Negative Attitude? Here’s Help From John C. Maxwell In Developing a Positive Attitude!

“Why Your Attitude Is So Important In Your Pathway to Success”


Do you feel the world is treating you well? If your attitude toward the world is excellent, you will receive excellent results. If you feel so-so about the world, your response from the world will be average. Feel badly about your world and you will seem to have only negative feedback from life. – John C. Maxwell

We live in a world of words. Attached to these words are meanings that bring varied responses from us. Words such as happiness, acceptance, peace and success describe what each of us desires. But there is one word that will either heighten the possibility of our desires being fulfilled or prevent them from becoming a reality within us.

While leading a conference in South Carolina, I tried the following experiment. To reveal the significance of this word, I read the previous paragraph and asked, “What word describes what will determine our happiness, acceptance, peace and success?” The audience began to express words such as job, education, money, and time. Finally someone said attitude. Such an important area of their lives was a second thought. Our attitude is the primary force that will determine whether we succeed or fail.

For some, attitude presents a difficulty in every opportunity; for others it presents an opportunity in every difficulty. Some climb with a positive attitude, while others fall with a negative perspective. The very fact that the attitude “makes some” while “breaking others” is significant enough for us to explore its importance. Studying the major statements listed in this chapter will highlight this truth to us.

 Attitude Axiom #1: Our attitude determines our approach to life.

The story of the two buckets underlines this truth. One bucket was an optimist, and the other was a pessimist. “There has never been a life as disappointing as mine,” said the empty bucket as it approached the well. “I never come away from the well full but what I return again empty.”

“There has never been such a happy life as mine:’ said the full bucket as it left the well. “I never come to the well empty but what I go away again full.”

Our attitude tells us what we expect from life. If our “nose” is pointed up, we are taking off; if it is pointed down, we may be headed for a crash.

One of my favorite stories is about a grandpa and grandma who visited the grandchildren. Each afternoon Grandpa would lie down for a nap. One day, as a practical joke, the kids decided to put Limburger cheese in his moustache. Quite soon he awoke sniffing. “Why, this room stinks;’ he exclaimed as he got up and went out into the kitchen. He wasn’t there long until he decided that the kitchen smelled too, so he walked outdoors for a breath of fresh air. Much to Grandpa’s surprise, the open air brought no relief, and he proclaimed, “The whole world stinks”

How true that is to life! When we carry “Limburger cheese” in our attitudes, the whole world smells bad.

One of the valid ways to test your attitude is to answer this question: “Do you feel your world is treating you well?” If your attitude toward the world is excellent, you will receive excellent results. If you feel so-so about the world, your response from the world will be average. Feel badly about your world, and you will seem to have only negative feedback from life. Look around you. Analyze the conversations of people who lead unhappy, unfulfilled lives. You will find they are crying out against a society, which they feel is out to get them and to give them a lifetime of trouble, misery and bad luck. Sometimes their own hands have built the prison of discontent.

The world doesn’t care whether we free ourselves from this prison or not. It marches on. Adopting a good, healthy attitude toward life does not affect society nearly so much as it affects us. The change cannot come from others. It must come from us.

The apostle Paul had a terrible background to overcome. He told Timothy that he was the “chief of sinners.” But after his conversion he was infused with desire to know Christ in a greater way. How did he fulfill this desire? Not by waiting for someone else to assist him. Neither did he look backward and whine about his terrible past. Paul diligently “pressed on to lay hold of Jesus.” His singleness of purpose caused him to state, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14).

We are individually responsible for our view of life. The Bible says, “Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Our attitude and action toward life help determine what happens to us.

It would be impossible to estimate the number of jobs, which have been lost, the number of promotions missed, the number of sales not made and the number of marriages ruined by poor attitudes. But almost daily we witness jobs that are held but hated and marriages that are tolerated but unhappy, all because people are waiting for others, or the world, to change instead of realizing that they are responsible for their behavior. God is sufficient to give them the desire to change, but the choice to act upon that desire is theirs.

It is impossible for us to tailor-make all situations to fit our lives perfectly. But it is possible to tailor-make our attitudes to fit. The apostle Paul beautifully demonstrated this truth while he was imprisoned in Rome. He certainly had not received a “fair shake” The atmosphere of his confinement was dark and cold. Yet he writes to the church at Philippi brightly declaring, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Notice that the confined man was telling carefree people to rejoice Was Paul losing his mind? No. The secret is found late in the same chapter. Paul states:

Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need (verses 11-12).

The ability to tailor-make his attitude to his situation in life was learned behavior. It did not come automatically. The behavior was learned and a positive outlook became natural. Paul repeatedly teaches us by his life that man helps create his environment-mental, emotional, physical and spiritual-by the attitude he develops.

 Attitude Application:

Circle, underline, or highlight the number that most closely reveals your attitude toward life:

1. “Make the World Go Away”

2. “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”

3. “I Did It My Way”

4. “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”

 Attitude Axiom #2: Our attitude determines our relationships with people.

The Golden Rule: “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them” (Matthew 7:12). This axiom takes on a higher significance when, as Christians, we realize that effective ministry to one another is based on relationships. The model of ministry (as I understand ministry) is best captured in John 13. Christ and His disciples are gathered in the upper room. The components of Christ’s model of ministry are:

1. Men with whom He had shared all areas of life;

2. An attitude and demonstration of servanthood;

3. An all-encompassing command of relational love. (“By this all men will know you are My disciples.”)

An effective ministry of relating to others must include all three of these biblical components. No single methodology (preaching, counseling, visitation) will effectively minister to all the needs all the time. It takes a wise combination of many methods to reach the needs of people. And the bridge between the gospel remedy and people’s needs is leadership based on relationship. John 10:3-5 gives a view of relational leadership:

1. Relationship to the point of instant recognition (He calls His own sheep by name);

2. Established relationship built on trust (His sheep hear his voice and come to Him);

3. Modeled leadership (He walks ahead of them and they follow Him).

Yet establishing such relationships is difficult. People are funny. They want a place in the front of the bus, the back of the church and the middle of the road. Tell a man there are 300 billion stars, and he will believe you. Tell that same man that a bench has just been painted, and he has to touch it to be sure.

People are frustrating at times. They show up at the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reason. They are always interesting but not always charming. They are not always predictable because they have minds of their own. You can’t get along with them, and you can’t make it without them. That’s why it is essential to build proper relationships with others in our crowded world.

The Stanford Research Institute says that the money you make in any endeavor is determined only 12.5 percent by knowledge and 87.5 percent by your ability to deal with people.

87.5% people knowledge + = Success 12.5% product knowledge

That is why Teddy Roosevelt said, “The most important single ingredient to the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

“I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun;’ asserted John D. Rockefeller.

J. Paul Getty, when asked what was the most important quality for a successful executive, replied, “It doesn’t make much difference how much other knowledge or experience an executive possesses; if he is unable to achieve results through people, he is worthless as an executive.”

When the attitude we possess places others first and we see people as important, then our perspective will reflect their viewpoint, not ours. Until we walk in the other person’s shoes and see life through another’s eyes, we will be like the man who angrily jumped out of his car after a collision with another car. “Why don’t you people watch where you’re driving?” he shouted wildly. “You’re the fourth car I’ve hit today!”

A few years ago I was traveling in the South and stopped at a service station for some fuel. It was a rainy day, yet the station workers were diligently trying to take care of the customers. I was impressed by the first-class treatment and fully understood the reason when I read this sign on the front door of the station:


1% die, 3% move away, 5% other friendships, 9% competitive reasons (price), 14 % product dissatisfaction – BUT…68% quit because of an attitude of indifference toward them by some employee! In other words, 68 percent quit because the workers did not have a customer mindset working for them.

Usually the person who rises within an organization has a good attitude. The promotions did not give that individual an outstanding attitude, but an outstanding attitude resulted in promotions. A recent study by Telemetrics International concerned those “nice guys” who had climbed the corporate ladder. A total of 16,000 executives were studied. Observe the difference between executives defined as “high achievers” (those who generally have a healthy attitude) and “low achievers” (those who generally have an unhealthy attitude):

  • High achievers tended to care about people as well as profits; low achievers were preoccupied with their own security.
  • High achievers viewed subordinates optimistically; low achievers showed a basic distrust of subordinates’ abilities.
  • High achievers sought advice from their subordinates; low achievers didn’t.
  • High achievers were listeners; low achievers avoided communication and relied on policy manuals.

In 1980-81 I took on a rather ambitious project, which included teaching and leading fifteen pastors and their congregations to become growing, vibrant churches. One of my favorite responsibilities was to speak in a Sunday service and recruit workers for that particular church. Right before the “enlisting service;’ I would ask the pastor how many people he thought would come forward, sign a card and enlist in evangelism and discipleship. I would watch the pastor slowly calculate the “who woulds” and the “who would nots:” After receiving the carefully chosen number, I would announce, “More than that number will sign up.”

Why could I say that? Did I know his people better than he did? Of course not. What I did know was that the pastor had mentally placed his people into slots and “knew” how they would react during the service. Since I did not know the congregation, my attitude was open and positive toward all of them. I treated the listeners as if they all would respond, and most did! All fifteen pastors guessed lower than the actual laity response.

A negative past experience sometimes paralyzes our thinking and our attitude. A man unable to find his best saw, suspected his neighbor’s son who was always tinkering around with woodworking. During the next few days everything that the young man did looked suspicious-the way he walked, the tone of his voice and his gestures. But when the older man found the saw behind his own workbench, where it had fallen when he accidentally knocked it off the bench, he no longer saw anything suspicious in his neighbor’s son.

Attitude Application:

Challenge: For one week treat every person you meet, without a single exception, as the most important person on earth. You will find that they will begin treating you the same way.

Attitude Axiom #3: Often our attitude is the only difference between success and failure.

History’s greatest achievements have been made by men who excelled only slightly over the masses of others in their fields. This could be called the principle of the slight edge. Many times that slight difference was attitude. The former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir underlined this truth in one of her interviews. She said, “All my country has is spirit. We don’t have petroleum dollars. We don’t have mines or great wealth in the ground. We don’t have the support of a worldwide public opinion that looks favorably on us. All Israel has is the spirit of its people. And if the people lose their spirit, even the United States of America cannot save us.” This great lady was saying,

Resources + Bad Attitude = Defeat

Resources + Right Attitude = Victory

Below I’ve listed resources that enable a person to achieve success. Beside this list write down some of your other blessings. Read them when you are losing that slight edge.

  • Experiences
  • Connections
  • Health
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Aptitude
  • Money
  • Attitude
  • Goals

Certainly aptitude is important to our success in life. Yet success or failure in any undertaking is caused more by mental attitude than by mere mental capacities. I remember times when Margaret, my wife, would come home from teaching school frustrated because of modern education’s emphasis on aptitude instead of attitude. She wanted the kids to be tested on A.Q. (attitude quotient) instead of just the I.Q. (intelligence quotient). She would talk of kids whose I.Q. was high yet their performance was low. There were others whose I.Q. was low, but their performance was high.

As a parent, I hope my children have excellent minds and outstanding attitudes. But if I had to choose in an “either-or” situation, without hesitation I would want their A.Q. to be high.

A Yale University president some years ago gave this advice to a former president of Ohio State: “Always be kind to your A and B students. Someday one of them will return to your campus as a good professor. And also be kind to your C students. Someday one of them will return and build a two-million dollar science laboratory.”

A Princeton Seminary professor discovered that the spirit of optimism really does make a difference. He made a study of great preachers across past centuries. He noted their tremendous varieties of personalities and gifts. Then he asked the question, “What do these outstanding pulpiteers all have in common besides their faith?” After several years of searching he found the answer. It was their cheerfulness. In most cases they were happy men.

There is very little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative. Nowhere is this principle better illustrated than in the story of the young bride from the East who, during wartime, followed her husband to a U.S. Army camp on the edge of the desert in California.

Living conditions were primitive at best, and her husband had advised against her move, but she wanted to be with him. The only housing they could find was a rundown shack near an Indian village. The heat was unbearable in the daytime—115 degrees in the shade. The wind blew constantly, spreading dust and sand all over everything. The days were long and boring. Her only neighbors were Indians, none of whom spoke English. When her husband was ordered farther into the desert for two weeks of maneuvers, loneliness and the wretched living conditions got the best of her. She wrote to her mother that she was coming home. She couldn’t take it anymore.

In a short time she received a reply which included these two lines, “Two men looked through prison bars; one saw mud, the other saw stars.” She read the lines over and over again and began to feel ashamed of herself. She didn’t really want to leave her husband. All right, she thought, she’d look for the stars. In the following days she set out to make friends with the Indians, asking them to teach her weaving and pottery. At first they were distant, but as soon as they sensed her genuine interest, they returned her friendship. She became friendly with their culture and history—in fact, everything about them. As she began to study the desert, it too changed from a desolate, forbidding place to a marvelous thing of beauty.

She had her mother send her books. She studied the forms of the cacti, the yuccas and the Joshua trees. She collected sea shells that had been left there when the sands had an ocean floor. Later, she became such an expert on the area that she wrote a book about it.

What had changed? Not the desert; not the Indians. Simply by changing her own attitude she had transformed a miserable experience into a highly rewarding one.

Attitude Application:

There is very little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. That difference is attitude. Think of something that you desire. What attitude will you need to get it or achieve it?

Attitude Axiom #4: Our attitude at the beginning of a task will affect its outcome more than anything else.

Coaches understand the importance of their teams having the right attitude before facing a tough opponent. Surgeons want to see their patients mentally prepared before going into surgery. Job-seekers know that their prospective employer is looking for more than just skills when they apply for work. Public speakers want a conducive atmosphere before they communicate to their audience. Why? Because the right attitude in the beginning insures success at the end. You are acquainted with the saying, “All’s well, that ends well.” An equal truth is “All’s well that begins well.

One of the key principles I teach when leading evangelism conferences is the importance of our attitude when witnessing to others. Most of the time it is the way we present the gospel rather than the gospel itself that offends people. Two people can share the same news with the same person and receive different results. Why? Usually the difference is in the attitude of the person sharing. The eager witness says to himself, “People are hungry for the gospel and desirous of a positive change in their lives.” The reluctant witness says to himself, “People are hungry for the gospel and desirous of a positive change in their lives.” The reluctant witness says to himself, “People are not interested in spiritual things and don’t want to be bothered.” Those two attitudes will not only determine the number of attempts made in witnessing (can you guess which one will witness?) but also will determine the results if they both share the same faith.

The American statesman Hubert H. Humphrey was admired by millions. His bubbly enthusiasm was contagious. When he died I cut out one of his quotes from a newspaper article about him. It was written to his wife on his first trip to Washington, D.C., in 1935: “I can see how someday, if you and I just apply ourselves and make up our minds for bigger things, we can someday live here in Washington and probably be in government, politics or service. Oh gosh, I hope my dream comes true; I’m going to try anyhow.” With that type of attitude he couldn’t fail!

Most projects fail or succeed before they begin. A young mountain climber and an experienced guide were ascending a high peak in the Sierras. Early one morning a tremendous cracking sound suddenly awakened the young climber.

He was convinced that the end of the world had come. The guide responded, “It’s not the end of the world, just the dawning of a new day.” As the sun rose, it was merely hitting the ice and causing it to melt.

Many times we have been guilty of viewing our future challenges as the sunset of life rather than the sunrise of a bright new opportunity.

For instance, there’s the story of two shoe salesman who were sent to an island to sell shoes. The first salesman, upon arrival, as shocked to realize that no one wore shoes. Immediately he sent a telegram to his home office in Chicago saying, “Will return home tomorrow. No one here wears shoes.”

The second salesman was thrilled by the same realization. Immediately he wired the home office in Chicago saying, “Please send me 10,000 shoes. Everyone here needs shoes.” Raise the level of your attitude!

Attitude Axiom #5: Our attitude can turn problems into blessings.

In Awake, My Heart, my find J. Sidlow Baxter writes, “What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty and every difficulty has an opportunity.”

When confronted with a difficult situation, a person with an outstanding attitude makes the best of it while he gets the worst of it. Life can be likened to a grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you depends upon what you are made of.

While attending a conference of young leaders, I heard this statement: “No society has ever developed tough men during times of peace.” Adversity is prosperity to those who possess a great attitude. Kites rise against, not with, the wind. When the adverse wind of criticism blows, allow it to be to you what the blast of wind is to the kite—a force against it higher. A kite would not fly unless it had the controlling tension of the string to tie it down. It is equally true in life.

When Napoleon’s school companions made sport of him because of his humble origin and poverty, he devoted himself entirely to his books. Quickly rising above his classmates in scholarship, he commanded their respect. Soon he was regarded as the brightest in the class.

If the germ of the seed has to struggle to push its way up through the stones and hard sod, to fight its way up to the sunlight and air and then to wrestle with storm, snow and frost, the fiber or its timber will be all the tougher and stronger.

Few people knew Abraham Lincoln until the great weight showed his character.

Robinson Crusoe was written in prison. John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress in the Bedford jail. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote The History of the World during a thirteen-year imprisonment. Luther translated the Bible while confined in the castle of Wartburg. For ten years Dante, author of The Divine Comedy, worked in exile and under the sentence of death. Beethoven was almost totally deaf and burdened with sorrow when he produced his greatest works.

When God wants to educate a man, He does not send him to the school of graces but to the school of necessities. Through the pit and the dungeon Joseph came to the throne. Moses tended sheep in the desert before God called him for service. Peter, humbled and broken by his denial of Christ, heeded the command to “Feed My sheep.” Hosea loved and cared for an unfaithful wife out of obedience to God.

In the Chinese language, whole words are written with a symbol. Often when two completely unlike symbols are put together, they have a meaning different from their two separate components. An example is the symbol of “man” and that of “woman.” When combined, they mean “good.”

The same is true of dreams and problems. As the answers always lie in the questions, so the opportunities of life lie directly in our problems. Thomas Edison said, “There is much more opportunity than there are people to see it.”

Great leaders emerge when crises occur. In the lives of people who achieve, we read repeatedly of terrible troubles which force them to rise above the commonplace. Not only do they find the answers, but also they discover a tremendous power within themselves. Like a ground swell far out in the ocean, this force within explodes into a mighty wave when circumstances seem to overcome. Then out steps the athlete, the author, the statesman, the scientist or the businessman. David Sarnoff said, “There is plenty of security in the cemetery; I long for opportunity.”

We will know our attitude is on the right track when we are like the small businessmen whose clothing store was threatened with extinction. A national chain store had moved in and acquired all the properties on his block. This one particular businessman refused to sell. “All right then, we’ll build around you and put you out of business,” the new competitors said. The day came when the small merchant found himself hemmed in with a new department store stretching out on both sides of this little retail shop. The competitors’ banners announced, “Grand Opening!” The merchant countered with a banner stretching across the entire width of his store. It read, “Main Entrance.”

Attitude Application:

List two problems that are presently a part of your life. Besides the two problems write down your present reactions to them. Are they negative? Your challenge: Discover at least three possible benefits from each problem. Now attack the problem with your eyes on the benefits, not the barriers.

Attitude Axiom #6: Our attitude can give us an uncommonly positive perspective.

The result of that truth: the accomplishment of uncommon goals. I have keenly observed the different approaches and results achieved by a positive thinker and by a person filled with fear and apprehension.

Example: When Goliath came up against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, He’s so big we can never kill him. David looked at the same giant and thought; He’s so big I can’t miss.

Example: When you go to a shopping mall or any public place that contains a lot of cars and people, do you start at the farthest point of the parking lot and work your way toward the building, or drive to the front, assuming someone will be pulling out so you can pull in? If you operate from a positive perspective in life you will always go to the front. One time I had a friend ask me why I always assumed a close parking space would be available. My answer: “The odds are that a person coming out of the store has been there the longest. Since that individual arrived at the store the earliest, he parked the closest.” When they pull out, I drive in and give them a friendly wave. It’s the least I can do for a person who has saved my parking space.

Former Moody Bible Institute President George Sweeting, in his sermon entitled “Attitude Makes the Difference,” tells about a Scotsman who was an extremely hard worker and expected all the men under him to be the same. His men would tease him, “Scotty, don’t you know that Rome wasn’t built in a day?” “Yes,” he would answer, “I know that. But I wasn’t foreman on that job.”

The individual whose attitude causes him to approach life from an entirely positive perspective is not always understood. He is what some would call a “no-limit person.” In other words, he doesn’t accept the normal limitations of life like most people. He is unwilling to accept “the accepted” just because it is accepted. His response to self-limiting conditions will probably be a “Why?” instead of an “Okay.” He has limitation in his life. His gifts are not so plentiful that he cannot fail. But he determined to walk to the very edge of his potential or the potential of a prophet before he accepts a defeat.

He is like the bumblebee. According to a theory of aerodynamics, as demonstrated through the wind tunnel tests, the bumblebee should be unable to fly. Because of the size, weight and shape of his body in relationship to the total wingspread, flying is scientifically impossible. The bumblebee, being ignorant of scientific theory, goes ahead and flies anyway and makes honey every day.

This mindset allows a person to start each day with a positive disposition, like the elevator operator on Monday morning. The elevator was full and the man began humming a tune. One passenger seemed particularly irritated by the man’s mood and snapped, “What are you so happy about?” “Well, sir,” replied the man happily, “I ain’t never lived this day before!”

Asked which of his works he would select as his masterpiece, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, at age 83, replied, “My next one.” The future not only looks bright when the attitude is right, but also the present is much more enjoyable. The positive person understands that the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.

One day a man was watching two masons working on a building. He noticed that one worker continually frowned, groaned and cursed his labors. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “Just piling one stone on top of another all day long until my back is about to break.” The other mason whistled as he worked. His movements were swift and sure and his face was aglow with satisfaction. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “Sir, I’m not just making a stone wall. I’m helping to build a cathedral.”

A friend of mine in Ohio drove for an interstate trucking company. Knowing the hundreds of miles he logged weekly, I once asked him how he kept from getting extremely tired. “It’s all in your attitude,” he replied. “Some drivers ‘go to work’ in the morning but I ‘go for a ride in the country.’” That kind of positive perspective gives him the “edge” on life.

Attitude Application:

Notice the limitation that you or your friends accept today. With each limitation example ask the question, “Why? Example: “Why did I choose this parking space far away without checking up close first?” Make a mental note to become a “no limit person” each time you ask the question, Why?

Attitude Axiom #7: Our attitude is not automatically good just because we are Christians.

It is noteworthy that even the seven deadly sins (pride, covetousness, lust, envy, anger, gluttony, and sloth) are all matters of attitude, inner spirit and motives. Sadly, many carnal Christians carry with them inner spirit problems. They are like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son, thinking they do everything right. He chose to stay home with his father. No way was he going to spend his time sowing wild oats. Yet, when the younger brother came back home, some of the elder brother’s wrong attitudes began to surface.

First came a feeling of self-importance. The elder brother was out in a field doing what he ought to do, but he got mad when the party began at home. He didn’t get mad because he didn’t like parties. I know he liked parties, because he claimed to his father that he would never let him throw one!

That was followed by a feeling of self-pity. The elder brother said, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might merry with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him” (Luke 15:29-30).

Often we overlook the true meaning of the story of the prodigal son. We forget that have not one but two prodigals. The younger brother is guilty of the sins of the spirit (attitude). When the parable closes, it is the elder brother—the second prodigal—who is outside the father’s house. [For an outstanding presentation of the Gospel from Luke 15 and contrast in the religiosity of the one son and rebelliousness of the other – see Tim Keller’s short book: The Prodigal God – DPC].

In Philippians 2:3-8, Paul talks about the attitudes we should possess as Christians:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Paul tells us at least 5 things about the proper Christian attitude:

  1. Do things for the right reasons (verse 3).
  2. Regard others as more important than yourself (verse 3).
  3. Look out for the interests of others (verse 4).
  4. Christ recognized His sonship and therefore was willing to serve God and others (verse 6).
  5. Possess the attitude of Christ, who was not power hungry (verse 6) but rather emptied Himself (verse 7), demonstrated obedience (verse 8) and fulfilled God’s purpose (verse 8).

When our emphasis of lifestyle is focused on verse 4, looking out for own personal interests, we become like the elder brother. We nurture attitudes of jealousy, pity and selfishness. Christians who possess no greater cause than themselves are not as happy as those who do not know Christ as Savior, yet have a purpose greater than themselves.

This “elder brother” attitude has three possible results, none of which is positive.

First, it is possible for us to assume the place and privilege of a son while refusing the obligations of a brother. The elder brother outwardly was correct, conscientious, industrious and dutiful [externally religious], but look at his attitude. Also note that a wrong relationship with the brother brought a strained relationship with the father (Luke 15:28).

Second, it is possible to serve the Father faithfully yet not be in fellowship with Him. A right relationship will usually cultivate similar interests and priorities. Yet the elder brotherhad no idea why the father would rejoice over his son’s return.

Third, it is possible to be an heir of all our Father possesses yet have less joy and liberty than one who possesses nothing. The servants were happier than the elder son. They ate, laughed and danced while he stood on the outside demanding his rights.

A wrong attitude kept the elder brother away from the heart’s desire of the father, the love of his brother and the joy of the servants. Wrong attitudes in our lives  will block the blessings of God and cause us to live below God’s potential for our lives.

Attitude Application:

When our attitude begins to erode like the elder brother’s we should rememeber two things:

  1. Our privilege: “My child, you have always been with me” (Luke 15:31)
  2. Our possessions: “All that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31).

Take a moment to list your privileges and possessions in Christ. How rich we are!

 About John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is an internationally renowned pastor, leadership expert, coach, and author who has sold over 21 million books. Dr. Maxwell founded EQUIP and the John Maxwell Company, organizations that have trained more than 5 million leaders in 174 countries. Every year he speaks to Fortune 100 companies, international government leaders, and organizations such as the United States Military Academy at West Point, the National Football League, and the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership has sold more than 2 million copies. Developing the Leader Within You and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader have each sold more than 1 million copies. The article above was adapted from the encouraging and practical book by John C. Maxwell. The Winning Attitude: Your Pathway to Personal Success. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001, Chapter 3.

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Author: lifecoach4God

I am the Lead Pastor of Marin Bible Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca., and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 30 years - Dana - and have five adult children; and seven grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over thirty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: (1) Intimacy with God, (2) marriage, (3) family, (4) friendship, (5) vocationally/ministry , (6) emotional and physical health, (7) stewardship of resources, (8) discipleship, and (9) mentoring.

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