“Oscar the Grouch” Thinking (Part 1)

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

When our sons were growing up, we used to allow them to watch Sesame Street. I must admit that I was drawn to some of the characters that would assist children everywhere in learning how to count and how to read. One of my favorite puppets was the indignant, smelly Oscar the Grouch. If you are a fan of Sesame Street you may recall that Oscar lives in a garbage can. Even worse, any proposal, any good idea, and any good deed is viewed by Oscar as wasted energy and unworkable. Oscar isn’t only a “grouch”—he is a cynic!

I only mention Oscar because there are a lot of grouchy, cynical people in the world today. If cynics formed a club, I regret that I would probably be a member—maybe even one of the officers. But the scriptures are clear that there is no place for cynicism in the life of a Christ-follower. That is why we come back to our anchor verse in Proverbs 4:23, where we are commanded to “guard our hearts” against all kinds of false ideas, including cynicism.

So how do we guard our hearts from cynical thinking? I’ll answer the question in part this week and then add some additional steps in next week’s post. But for starters, go back and read today’s text. In fact, read it two or three times. As you do, I pray you will see in the context that the Apostle Paul was attempting to settle a conflict that was brewing in the Philippian Church. It started between two women, but Paul was concerned that it would permeate the rest of the congregation. So he challenges the readers to practice five basic commands that are to be repeated over and over again. If you look closely at these commands, I hope you will see a principle that emerges.  


But what is a joy-focused life? Keep in mind that it is not the same as positive thinking. It is not putting a nice spin on life’s problems with the hope that maybe things will turn out better. And a “joy-focused life” is not “Pollyannaish” – it is not an approach that simply says, “Let’s just grin and bear with all the bad things that surround us.

When we speak of a “joy-filled life” we are drawing on Paul’s command to “rejoice” in verse 4. You will notice that the apostle is very specific in saying that we are to “rejoice in the Lord.” That is, we are to remember that the Lord is in control of all things. History is headed in the direction where God intends for it to go. Nothing happens without His permission, and better yet, He constantly cares for His people in loving, purposeful ways. To rejoice is to take comfort in God’s control of all things and his love for me!

OK, I am aware that the “cynic” in all of us will say, “Why in the world would I want to pursue this “joy-filled” way of thinking? There are two answers given in our text. First, we are told in verse 5 that “the Lord is near.” I understand Paul to mean that God in the person of the Holy Spirit is always present and active in our lives. He sees everything. He knows everything. And He hears everything we say. Therefore, we will want to pursue joy because the Lord is constantly in our presence. [Do you really want to be a cynical thinker when the Lord is so close at hand?]

The other reason we will want to pursue a “joy-filled life” is because of what Paul says in verses 7 and 9. When we embrace the fact that the Lord is in charge of all things, then we will experience “peace from God.” It will be a peace that transcends space and time, and gives us hope for as long as we have life.

So enough with “Oscar the Grouch” thinking.

Guard your heart from cynical thoughts. God is offering you a joy-filled life today. Ponder what it means and embrace it as your very own!

You may also like...