During the Great Depression, there was a deaf man who had a hot dog stand in Grand Central Station. Besides not being able to hear, the man never read the newspaper. He was blissfully unaware of what was going on.
The hot dog man was cheerful, greeting everyone who walked by his stand with a smile and a kind word. While many businesses were failing, he was selling lots and lots of hot dogs. In fact, he was selling so many that he expanded to Penn Station and several other locations. His business was thriving on his optimism.
Then, one day, his son came home from college. His son was shocked at the way his dad was expanding the business. In sign language, he told his dad about the stock market crash, about the soup lines, and about the unemployment. The hot dog man was crestfallen and disheartened by what he heard from his son. He read the newspaper every day now.
Soon, his whole outlook changed. Now he was pessimistic. He found it hard to greet people and smile. He was consumed with worry and fear. He was angry, grumpy, and pessimistic. He ordered fewer products and reduced his service. He had to close the branch locations. Not long after, he had to close his hot dog stand at Grand Central Station. Simply put, his attitude put him out of business.
Attitudes can be destructive. Closed minds, bitter spirits, and foolish priorities can be the ruin of many people. Look at the heroes of the Bible (Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Joseph, David, Nehemiah, and others) and you will see people who are able to let God run their lives and control their attitudes. Then, look at the fools of the Bible (Samson, Nabal, Solomon, Ahab, and others) and you will see people who had a materialistic, worldly, and self-controlled attitude. More than ever, you need God's wisdom, faith, and joy!
This week, I want to talk to you about hot dog optimism. Here are
ten ingredients for developing spiritual optimism and joyous faith in your walk with God:
1. Keep lookin' up! If you look at the world, at others, or at things around you, you will get discouraged. Look up instead! "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrew 12:1). David repeatedly spoke of God being his "rock," "fortress," and "help in times of trouble." (Psalm 62, Psalm 46, and so many other places.). In the Bible, God's people of faith chose to see their problems differently. The man, Job. who lost his family, his money, and his health, said: "I know that my Redeemer lives" (Job 19:25). God is your ultimate resource so trust Him! If you look at God, you will be encouraged, empowered, and emboldened to face life with all its challenges! Your "altitude" will change your attitude on earth!
2. See the good in everything. See problems as opportunities. Regardless what goes wrong, there is always something good that will come from it. Regardless what goes wrong, God is always up to something good. Does this mean we have our head in the sand? No way! Does this mean we become Pollyannaish and not see reality? Absolutely not! What it means is that we choose to see the good that God can bring into every situation.
I love what Matthew Henry, the Puritan Bible commentator, told God when bandits stole his wallet:
"I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed." Joseph, the Old Testament hero, told the brothers who sold him into slavery:
"You meant it for evil but God used it for good" (Genesis 50:20).
So, we need to change the focus of our thoughts and our minds. You have to learn to enjoy rain if you are going to see God's rainbows! See the good in everything!
3. Count your blessings! - Count your blessings, not your worries. Too many times we let little problems affect us big time. This causes us to be less productive, less happy and out of fellowship with God. Find contentment and peace in thanksgiving. Remind yourself of God's blessings like health, family, shelter, friends, your job and so much more. There is always something to be grateful for. I remember hearing a missionary tell about a lady in his church in Africa who was thankful she had two teeth! She was also thankful that they met each other! There is always something for which to thank God. In grief, distress, loneliness, pain, and problems, there is always someone who has it worse than you do. So, use gratitude to change your perspective and focus on God's goodness to you. Psalm 34:1 says: "I will extol the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips."
4. Simplify your life! Many people have "hardening of the categories." They insist on things that are dragging them down. They harbor grudges, develop bitterness, and seek things that are actually destroying them. They pursue money, sex, power, pleasure, and addictive things. These things will destroy your joy and your happiness. So, get rid of this stuff!
I have some friends who insisted on having big house. So that meant that he had to drive a long distance every day in terrible traffic to get the house they could afford. His work suffered. His health suffered. His family hated it and hated his grumpy attitude from his long hours in the car. They were going in debt from their lifestyle. Eventually, he got fired from his job. So, they downsized house, lifestyle, cars, and everything. They moved into a little house, just 10 minutes away from his new job. Almost immediately, his attitude changed. They are involved in a great church. They read the Bible and pray as a family. He is like a new person. Simplify now and you'll see a change for the better too.
"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" (Matthew 16:26). Make your life simpler. Walk with God and watch your life improve.
5. Refuse to give up! People with optimism develop courage to persevere. The Apostle Paul who was regularly beaten, flogged, and persecuted said in 2 Corinthians 4:8: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair." Another time, Paul told the Galatians (6:9): "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." So don't give up!
At the age of ten, Liu Wei was playing "hide and seek" when he lost both arms in an accident with some electrical wires. His mother taught him not to quit. Lui learned how to do everything using only his feet and mouth. His life-long dream was to be a musician. His first piano teacher quit saying that it was impossible to play the piano only using toes. So, at the age of 19, he taught himself to play piano. If you Google his name, you can see videos and hear him play. In one video, Lui plays a flawless rendition of French pianist Richard Clayderman's "Marriage D'amour" using only his toes. Persistence pays great dividends, so don't quit!
"For people like me, there were only two options. One was to abandon all dreams, which would lead to a quick, hopeless death; the other was to struggle without arms to live an outstanding life." He chose the latter and that made all the difference!
Friend, you may be discouraged and you may have great obstacles. But God has not called us to despair but to joy! If you persevere and trust God, He promises to bless your life. Psalm 37:4 says:
"Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart." Put God first! Don't quit following Him! He will see you through! Keep on keeping on and God will bless you for it!
6. Eliminate negative influences. We have to be very careful about the influences we allow into our lives. Psalm 1:1 says: "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers." Throughout the book of Proverbs, we are warned about "fools." Do we become Christian snobs and monks? Of course not! But it does mean that we need to make volitional, deliberate and spiritual choices on what we choose to think about, who we listen to, who are our friends, what influences our thinking, and who are the heroes are that affect our behavior. Proverbs 4:23 warns us: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Remove negative and ungodly influences from your life!
7. Develop good habits. We have to learn to think and speak differently! If you habitually put garbage in your mind (pornography, culture, materialism, nihilism, etc.), over time you will become twisted, disillusioned, and hopeless If you talk about worthless, hopeless, destructive things, you will program your mind for those very things. But if you put Bible reading, prayer, meditation, fasting, service in God's Kingdom, and Christian fellowship into your life, you will have the mind of Christ!
Folks, let your mind, heart, and actions be taken over by Christ and your outlook with be in the heavenly realms!
8. Become a cheerleader for God! Many of the people around you are discouraged and afraid. Your family, neighbors, your employees, your boss, your students, your fellow Christians, and even your pastor need you to be a change agent for God, hope, and faith. Our attitudes are our witness to a watching world whether this Jesus stuff is true. We can help all those around us with faith, joy, confidence, hope, and God. Be the person who lifts up, encourages, motivates, and leads with your optimism and faith!
9. Live in the sovereignty of God. Look to the future with confidence in the sovereignty of God. Regardless, how the world, the economy, your finances, your job, your health, and so many other things turn out, God is in charge. God is sovereign and He will not leave us nor forsake us. He loves us. He leads us. He does what is best for our good and His glory. Let's believe in the great future He has for our church. Let's trust Him for every detail in our lives.
10. Put positive influences into your life. The Bible's book of wisdom gives some wonderful insights: Proverbs 15:13:
"A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." Proverbs 15:15:
"All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 17:22:
"A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones." We have to put God's word, music, wisdom, and joy into our lives if we are going to honor God.
Learn to be an environmentalist of the mind. Don't let pollution, waste, and impurities contaminate your precious life. Work at the ecology of your mind and heart. Philippians 4:8 says:
"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."
Speaking of positive influences, worship is just the thing you need to keep you going and growing in your faith. Your ability to handle the hassles and disappointments of life can be sharpened by a Sunday morning "pep talk" from God's Word. Hanging out before church with coffee and some friends, singing songs of faith will encourage you and the soft voice of Holy Spirit will lift your
heart and mind.
So, worship at East Hills Church this Sunday!
Bring a Bible, a smile, your friends, family, neighbors, and work contacts. Remember, we have: