Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered February 7, 2004 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the King James Version KJV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Think Optimistically

I would like to preach to you this morning about optimism, being positive, being a happy Christian. Now, we have a lot to be sad about, don't we. But we have a lot to be glad about.

There used to be a sign just outside Evansburg, a village west of Edmonton that read: "Welcome to Evansburg, the thriving village with clean air, fresh water, and friendly people. Population -- 600 people -- 29 dogs -- 41 cats" Why there would be any more cats than dogs, I can't imagine. Someone in the little village took the liberty of adding three words to the sign: "And one grouch." The newspaper editor said: "Although all 600 of us may feel incriminated, it is likely the person who added to the sign is the only one who knows the grouch's identity."

You know, in the Bible in Proverbs 15:13. A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. I want to pray for a happy heart. We could go through life being gloomy or being happy. It's our choice. So, we might as well smile.

Unfortunately, in most groups of people, there is one grouch -- one person who is committed to being a constant complainer, one person who always sees the dark side of things. Sometimes there's that in a house. In one house there is one person who is negative. They complain about the government, they complain about most everything. And in churches it's the same way. Every church that I've ever been in has at least one grouch. Do you want to know who it is? One person who carries a ill feeling about the way the board votes or the way the church is going. They don't like the way the General Conference votes things. They just are constantly chafing underneath things. Perhaps we all should ask the question that was asked in Matthew 26:22 (KJV). Lord, is it I?"

A person with happy thoughts will not worry much. They will trust. Calvin Coolidge said: "If you see 10 troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine of them will run into the ditch before they reach you." He was an optimist, wasn't he.

We get alarmed so easily. It is so easy to believe that the negative is going to happen. "We're going to have a blizzard!" If we see one snowflake. But The Devil shoots at us with mostly blank Cartridges. He feeds our fears. No wonder the Bible repeatedly says "Fear Not". We're not supposed to be afraid.

Let's try to think positively. Proverbs 15:15. The first part of that text says, All the days of the oppressed are wretched, A depressed person is a gloomy person who spends a lifetime thinking unhappy thoughts. There is very little joy, very little to be cheerful about. You've known people like that. You might even be one yourself, and not even know it. Just the opposite of this person is in the last part of this verse: but the cheerful heart has a continual feast." Even in bad times the sunny heart is sunny and bright.

You ask somebody, "Well, how's it going?" "Augh" And ask another person in the same circumstances, or worse, "How's it going?" "It's going great!" They've got the flu, they've got a cold. They can't pay their bills. But it's going great. You might as well think that. You can't pay the bills anyway, so be positive.

I think happiness is something that happens inside. It's an inner quality. It's something quite removed from the events that happen to us. It's an attitude of the mind. It can't be purchased. You might go down here to the mall to the "Happiness 'R' Us" store and says, "I'd like to buy a month's supply of happiness," but they don't sell it, do they. There is no such store. Happiness is a gift from God. Ask Him for it, and let it show on your face. Happiness is something you feel while you are washing your car, cleaning your closet or brushing your teeth. It comes from making up your mind to be happy, to focus on the good in life. At any activity try to think positive thoughts. Be happy as often as you can.

I believe in Murphy's Law. It's the law that says "If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.." If you put peanut butter on your bread and cover that with jam, and you accidently drop it, it will land on the floor jelly-side down. Murphy's Law does work! Many times in my life Murphy's Law has kicked in. But if I focus on it all the time, Murphy's Law might dominate my attitude. Real things are out there, and bad things are everywhere. They happen to everybody. Life is sort of like a grindstone. But whether the events of life grind us down or polish us up depends on what you are made out of. So, get Jesus in your heart and try to look on the bright side of things. As you face the grindstones of life, you will be polished, you will shine. What a difference it will make in your life.

A verse in Proverbs talks about two kinds of people. One has dry bones. Proverbs 17:22. A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. When we smile we utilize a virtual drug store filled with good medicines. When you smile, it's just like good medicine. You're doing something to yourself. Even if nobody watches you, nobody sees it, nobody believes it, if you smile it's changing you. And, you can do that. When we frown we sow doubt that interacts like a bad medicine upon our whole being, and on our wife and kids, and makes us want to kick the dog, and get the cat's tail in the door.

Galatians 3:11 says,...the righteous will live by faith. I think we could add to the: "but the wicked shall die by doubt!" Let's have a positive attitude.

The optimist says, "My glass is half full." The pessimist says, "My glass is half empty." The optimist says, "That fireplace is so warm and so beautiful." The Pessimist says, "What a smoky thing: all those fumes and everything. I hate that thing. It is a source of smoke and ashes. A Pessimist often says: "I told you so! Didn't I say that would happen. Now look at what happened to you all because you would not listen to me." A pessimist sees the downside of things. They are sea sick during the entire voyage of their miserable life. The only thing that will make them happy is they can say, "I told you this bad thing was going to happen, and it did." That makes them happy. One of their chief joys is taking the credit for the bad things that happen in life.

There is a place for pessimism. We need pessimists I guess. The Bible has hundreds of dismal gloomy doomy verses about the future of sin and sinners. "If you don't give up your idols, I'm going to allow the people to come in and destroy you." There are hundreds of verses like that in the Bible. It's true: the future of sinners is gloomy. I am pessimistic about the future in the short run but I am optimistic about the future in the long run. It will get worse before it gets better. Soon Heaven is coming and the new earth. Eventually the wars and rumors of wars will cease and we will have a wonderful future. We can all be totally optimistic about that.

Are pessimists any good? Yes. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist invents the parachute. That's a good thing. A good business manager hires optimists as salesmen and pessimists to work in the credit department. They're good! But if you are continually melancholy about life you've hurt yourself because for you to go through life focusing on the negative adds to the power of the negative. A negative attitude is a lifelong handicap.

My wife and I visited Europe several years ago and we went to Dachau, Germany. Have you ever heard of that concentration camp? As we went through there it was very sobering. I read what Viktor Frankl said: "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."

You can choose your attitude. You can have a positive attitude about life, or a negative attitude. It depends on you. The Saints have an amazing quality: Revelation 13:10 KJV says, ...Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. They have Jesus and they have patience. Saints tend to have more faith, faith in Jesus, faith in life. Faith in people.

I was pastoring up in Michigan and I had a physician in my church. He said to me, "Pastor, never have faith in people. They will always let you down." I thought, I don't believe in that. I will tell you today, that doctor is out of the church. He's not in the church anymore. WE have to believe in people. We have to have faith. People may disappoint us; that's their problem.

Our God is an optimist. Look at Jeremiah 29:11 KJV. It says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you," saith the Lord, "thoughts of peace, and not of evil." God is thinking about you. He really is. You are in God's thoughts. What is God thinking about you? This verse tells you what God thinks about you. They are thought, not of evil, but of peace. He is thinking about the good things in your life. You might say, "That's so nice." Well, He is a positive thinker about His children. You and I have good things in our life and bad things.

What If God were a pessimist. What if God only thought about the bad things in your life? Would there be any thing to think about? Practically everything because we all make mistakes. There would certainly be plenty to see. We are all bad. Romans 3:23 says, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But the amazing thing is that God does not choose to focus on the negative things in our lives. If He did we'd all be lost. He chooses to see the good in us and not dwell on the evil. God is optimistic about us! He says, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you. They're thoughts of peace, not of evil." If we ask, God will forgive and forget our sins.

God can do something with our sins the you can't do. Micah 7:19 KJV says, He will ...cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Our sins are buried. They're gone. They are out of His sight. They're out of His mind. He doesn't focus on our sins. If we ask Him to forgive them, they're gon. They're completely removed. Only the good remains. "His every purpose is for our highest good." - Education, p. 21 by E G White.

We need to pray for that same positive attitude that God has as we look at life or as we look at others. You need a positive attitude. God has one, and I want that attitude that He has. 1 Peter 4:1. Arm yourselves also with the same attitude. We ought to strive for the same attitude that God has. Pray for His attitude.

Psalm 4:6 says, Let the light of Your face shine upon us, O Lord. God's face is not dark and dreary. God's face is not gloomy. It is bright and cherry. God's face is a happy face. When his face is directed at us it shines upon us. God's face is not depressing or pessimistic or dismal. Neither should ours be. We should pray for the same attitude He has. You ought to be able to tell a Christian by the way the corners of the mouth go. Our face ought to shine.

We should have a happy face. Back in Job's time his civic leadership was appreciated by people who came by to see him. Job could say in Job 29:24, The light of my face was precious to them. Job had a bright face. Now, Job was persecuted by the devil, but he overcame it and was rewarded. We should try to be like Job. His face showed an attitude of happiness. Light emitted from his face. Is there light shining from your face, or is your face a dark hole, a black hole? Do you brighten the day for those around you like Job did?

Prov 15:30. A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. Not somebody else's heart but your heart. Do you realize there must be some connection between your face and your heart? If you constantly have a joyful face, it will bring joy to your heart.

I was walking along the sidewalk in Gettysburg, PA and saw a cute sign in a shop: "If you can't come in, at least smile as you walk by." They claim it takes 14 muscles to smile but a whopping 73 muscles to frown. No wonder grouchy folk always look tired all the time. They're using a lot more muscles.

EG White says in Mind, Character and Personality, p. 662.1. "Avoid negative thinking. It is the duty of everyone who professes to be a Christian to keep his thoughts under control ... and oblige himself to be cheerful and happy. However bitter may be the cause of his grief, he should cultivate a spirit of rest and quietude in God... However dark his prospects, let him cherish a spirit of hope for the good. While nothing is gained by despondency, much is lost... Sadness and talking of disagreeable things is encouraging the disagreeable scenes, bringing back upon oneself the disagreeable effect. God wants us to forget all these--not look down but up, up!" The up-look is the bright look.

Gloomy thoughts are like clots in the arteries that lead to your heart. If you have to take a detour in life, at least attempt to enjoy the scenery on the detour. It's a route you haven't gone before. Because you are going to find that the road to happiness is full of detours, it's always under construction. You might know there are detours there.

You are what you think. I read that there are two kinds of birds that fly over the western desert. The big vulture and the little hummingbird. All the vulture can see down below is rotting meat because that is all he is looking for. But the hummingbird flies over that same desert and probably doesn't even see the dead animals because he is not looking for the rotting meat. The humming bird is looking for the brilliant flowers of the cacti. He flies around until he finds the flowers scattered here and there, sipping the nectar from the colorful blooms of the cacti. Each bird finds what it is looking for.

If you go through life looking for the negative, will you find it? Of course you will. If you go through life looking for the positive, will you find that? Certainly! So it depends on what you're looking for. The desert contains both rotting carcases and blooming flowers. Life is full of negatives and positives and you're going to find what you are looking for.

Look on the back of today's announcement sheet. I hope you have read it already. What did you think? A bad person? A good person?

(Here is the text as it is shown in the bulletin:) MANY IN OUR CHURCH ARE LIKE THIS MAN.

He is a young man yet experienced in vice and wickedness he is never found in opposing the works of iniquity he takes delight in the downfall of his neighbors he never rejoices in the prosperity of his fellow creatures he is always ready to assist in destroying the peace of society he takes no pleasure in serving the Lord he is uncommonly diligent in sowing discord among his friends he takes no pride in laboring to promote the cause of Christianity he has not been negligent in building up Satan's kingdom he lends no aid to the support of the gospel among heathen he contributes largely to the devil he will never go to heaven he must go where he will receive his just reward.

Elder Gettys reads it like this:

Is that the way you read it? Honestly? Did you read it the other way? It depends on which way you're coming at it, doesn't it? You can read this negatively or positively if you go back and read it again. Everybody in our church is like that. Either negative or positive;. Let's focus on being the positive.

Life is just how you look at it isn't it? Let's try to avoid thinking ill the first time we hear something about somebody. Give them the benefit of the doubt. One day I heard someone spreading some gossip and the listener said, "I Believe it!" Why can't we believe the positive? Why are we so quick to believe the negative? We shouldn't be. Humans are so quick to suspect the worst in a given situation. Let's believe the best about people. In America everybody should be judged innocent until proven guilty.

Paul said that Christians ought to think good thoughts. Come over here to Philippians in your Bible. Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Train your mind to think about the good side of life. Focus on the positive. The negative is there, true, but you don't have to dwell on it, but choose to concentrate on the positive.

Cheerfulness is like potato salad, when you share it with others you've got a picnic. A positive attitude is like blackberry jam--you can't spread it without getting some on yourself.

Gather several things in a pile: Some wax, some cheese, some sand, some clay and some wood shavings. Throw them all into the fire. See what happens to each one. The wax melts, the cheese fries, the sand dries up, the clay gets hard as a brick, the wood shavings blaze. Depending on what is in us one person is made better and another destroyed by identical influences. Only Jesus' presence can make your hard heart soft and pliable. You can approach the same identical problems in life that somebody else faces. And you can react differently to it than they do because of what's in your heart.

When Pharaoh of Egypt had all those plagues, he grumbled, griped and became stubborn. He was made out of clay and became a brick and was buried under the water in the sea. Job, on the other hand, did not grumble but succumbed with a soft heart to the will of God. Job remained faithful. What was the difference? Their heart! Pray for a heart like God

There was a student at college who walked on crutches. He was badly crippled. Yet he remained friendly and he remained optimistic. He walked around the campus on his crutches. He was terribly crippled with a smile on his face. One day a new student asked: "What made you so incapacitated?" "Infantile paralysis" "How can you be so happy?" "Oh," said the polio victim, "The disease never touched my heart".

Emerson said, "A man is what he thinks about all day long." God says in Proverbs 23:7 KJV, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.

Let's focus our thoughts on Jesus.

Hymn of Praise: #34, Wake the Song
Scripture: Proverbs 15:13-15
Hymn of Response: #335, What a Wonderful Savior

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