to our culture. So, instead focus on others, spread optimism. Help those around you take courage. Help them believe. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them".
I want to say to you, men and women, our world is wrecked. And as we work together to accomplish what God wants us to do, the last thing we need are endless critics. Instead, we need the comradery of Christ-centered people who say what is good and helpful so our words will be an encouragement to so many. We need people who believe and who inspire belief. So, be positive in your convictions. Be positive in your conversations. Be positive in your crises. Only after you've learned to be positive in your conviction and your conversation can you learn to be positive even during things that are hard. During times of conflict and crisis, optimism shines like the sun piercing the clouds. That was true for our hero, the Apostle Paul.
Listen again to what he said. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, shall distress, persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are killed all day long. We are counted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us". Let me take just a moment and unpack that passage. The Apostle Paul lists seven persecutions he had constantly experienced. "It felt like being killed all day long", he said. "But in all of this", he said, "I am more than a conqueror".
The phrase "more than a conqueror" is a translation of a Greek word that reads like this, hypernikomen. The word N-I-K is in the middle of the word. It's the word "nike", believe it or not. Nike is the Greek word for victory, which is why that shoe company uses it. It means overcomer. And look at the first part of the word, "hyper". You know the term hyper. When you talk about your kid being hyper, he's over the top. If you see somebody that you work with, they're hyper, they're out of control. So Paul said, "In the midst of all these problems, these seven things that come to me, I am hyper victorious. I am not just a conqueror, I am more than a conqueror".
And so, I want you to know on the authority of the Scripture and because of the love of Jesus Christ, that you can be an overcomer. You can believe in him, you can trust him, and you can be positive in your convictions. You can be positive in your conversations. You can be positive in your crisis. And finally, here's the best one of all, you can be positive in your countenance, in your face. Your mood is always reflected in your countenance, did you know that? When optimism is in your heart, a joyful countenance is on your face.
Someone said, "What's down in the well comes up in the pail". Unfortunately, I don't have a photograph of the Apostle Paul, so I can't prove his face was radiant. But who can doubt it? His smile and positive attitude infiltrated his writings. For example, he told the Corinthians one time this, he said, "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit".
So, I just want to tell you, men and women, that you can be positive. It's right to be positive. Good Christians are positive. We need positive Christian optimists. We need people who walk around looking like Jesus really is everything that they say he is and that he's making a difference in their lives.
It was back in November in 2007 when a tough old Alaskan fisherman named Alan Ryden took a month-long trip at sea in his 42-foot boat. The trip became a nightmare when the boat capsized in a terrible storm. Ryden managed to get into a raft, wearing his survival suit and a fleece jacket, and he got off a mayday signal to the coastguard. But the weather was wicked and this little raft tossed around like a cork. Shivering in this buffeted raft, Alan felt himself losing hope. His mind panicked and quickly sunk into discouragement and hopelessness. He began wondering if his life insurance would provide for his family.
Suddenly, Alan realized his own thoughts were pulling him under more than the seas, and he made one of the toughest decisions of his life. He determined to cast out negative thoughts and tossed them out of the raft like they were weights. He began quoting Scripture to himself, speaking God's Word out loud. He started thanking God for any good thing that came to his mind. He said to himself, "Well, at least I'm in a survival suit. My suit does have a top of the line strobe light attached. At least I'm in some kind of a craft. At least I got that fleece jacket on. I am strong. I am a good swimmer. I have no fear of the water".
Ryden's mental struggle deepened as the darkness set in, but he remained committed to hanging on with all of his strength to the anchor of his hope. He later said, "There was definitely a grace from God. I had to fight for every inch of my thoughts". Ten hours later, Ridden was rescued. Tracie Miles, who wrote about this story in her book "Unsinkable Faith", said the real rescue was not outwardly, but inwardly. It had been achieved during the storm when, by grace, Ryden had anchored himself in God and embraced positive thoughts, which helped him stay afloat. She's right, believing and getting your mind right requires you to stay positive in your convictions, even amid your crisis.
The same is true if you want to move forward, so anchor yourself in the hope of Jesus Christ. Cling to the promises of the Bible. Determine by God's grace that you're going to keep your mind buoyant and your soul unsinkable even in the storms. I can't control what's happening out there, but there is a little space I do have some control of, and it's the space in my heart and mind. And the Bible tells me that if I fill my heart and my mind with God's truth, that gives me the greatest advantage to come through whatever stress I'm going through and stay positive with my hands up high. That's my prayer for all of us, that we won't let the storm we're in right now bury us under its debris, but we will stand up in the power of Jesus Christ and say with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".