Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
So the other day it was my day off and I wanted to sleep in. I had an alarm set so I wouldn’t sleep into late but just late enough where I would get extra rest. As I was in deep sleep I was awakened by a bird chirping. My first thought was “I can’t believe that stupid bird woke me up out of a deep sleep.” I tried to go back to bed and even put the pillow over my head. I figured it would give up after a while and I would be able to go back to sleep. But it kept chirping on and on and on. I couldn’t imagine where the bird could have been that would’ve allowed me to hear it so loudly. More chirping. Finally it was so disturbing I decided to get out of bed, open the window and yell for the bird to be quiet. And that’s when it happened.
As I got up to look at the clock I realized the bird chirping was my alarm. I couldn’t believe it. Somehow when I set the alarm the night before I had inadvertently changed the setting from “radio” to “bird noises.” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Ever do anything like that? The very thing that was disturbing me most I had actually caused. I wanted to blame it on some bird but I had to take the blame myself. It was all in the “setting.”
It got me thinking about how this happens in life. There are so many things that bother, challenge us, disturb us and annoy us. And many of those things are outside our control. And though we may not be able to change them, we can change the “settings” in how we respond.
Just like we have a setting on our alarm clock, we have a setting on our attitude and our perspective.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there aren’t real issues out there. I’m with you; there are so many reasons, so many things happening in the world that would allow the average person to have a negative attitude and perspective on life. Maybe you can relate.
- Someone hurt you
- You lost your job
- Your marriage fell apart
- You can’t get a date
- Your kids won’t listen
- Your boss is a jerk
- Your employees don’t care
- It’s too hot
- It’s too cold
- You can’t lose the weight
- You’re too old
- You’re too young
- Your hair is thinning
- You’re failing two classes
- You drive an old car
- A bird woke you up early this morning
And these may be true and can be very painful. So I’m to discounting that or dismissing the reality. What I am suggesting for all of is that we weigh them in light of eternity and see if God help us change our “settings” in how we process them in the here and now.
The writer Paul had a lot to say about perspective and circumstances. I think that’s because he had some of the most severe trials and intense circumstances that required him to adapt and adopt an attitude that enabled him to survive and thrive as a Christ follower. The first is in Philippians chapter 4. This is a letter all about attitude and perspective.
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. -Philippians 4:8
What Paul is saying here is, in spite of everything else that’s going on around us, we can change our attitude by our settings. He says to “think” or another way of saying it is, “set your mind” on certain things. It’s easy to dwell on the negative and get frustrated over things that are outside of our control. But one of the keys to a life of joy is choosing to think about the things that are good. There are some good things in the world. There are some good things in your life. Think about them. But not a fleeting thought. What we are encouraged to do is to dwell on them, to meditate upon them, even to recite them so that God can use them to bring you a sense of peace.
And remember this guy Paul wasn’t writing this letter from a penthouse in New York City. He was coaching his 1st century readers and those of us in the 21st, to stay positive, while he was serving time in a Roman prison for preaching Christ. So let’s be careful before we say, “He doesn’t get what I’m going through.”
Want a good idea when you feel yourself dwelling on the negative? Try this:
- Think about everything in your life that has some good to it.
- Write them down.
- Thank God for them.
- Put the list away.
- Repeat weekly.
Do this for 30 days and I guarantee you, you’ll be amazed at how many good things, how many positive things you actually have in your life.
Paul wrote to another church and asked them to “change their settings.” To the church at Colossae, these words rung true:
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. – Colossians 3:2
There it is again. Change your “settings.” The default setting for our mind is on things in culture, things in the world around us. Everything that comes our way is designed to get us to focus on all kinds of things that would distract us from God, his purposes and his kingdom. Take this in day in and out and it will change your mind and as Paul said to the Romans, “squeeze you into the world’s mold.”
So we have to change the “setting of our mind.” When we set our minds on things above, that means we are thinking about the things that matter to God and his kingdom. If were tired of being worn down by the pressures of our culture, the attitudes of the world and the grinding of a system designed to take our minds off of God, then we have to do something about that. Before it gets weird, were not called to escape or to withdraw or to live in some kind of Christian commune. No, No, no. We’re called to live in the world and engage our culture but with a different setting.
When our minds are “set on things above” we care about people, we serve others, we invest in God’s kingdom, we love our neighbors, we become people who give our lives away for the sake of others. People who live like this, quite honestly don’t have a lot of time to think about the negative, what they don’t have, or how to get ahead of the next guy. Those are “earthly things” and are not worthy of the space they will occupy in our brains. We are made for more.
So the next time you hear a “bird chirping,” see something that causes you to fume or encounter that really annoying person, don’t be drawn in. Simply change your settings.