“Oscar the Grouch” Thinking (Part 2)

Guarding Your Heart From Cynicism
Text: Philippians 4:4-9

In the last post I made the point that cynicism can often dominate our lives. A cynic is someone who believes that people are inherently selfish and can’t be trusted. If there are no “checks” on their thinking, cynics will become increasingly negative. Cynicism fosters a mindset that believes we CANNOT trust the government, the people for whom we work, or the people who work with us. Cynicism is not always taken to its fullest extreme, but if it is given a foothold in our minds, it can negatively impact our most important relationships. Even worse, cynicism can hamper our ability to live productive lives for the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to be on guard against even the smallest degree of cynicism in our thinking. So what can we do specifically?

I challenged you from our “anchor text” in Philippians 4:4-9 to guard against cynicism by embracing the joy-filled life. You will want to keep in mind that a joy-filled life is not simply “thinking positively about everything.” No, it is thinking “biblically about everything”! Joy is that inner sense of confidence that God is in control, and that God is good in all that He does. Our text reveals five steps that we can take.

  • First, we need to intentionally and consistently reflect on the Lord. Intentionality is behind Paul’s thinking when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (v. 4). It is a matter of focusing on all that we Christians have in Jesus Christ (forgiveness; Holy Spirit power; eternal life; etc.). The promises of the world will ultimately let us down, but Jesus is our life and hope. Therefore, we must rejoice in the majesty of Jesus.
  • Second, we will want to be fair and gentle with everyone. That is the thought behind verse 5 where Paul exhorts believers to let their “graciousness” be known to everyone. One translation renders the same word as “reasonable.” That is, we are to seek to hear all sides of a debate without forcing our view on the other person. We need to extend grace and listen, even as the Lord has been “gracious” to us.
  • Third, we will also want to be people of prayer. As we noted in the last post, one of the spiritual dividends of pursuing a joy-filled life is the “peace of God.” When prayer becomes a regular pattern of our lives, we end up interceding and being thankful for others, instead of looking at all of their faults.
  • Fourth, we will also want to be intentional about finding praiseworthy attributes in others, especially those with whom we have daily contact. In verse 8 Paul identifies seven attributes that we are to try to identify in others. Those of us who are prone to cynicism can always see another person’s faults. God wants us to see those things for which we can commend them and build them up in their faith.
  • Finally, the joy-filled believer will model the “best-practices” of other believers. In the case of the Philippians, Paul challenged his first readers to obey the things he taught and modeled when he was with them. In the same way, there are people in your sphere of Christian fellowship who have lived commendable lives. Find out how they think and how they live. Then start practicing those same habits in your own life.

My concern is that you will read this article and assume that I am advocating another form of “positive thinking.” It’s just not the case. But let’s face it:

When we think God’s thoughts and obey His scriptural commands, we really do end up being positive people in a very negative world. 

So take an inventory of your thoughts—especially how you view others. Replace your cynicism with God’s thoughts, and watch your Kingdom influence increase more and more.

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