How Kingdom minded are you, really? How much are any of us? How mindful of God and His will are you? Whose desires are at the forefront of your mind? Can you lay down your life for another? The way you live may actually answer these questions set before you -set before all of us.
Romans 14:19Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
The Bible has much to say about loving and edifying one another; and yet, there are divisions throughout the Church. That’s not a new subject matter. Consider this: the more self-centered we become, the more division there will be! How much has the quest for happiness infected our walks with selfishness? Can we truly bear one another’s burdens, or are we too focused on our own to care about anyone else? Can you do something for another without the need for reciprocity? These questions are not meant to accuse or indict anyone; rather, they are asked to help us become self-aware. Without self-awareness, it would be possible to go our own merry way and miss the will of God and all the blessings that come with obedience. And that leads to another question: which is more important to you, the will of God or the blessings?
Some are miserable at their jobs. One might say, it’s because they’re not doing what they’re called to do or want to do. That might be true, but there’s more. Many hate their jobs because they’re working for money. They’ve become slaves to it, and are basically trading time for it. In some cases, their priorities are so misguided, they’ve put themselves in debt and see no way out. They must work! Others are so focused on wealth accumulation, they’ve lost sight of its purpose. For instance, “I need money for my retirement.” So, you’re working for money in order to do nothing for the remainder of your life? How biblical is that? Can you find the word retirement in the Bible? Sure, there comes a time to separate from your place of employment or business, but what comes after that? “I just want to enjoy my retirement.” What does that mean? Are you in touch with God’s purposes for you? Leisure can be a very good thing; unless, it’s the only thing. What does God want for you? There is nothing more fulfilling than accomplishing His desires.
Getting back to the workplace. Regardless of whether it’s temporary or permanent, until you add value, it will never be as fulfilling as it could be. Adding value takes you out of the rat race. By looking to improve the lives of others while you’re there, you’ll find fulfillment takes on a whole new dimension. It’s one of the purposes God has for you -blessing others. Of course, places of employment or business are ripe harvest fields. See what happens when you make a decision to love your co-workers or employees well and serve them for their benefit. You can say you’re a Christian or disciple of Jesus Christ all you want, but it won’t be your words that convince others. Of course, what you say matters in terms of what’s in your heart and how it affects them. Ephesians 4:29Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Doing all things as unto the Lord will make an impact in their lives, even when it’s not obvious.
To be clear, the questions and principles laid out here, are not restricted to our place of employment or business. It’s about adding value everywhere we may find ourselves. How we interact with others in our neighborhoods, grocery stores and so on, matters. Being purposeful leads to fulfillment.
Colossians 3:23-24And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
A critical spirit will never make positive changes. At best, it will help maintain the status quo; but more often than not, it moves the needle in the wrong direction. This attitude holds people back from positive influence, both in the giving and receiving. Worse still, it stymies the Word of God in their life. It’s a real deal breaker when it comes to changing your life.
Having a critical spirit is learned; it is not innate. Though you’re not born with it, it’s easy to acquire it over time. Sometimes it’s simply passed on from one generation to the next. Other times, it comes from the negative impact of life experiences that completely accosted the sensibilities. One major entry point is where someone close breaks your trust on a major scale, or through numerous apparent inconsequential events that add up over time. Everyone is born with an open heart, but it doesn’t necessarily stay open. People and adverse conditions are culpable in closing it tighter than a drum.
Whether you have a critical spirit is ultimately up to you. No one is forced to obtain one, nor are they mandated to keep it once they have it. You have the power to decide, especially if you’re a disciple of Jesus Christ. Believers have one huge advantage over non-believers: grace! Hebrews 4:16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. God’s grace empowers you to forgive and let go. It enables you to change your attitude. As a matter of fact, by virtue of becoming a disciple, your attitude should have changed by and large at conversion. In simple terms, your old nature was crucified with Christ (see Romans 6:1-23; Galatians 2:20). As Paul put it: “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). By His grace, you have the power to forgive others and even yourself for wrongs suffered. Forgiveness is a major weapon in your arsenal. It alone can kill the critical spirit. But again, you decide!
This brings us full circle. Each day you decide whether you’re going to approach the day with a critical spirit or not. Much of our attitude is predisposed on how we prepare our hearts for the day. If you choose to be critical going into it, you will find yourself critical of everyone and everything. Similarly, the way your week starts is often set up on Sunday. How would you like to be Monday, and everyone makes you their enemy? How many set themselves up for a lousy start? “I hate Mondays!” “Work is going to stink!” What would happen if they took a different approach: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). If each day is important to God, shouldn’t each one be important to us? Every day presents new opportunities, even on the workdays when “it’s the same old stuff, just a different day.” Every day we have opportunity to be a blessing, to be gracious and extend mercy to others. We can positively impact individual lives if we take the correct posture.
Finally, renewing the mind is a game-changer when it comes to staying positive. One reason people become critical is self-preservation. Our brains contain the mechanisms to protect us from harm. When people get hurt, that hurt leaves an imprint in them, which affects the mind and emotions. In turn, the emotions work against them. However, by taking on the mind of Christ, our thinking can take on a whole new dimension. We can look beyond someone’s behavior and see what’s behind it. By Holy Spirit, we can properly discern the situation without constantly looking over our shoulders and viewing people with suspicion. The Lord’s discernment, can protect you from others without you despising them for their bad behavior or attitude. In fact, as you see through the veneer, you may find yourself filled with compassion instead. Why? Hurting people often resort to hurting people. They need forgiveness and healing. They need Jesus! Will you be Jesus to them?
One element which probably doesn’t come to mind in terms of change is being content. It’s important because it helps you stay centered. If you are not content, you will have a rough time being mindful or present in the moment. If you’re not content in the moment, your mind will be elsewhere. If you feel you should be somewhere else, other than where you presently are, you’ll find discontentment knocking at your door along with its friend anxiety. Contentment is not the same thing as complacency. Complacent people are not mindful; they’re indifferent. Content people are able to focus in the moment and while embracing it, still have an eye for the future. Being mindful in the present actually makes for a better future. What you think, say and do now effects your tomorrow. Being discontent may actually impede your best future. Moreover, it removes you from gratitude.
Gratitude makes it easier to transition into change. Scripture clearly implores us to be thankful while warning us against murmuring and complaining. These two knuckleheads resist God and refuse His blessings. Being thankful connects us to praise and a life of worship. Should you ever find praise and gratitude difficult, because of circumstances, remember it is an honor to offer thanksgiving and praise. We could never love God, praise and worship Him, without His revealing Himself to us first. Clearly, we wouldn’t be alive without Him in the first place. Praise vacates discontentment, murmuring and the like. No praise, no change!
1 Timothy 6:6But godliness with contentment is great gain.
Psalms 100:1-4Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.
Colossians 3:15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Some habits aren’t obvious they are habits. We aren’t consciously aware that’s what we we’ve been dealing with, but there they come strolling in, seeking to influence our life as a whole. They’re default mindsets that surface under certain circumstances or trigger points. “I don’t know why I resort to doing that!” These are habits we don’t experience on a regular basis. In some cases, they’re the ones that set people back because they’re attached to core emotions or beliefs. When things are going smoothly and all seems well, too well maybe, how many of us start looking for the other shoe to drop? “This is not normal!” The reason it’s not so obvious is you’re dealing with habits not experienced on a daily basis; and yet, someone else might say, “He has a habit of doing that when things start going well.” In this case, the habit is self-sabotage.
We’re all accustomed to a certain status quo, and our subconscious goes to work to maintain it. Until challenged, it will continue the maintenance cycle. It has to be told to reset itself, and this is where confession comes to play. Proverbs 18:21Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. As long as an individual says something to the effect, “This always happens,” or perhaps, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” things will continue as “normal.” Some may notice a certain apprehension when things are going “too well.” That’s a trigger, which signals the subconscious to go to work to keep things from changing. And that means one thing: if you want change to happen, you need to be intentional. Emotions have to be kept at bay so they don’t highjack the process. For some, change can be scary, even if it’s for the better. This is where submission comes to play. Peace is a component of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). Submitting to Holy Spirit allows peace to rule in your heart. Confessing the Word of God brings change, which starts on a spiritual level. John 6:63It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. The words you speak programs the subconscious. The Word of life changes the atmosphere, while it also changes subconscious programming. Injecting what God has to say changes everything! Changing mindsets is paramount to changing habits.
Even relationships are connected to habits. We tend to treat certain people certain ways, especially when they’re longstanding relationships -good or bad. That generally means mere acquaintances tend to be exempt; unless, they remind us of someone else. If you’re used to a cordial relationship, you’ll treat someone cordially. If it’s close or intimate, you’ll tend to be more tender. Hostile ones with hostility and so on. If you want your behavior to change towards others, change your thoughts about them. If you want a better relationship, decide to love them well. Be mindful about your thoughts, intents, words and deeds toward them. Love is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Yep, submission plays a role in your relationships with others.
If you want to change the status quo in any area of life, you will need to exercise the principles of renewing your mind; but it must be centered on a legitimate principle-based decision. Emotional decisions do not carry enough weight to hold the course steady. Emotions must be guided by spiritual principles; not the other way around. As it’s been said, “Emotions are great servants, but they’re terrible masters.” More than likely, you’ll never always “feel like it,” if you use your emotions as your guide.
Allow Holy Spirit to help you evaluate your life and habits. Grant Him permission to show you what’s in your heart and what needs changing. Trust Him, even when it’s uncomfortable -especially if it’s uncomfortable!