Is there a “power” in positive thinking?

It’s been a few decades or so now, but there was a time when the “hottest ticket in town” were events where a cadre of motivational speakers challenged their audiences embrace the “power of positive thinking.” Zig Zeigler, Og Mandino, and the “godfather” of the movement, Norman Vincent Peale, peddled their books, audio tapes, and seminars designed to teach people how positive thinking can bring success in their careers, relationships, and improve the quality of their lives. The generation of motivational thinkers that followed them, many of whom came from the ranks of mega-church pastors, begin “connecting the dots” between a happy, successful life, and positive “spiritual thinking.” But, is it biblical to believe that merely a “tune-up” of attitude from negative to positive can actually have eternal significance?

We learn from the wisdom literature of the Old Testament that “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22, NLT). To be cheerful is a decision not an unexpected blessing. To be cheerful requires a steadfast commitment to the decision of viewing circumstances against the best possible measurement. When you choose to be happy it affects your whole body, and is healing. It is no wonder that Reader’s Digest’s most popular feature is an article entitled, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

You’ve likely sung the campfire song entitled, “If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands.” In this catchy tune is an obvious truth. The only way that people will know, and be encouraged by, your happiness is through a smile that you place on your face deliberately. “A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:13, NLT). Are you happy? Well, let your face know!

Being positive isn’t just choosing to be happy and notifying your face that you are, it also is confirmed through encouraging communication. “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24, NLT). What comes out of your mouth not only speaks to others, but also speaks to you. Psychologists call this “self-talk” and identify it as one of the most power mechanisms we each possess to change the trajectory of our lives for good, or bad. 

A carefully selected kind word to the right person can make all the difference in their life, but also in yours. “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up” (Proverbs 12:25, NLT). With your positive words, you can model the kind of communication that brings out the very best in everyone in your life.

Thinking positively doesn’t happen by accident. It isn’t a “pill” you can take and automatically turn your life into ecstatic bliss. Positive thinking begins in the mind of conviction. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8: “Now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT). “Fixing,” or “focusing” your thoughts on good things will bring good results. Anyone can dwell on the negative things of life, but Christians are called to be laser-focused on what is “worthy of praise.”

The good news is that there is a power of positive thinking and it is within your grasp. Paul reminds us to “let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:23, NLT). Want to lead a more productive life? Want to be happy? Want to experience positive things? Then, by all means, set your mind where it needs to be. Understand that happiness is a choice. And, in the end, embrace the fact that you are God’s messenger to a world who desperately needs a “good word.”

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