Today I offer a sample of my recently published book. After the first 2 chapters, I insert what I call an “intermission” in the book. In this 3-page interval, I attempt to clarify concerns that could be growing in the reader’s mind. I also hope it will encourage them to keep reading. Statistics show that many people begin but never finish books. Therefore I made various efforts with my book’s format that I hope will increase the reader’s likelihood of completing it. Without further ado, here is the book intermission for you to read…
Positively Powerless, How a Forgotten Movement Undermined Christianity
WestBow Press, 2016. Pages 31-33.
We Interrupt This Book For an Intermission
Are you worried this book is just going to be negative about being positive? Can we ever be positive or encourage others? Doesn’t the Bible teach that our thought life is important? This brief “intermission” will clarify potential concerns or misunderstandings before the book continues…
As touched on in the previous chapter, the alternative to positive thinking is not negative thinking! Instead of wearing rose-colored glasses or black-colored glasses, we need to wear clear glasses. As Christians, we need optimism about the future which is tempered by the reality of the doctrine of original sin. That is the ultimate point that should become clear by the end of the book.
There is also no argument that our thought life is important and does affect us. In Philippians 4:8, we are encouraged as believers to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable,excellent, and praiseworthy. Regarding what is true, our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed himself to be the truth. His sacrificial life, death, and resurrection should be a major focus of our thoughts. Indeed, Colossians 3:1-2 says to fix our hearts and minds on Jesus and on things above—not on earthly things. The Bible also encourages us to meditate upon God’s laws and commandments (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119) which are personified in the life of Christ. Is our thought life Christ-focused and Christ-honoring? Paul urges us to take our thoughts captive in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Certainly we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). What we think about can put us on the right or wrong path in life, so in this aspect, our thoughts can affect our future.
These things, however, are distinctly different from what positive thinking espouses. Christianity cannot be built around an optimistic motivational philosophy because the two belief systems are at odds with each other. One begins with God, and the other begins with self. In contrast to fixing our thoughts on Jesus, positive thinking turns us inward. It’s about us, our goals or desires, and affirming ourselves. It is an anti-gospel of self-absorption. I hardly think that Philippians 4:8’s encouragement to think about things that are lovely and excellent is inferring that we should be thinking of ourselves as lovely and excellent!
As believers, we may have admirable goals to serve God, but the positive thinking paradigm puts a narcissistic spin on it. It ends up about us doing great things for God, rather than about God doing great things through us. Don’t miss the subtle but significant difference there. In Colossians 1:9-14, you can read a powerful prayer by Paul for the Colossian Christians. If you observantly read the passage, what really stands out is the focus on God. Although Paul is praying for people, it is God’s knowledge and power that is paramount. It is not about the Colossian’s capabilities, minds, or their ability to do great things for God. Rather, Paul prays that God will fill them—and out of that fullness from God—the Colossians would bear God’s fruit in their lives.
True power is found in a Christ-centered life. I appreciate how The Message words 1 Corinthians 10:11-12, “Don’t be so naive and self-confident…You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” Our goal should not be self-confidence, but confidence in Christ and what Christ can do in our life.
Be sure not to miss that it is the power of positive thinking. To some extent, either ambiguously or explicitly, the confidence is placed in the thinking. The object of our faith can cease to be God. Our thoughts are in essence elevated to a god-like status with the capability of yielding power or bringing change. Additionally, let us not forget that as sinful human beings our thoughts can deceive us. Our faith should not be in the power of our thoughts but in the power of God. Ephesians 3:20-21 states: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (emphasis added). Power in the Scripture is linked with God, the gospel, or Jesus Christ: Romans 1:16; 2 Peter 1:2-3; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 24; 2 Corinthians 4:7.
Finally, critiquing positive thinking does not suggest that we should not encourage others. We simply need to consider how we are doing it. Are we puffing people up or anchoring them in Christ? The prayer in Colossians 1:9-14 is an ideal example of a God-centered way to encourage each other through prayer. The verses preceding it (verses 3-8) provide another illustration. Paul lets the Colossians know that he heard good things about them. They had faith in Christ and a love for other people. We should not hesitate to point out the good in others or let them know when we have heard a good report. However, Paul does not let them lose sight of Jesus. He states that their faith and love is evidence that the gospel is bearing fruit in their lives and that they truly understood God’s grace. Everything flows from what God did for them through our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to offer Christ-centered encouragement instead of self-centered encouragement. With those clarifications, let’s continue with this book.