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Not Our Circumstances

Rod & Sue Denton

By Rod Denton, Equipping The Next Generation

Your attitude quotient (AQ) is more important than your intelligence quotient (IQ)

With the passing of time and the study of great leaders, I have come to understand that there is no greater lesson to learn than this; It is my attitude that will determine my life, not the circumstances that I face in my life. For I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can choose my attitude to my circumstances.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was in jail and ready to die, but there is no more joyful book in the Bible. In four short chapters he mentions the word “joy” 16 times. At the beginning of this letter, I read the following words in my NIV Study Bible:

“The word happiness evokes visions of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, strolling hand in hand with the one you love, being surprised on your birthday or holidaying in an exotic location. Everyone wants to be happy, we make chasing the elusive ideal a lifelong pursuit: spending money, collecting things, and searching for new experiences. But if happiness depends on our circumstances, what happens when the toys rust, loved ones die, health deteriorates, money is stolen and the party’s over. Often happiness flees and despair sets in. In contrast to happiness stands joy. Running deeper and stronger, joy is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives—that He will be there no matter what. Happiness depends on happenings. But joy depends on Christ.”
— NIV LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE

THE SECRET

Paul provides for us a helpful definition to this issue of attitude that he learned through the many trials he faced along the way.

“……for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” — Philippians 4:11-13

It is interesting that this “secret” that Paul refers to was not learned in a classroom or in good times. Rather Paul and many other heroes of the faith could testify that it was usually learned in times of adversity.

Rick Warren recently said in a message, “How to Lead Your Church in Times of Chronic Chaos”:

“I’ve learned nothing from success in my life. Everything I’ve learned in life, I’ve learned through pain. And that pain involves grief. I am the man that I am today because of what we (Rick and his wife Kaye) have learned about grief, not what we have learned about fame or what we have learned about success.”

(Rick and Kaye’s son Matthew committed suicide in 2013 at the end of a lifetime struggle with mental illness.)

I am reminded of a season in Sue’s and my life when we felt we were holding on by a thread. Our daughter was spending months in hospital, far from well and we were making the round trip to the hospital twice a day as I was endeavouring to pastor a church. On one occasion, a doctor in the hospital called Sue and me into his office and asked us an unusual question:

“Rod and Sue, how come you are still together? For I have found in circumstances like yours, that the parents end up separating from one another.”

And our response was similar to that of Paul in his letter to the Philippians; “We have learned the secret of living in every situation. We can do everything through Christ, who gives us strength.” In other words, it is our attitude that determines our lives, not our circumstances. We cannot choose our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude to our circumstances.

DEVELOPING A HIGH ATTITUDE QUOTIENT (AQ)

Just recently I have been reminded, in my Bible readings, that to live as a Christian in New Testament times required a person to develop a high Attitude Quotient.

James spoke of joy in the time of trials.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” — James 1:2

Peter spoke of rejoicing in times of suffering grief.

“In all this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” — 1 Peter 1:6-7

Paul too, had the attitude that gave him profound perspective in difficult times. “We also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and character hope.” — Romans 5:3-4

It would seem that James, Peter and Paul are saying that God uses adversity to enlarge us and to grow our character, when we confront our trials with the right attitude. They remind us that times of adversity will never leave us the same; they will either make us better or bitter.

So Paul could say from jail that even the experience of jail was of benefit to him for it gave him an unprecedented opportunity to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ to the soldiers who were guarding him. In fact, he could even say if it resulted in him losing his life it would be better by far because he would go to be with his saviour Jesus Christ. He knew that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ, not even death itself.

It is not our circumstances that determine our lives, it is the attitudes that we choose based on the truth of God’s word that determine our lives.
And down through the history of God’s people, we find some very ordinary people whose lives were transformed by this truth.

Corrie Ten Boom was arrested by the Nazi soldiers for giving refuge to Jewish people during the Second World War and was placed in the infamous Ravensbrook concentration camp where 95,000 other women were killed, including her sister Betsy. She remembered Paul was imprisoned for his faith, but like Paul she could say that the same Holy Spirit who pointed Paul to Jesus, did the same for her. And she could say with the same attitude that Paul had,

“I count everything as loss compared with the priceless privilege of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” — Philippians 3:8

On one occasion she was stripped of all her clothes and stood naked before her guards. She said to her sister, “I cannot bear this. This is so terrible.” But suddenly she had a vision of Jesus on the cross, stripped of all His clothes, hanging there for her. And she concluded, “By my suffering I could understand a fraction of the suffering of Jesus, and it made me so thankful, so happy, that I could bear my suffering.” What an attitude!

WE CAN CONTROL OUR ATTITUDES

Can there be any greater lesson for us to learn in these uncertain and difficult times in which we live? It is our attitude that determines our life and not our circumstances. We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our attitudes.

To summarise, I make these 4 points.

1. Our attitude determines our life.

I once read that a first-class attitude and a second-class brain will always defeat a first-class brain and a second-class attitude.

2. We choose our attitudes.

Consequently, we need to choose wisely on which foundation we will build our lives, for each of us is building our lives on a foundation we have either knowingly or unknowingly decided upon.

3. Our choices of attitude have consequences.

Like any house, the house is only as strong as the foundations on which it is built. Time and again we look around and see people building their lives on a foundation of their choice, only to see them suffer untold damage and live with regret because of the consequences that they experienced.

4. Build your life on an unshakable foundation.

Build your life on a foundation that can stand the tests of not only time but eternity. Paul speaking from experience in his first letter to the Corinthians testifies:

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid which is Christ Jesus. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their works will be shown for what it is because the day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” — 1 Corinthians 3:11-13

Paul would say to us that there is only one unshakeable foundation on which to build our lives in these uncertain times; and that is the person of Jesus Christ. Even a “thorn in the flesh”, some debilitating ailment, could not compromise his attitude, even though he pleaded with the Lord to take it away from him. God said to Paul that “His grace was sufficient for him for His power was made perfect in weakness.” And what was Paul’s response?

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” — 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

What an attitude!

Paul had learned the secret; our attitude determines our life, not our circumstances. Have you learned the secret? Are you building your life on an unshakeable foundation?

MY AQ CHECK-UP

  1. Describe the foundation upon which you are building your life?
  2. On what or who are you basing your needs for security and significance? This could be the most significant question that you will ever have to answer.
  3. How confident are you that the foundation on which you are building your life will stand the test of time and eternity?
  4. Paul said to the Philippian church, “You must have the same ATTITUDE that Christ Jesus had.” Read Philippians 2:5-11 and write down what it was that Paul learned from Christ Jesus and His attitude to life.
  5. What steps do you need to take to ensure that the foundation on which you are choosing to build your life will be unshakeable and secure both for time and eternity?

 

This article is reposted with permission and was originally published on January 03, 2022 here: https://roddentoneng.com.au/our-attitude-determines-our-life-not-our-circumstances/

_________________

rod dentonABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rod Denton has served as a pastor and as a teacher in the development of emerging leaders in Australia and 9 different countries across Asia with Asian Access. He now serves as a consultant for Rod Denton Equipping The Next Generation. Rod also serves part-time as the Mission's Resource Consultant with the Salvation Army.

emailemail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
LinkedInLinkedIn: roddenton686855b
wordpressblog: roddentoneng.com.au

 

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