Instinctively Going Positive

I went for a bike ride today on a local trail, I was a few miles from home when I saw a guy who had pulled off the trail and dismounted his bike.  That’s common operating procedure.  I often do it myself to answer a call or text, take pictures, or to just get a drink and stretch.  As I got closer, I could see that this guy had a different reason.  He had apparently pulled off the trail for a smoke break.  At least that is what he was doing.

(Photo is not the guy I saw. It’s a stock photo of a 1920 Tour de France rider.)

My instinct kicked in and I was immediately critical.  Doesn’t he see the irony?  Smoking is so counterproductive to cycling?  How could he be so stupid?  (I confess. Yes, that harsh question entered my mind.)  When I got home, I actually started composing a critical post about it to a Facebook cycling group I frequent. 

Then it happened:  Good old-fashioned spiritual conviction!  It was like God was asking me, “Why was your first thought, ‘That’s terrible that cyclist is smoking?’  Shouldn’t it have been, ‘It’s awesome that that smoker is out riding his bike!’”   Then, in keeping with Jesus’ words about the splinter and the plank in the eyes, God pointed out me that the smoker could have been justifiably thinking, “That cyclist ought to lose weight.” (Though he should have been thinking, “It’s great that that overweight guy is out cycling!”)

I fear this example is not the exception but the rule. It is indicative of our world’s default bent toward instinctively going negative instead of instinctively going positive.  Doing so is just all too common. In me, I discovered. Perhaps in you?   It is just all too easy to be critical rather than affirming.  Criticism rather than approval or affirmation is standard operating procedure for this world.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)”   In another place, Philippians 4:8, he wrote, “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.”

I brought those two passages together because they fit together well.  Living out the Philippians passage is only possible via practicing the Romans passage.  In other words, thinking (noticing and focusing on) the positive, excellent, praiseworthy things isn’t natural.  It is only possible through the renewing of the mind.  But how do we renew our minds?  Ultimately we can’t.  God does it in us when we ask him and when we let him.  Notice that right before the instruction to not conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, Paul instructed us to give ourselves fully (be a “living sacrifice”) to God.  When we do that, God works in us and with us to transform us and to renew our minds.  It is through a renewed mind, that our instinct shifts to going positive rather than negative.

It doesn’t happen all at once.  It takes time as we grow toward Christian maturity.   Be patient, but not too patient.  That is, you shouldn’t feel defeated when you discover your shortcoming but neither should you complacently accept the status quo.  You should be improving all the time.  So when you find yourself falling short—like if God questions you about criticizing a cyclist for smoking rather than praising a smoker for cycling—pray about it and ask God to transform you and to renew your mind. Resolve, with God’s help, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy!

Leave a Reply