Robert Jeffress - Attitude Is Everything
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Romans 8:28 is one of the most popular, but misunderstood verses in the New Testament. Perhaps you know it by heart. "God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose". Well you and I both know we don't get to pick and choose our circumstances. But we can choose our response to those circumstances. My message today is titled "Attitude Is Everything," as we begin a brand new series, "Choose Your Attitudes Change Your Life," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
It was November of 1989. My brother, my sister and I were in the waiting room of Presbyterian hospital, awaiting the surgeon's report. My father had been feeling ill, for a couple of months. They couldn't find out what the problem was, so they said let's do exploratory surgery. The surgeon came back, after the operation, and he said, "Your father has pancreatic cancer. And it has spread all throughout his body. There's really nothing we can do, except to try to make him as comfortable as possible". And so we asked that inevitable question, that every doctor hates to try to answer. And the question was, "How long does he have, doctor"? The surgeon said, "Well, it could be a matter of weeks, or months, perhaps even a year". But then he added, "His attitude is everything".
I thought that was so astonishing, that with all the medical technologies available, the physician was saying the single greatest determining factor in how long he would live, was something that was immeasurable but very real, his attitude. I immediately thought of the comment by William James, whom many consider to the be father of modern psychiatry. William James said, "Perhaps the greatest discovery of the century is if you can change your attitude, you can change your life". You know, a changed life is the bottom line of all Christianity, isn't it? Christianity is about change. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things have passed away, behold, new things have come. What do you mean, pastor, by a changed life? Well theologians remind us that in the Bible, there are three different changes that happen to every Christian.
First of all, there is a positional change. The moment you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, your position before God changes. You are no longer an enemy of God, you become a child of God. Romans 4:5, but to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. That is the positional change that happens the moment you trust in Christ. Secondly, there is a permanent change that awaits every Christian. That is something in the future. The theological term for that is glorification. Paul describes it this way, now I say this, brethren, 1 Corinthians 15:50-52, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Nor does perishable inherit the perishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
Now that is the permanent change that still awaits us, glorification. But there is a third kind of change, that if you're a Christian, is happening right now. It is what I call a progressive change. Now think about this, our positional change was instantaneous, the moment we trusted in Christ. Our permanent change is instantaneous, in the twinkling of an eye. But there is a progressive change, that happens over a period of time, and that is as we become more and more like Jesus Christ. As soon as you trust in Christ, God puts his Holy Spirit in your life. And his Holy Spirit works in partnership with you, to become more like Jesus. For whom God foreknew, he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son might be just the first born among many brethren.
Romans 8:28 says, and we know that God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love him, and are called according to his purpose. All things, all circumstances in your life, are working together for one purpose. Verse 29, to make you like Jesus Christ. That's what he is saying. Every circumstance, he's not saying everything that happens to you is good. Everything that happens to you and me is not good, even if we're a Christian, there are horrible things that happen to Christians, how many of you know that? You've seen that, there are terrible things that happen to Christians, all things are not good. But, God is working all things, even those worse things, together for good. And the good is not your immediate happiness, a fulfilled marriage, a full bank account.
That's not what all things are working together for. They are working together to conform you into the image of Christ. And it depends upon how we respond to these circumstances in our life, as to whether or not we experience that progressive change God is creating in us. You see, the fact is we can't choose our circumstances, for the most part, can we? The title of this series is not "Choose Your Circumstances". In many ways, we can't change our circumstances. But we can choose our response to life's circumstances. We can either allow life's difficult circumstances to strengthen us, or to destroy us, it's our choice. And that brings me to the definition of an attitude. An attitude is our mental and emotional response to the circumstances of life. Our attitude is our mental and our emotional response to the circumstances of life.
Remember William James' comment, "If you can change your attitude, you can change your life". We don't choose, we don't even change our circumstances, but we choose our responses to those circumstances. You know, as I look at the Bible, coupled with my own experiences of pastor, I believe there are 11 essential attitude choices that we have to make, if we're going to become like Jesus Christ. And if we are going to experience that abundant life Jesus promised us. I want to mention to you 11 of them, very quickly. They're on your outline, you can look at them with me. Number one, I will choose purpose over aimlessness in life. I will choose perseverance over defeat. I will choose faith over worry. I will choose repentance over guilt. I will choose relaxation over stress. I will choose contentment over comparison. I will choose forgiveness over bitterness. I will choose productivity over slothfulness. I will choose humility over pride. I will choose companionship over loneliness. I will choose intimacy with God, over isolation.
That's going to form the outline of these attitude choices we're going to look at, over the next few weeks. You know, if you think that thinking and attitudes are not that important, just look at what the Bible has to say about right attitudes and right thinking. Over and over again, the Bible talks about the importance of our attitude, our mind, our thinking. To neglect the importance of attitude, to ignore the importance of how we think, is to be totally unbiblical.
Now, as we begin this series, I want to close today by sharing with you five key insights about our attitude. I want you to write these down. Principle number one, our attitudes are chosen. People many times choose the attitude that they're going to have. You know, I think about the apostle Paul. He had some terrible difficult circumstances in his life. One of which caused him to write the letter to the Philippian Christians. Here he was imprisoned, awaiting the verdict of his trial, whether he was going to live or die, and yet 19 times in that little letter, he said rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice. Others would have lamented that kind of situation. But he chose the attitude that he was going to have. And in Philippians, later on, he said in Philippians 4:11, not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
You know, that's a key verse. Paul was saying I don't come by this positive attitude naturally. It's not genetic, it's not body chemistry. I had to learn this attitude of contentment. That's why I say in many ways, we choose our attitudes. Now, if you, as a Christian, find yourself in continual depression, that you can't overcome, you ought to go to a Christian psychiatrist, somebody who could check and see if there may be chemical disorders in your body, that could be regulated by chemistry. But for many people, their negative attitude is a direct choice they have made in their life. Our attitudes, in many instances, are chosen. Secondly, our attitudes are influenced by input. Our attitudes are influenced by external input.
What we read, what we watch, what we listen to. Paul talks about the importance of our input, in Philippians 4:8, he says finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. We have to be very careful, because the fact is, listen to this, attitudes are contagious. Our attitudes are shaped by the input we receive.
Number three, our attitudes affect our relationships. Our attitudes affect our relationships. I think every one of us listening to this message would say you know, I would like to have a better relationship with my mate. I wish I had a better relationship with my parents. Or with my children. I sure wish I knew how to get along better with my supervisor, my boss at work. Do you know what the answer to better relationships is, many times, it's a change of attitude. A selfish attitude destroys relationship. But you know what the antidote to a selfish attitude is? It's a change of attitude. Paul said in Philippians 2:4-7, do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interest of others. Have this attitude in yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard his equality with God, a thing to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Our attitudes affect our relationships. They either improve them, or they destroy them.
Number four, our attitudes are both the cause, and the result, of right behavior. Now this is worth the price of the sermon, right here. I want you to listen to this carefully. Our attitudes are both the cause and the result of right behavior. We understand the first part. We understand how we think our attitudes produces right behavior or wrong behavior. Proverbs 23:7, as a person thinks in his heart, so is he. How we think determines how we act. But did you know the corollary of that converse is also true, right actions produce right attitudes. Right actions produce right attitudes.
You know, so many people had that reversed today. They wait to do the right thing, until they feel the right thing. If you depend on your feelings first, you'll almost always get it wrong. If you will start to do the right thing, then you'll start to feel the right thing. Many times, most times, feelings follow actions, instead of producing actions. And that's why he says here, if you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up. The Bible says our attitude is both the cause of, and the result of, right behavior. One more truth, and perhaps it's the most important one, our attitude determines our destiny. Our attitude determines our destiny. Attitudes profoundly impact our life, our death, and our eternal destiny.
Many of you may be familiar with the name of Norman Cousins. He was a celebrated New York journalist. For a period of time, he was editor of the prestigious "Saturday review". In 1964, Norman Cousins developed a very serious crippling connective tissue disease. He went on to write a best selling book about his experience I read many years ago, entitled "Head first: the biology of hope". And in that book, Norman Cousins said, "The most prolific gland in our body is the brain. The most prolific gland in the body is the brain, because it activates both healing secretions, and deadly toxins, dependent upon our attitude". Think about it, your attitude affects how long you live, how soon you die, but perhaps the most convincing argument for right attitudes is your attitude affects your eternal destiny. Remember what we said an attitude was, your mental or emotional response to the circumstances of life.
Now listen to this, every one of us in this room, we all experience different circumstances in our lives, don't we? But there is one circumstance every one of us in this room, every one of us watching on television, there is one circumstance we have in common, and that is sin. We've all been infected with sin. We've all fallen short of the God's plan for our life. truthfully, we didn't choose that circumstance, we were born in sin, the Bible says. But even though we didn't choose that circumstance, we can choose how we respond to our sin, and our failure before God. Some people respond by denying it, I don't believe that. I don't believe what the Bible says, that I am a sinner, deserving eternal death. I don't believe that. Other people respond to that reality with rationalization.
Well, I know I'm not perfect, but I'm better than most people, haven't killed anybody. Don't deal drugs, I'm okay. I may not be perfect, but I'm good enough. If that is your attitude, your response to sin, the Bible says you'll spend eternity separated from God. But here's the attitude that God respects, the attitude of the humble, who respond to their sin, not by denying or rationalizing, but agreeing with God, God, you know you're right, and I'm wrong. I am a sinner, I have fallen short of your plan. And only when we confess our sin, and put our faith in Jesus Christ, in what he did for us, it is that attitude through which we've received forgiveness and eternal life. That's why John said, in 1 John 1:9, if we will what, confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Perhaps William James' comment should be changed just a little bit. Perhaps the greatest discovery of this century is if we can change our attitude, we can change our life, and our eternity.