Do you watch the 10 o’clock news? Some dare not miss it for fear of missing something important. Others among us, though, avoid it like the plague, because we see enough bad around us daily and want to avoid inundating ourselves with even more. War, rape, murder, arson, natural catastrophe, economic peril, Capitol Hill squabbles… the bad news seems endless.
This leaves many craving something positive — some good news for a change! A young person helps a feeble, elderly person across the street. A prominent sports figure visits a children’s hospital to cheer the patients and family. A firefighter saves a little girl and her kitten from their burning house. These heart-warming stories fill us with greater hope about the human condition. The world contains so much bad; but a lot of good is present here as well.
We also wish to hear positive things in the spiritual realm: discussions of God’s grace, love, compassion; thoughts on how to deepen our relationship with God; words of comfort to help us keep our chins up during our struggle through this world; commendations for the good qualities we possess; etc. We want to hear positive things!
Positive things needed
And we need to hear positive things! Ponder these …
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy —meditate on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)
Positives revealed by negatives
But the positives we hear from God only sink in deep when we first know the bad news: we are hopeless sinners who need grace and salvation from the God of love who sent His Son to redeem us from our sins. You don’t fully appreciate your good health until you have been sick; you don’t fully appreciate a meal or a drink of water unless you have been deprived of these; and you don’t fully appreciate how good God is unless you understand the consequences each of us has brought upon ourselves by being sinners. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10); “for the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). We need to hear the bad news to fully appreciate the good news and our need for the same! In other words, even hearing about negative things like sin and condemnation are designed by God to produce positive results in us: stir us to faith, humble submission, and thankfulness to God for redeeming us for our self-imposed sentence due to our personal sins.
Consider the OT prophets, for example. Throughout those books God condemns idolatry and immorality for the purpose of turning people back to Him! Consider the entirety of the New Testament, for as you read and study it, you will find that there is quite a balance between statements that are encouraging versus statements that are corrective — more of a balance than folks who have not read scripture entirely through several times may miss.
Also remember: all teaching about sin should be to help people become more righteous; all teaching about hell should be to strengthen people in living for heaven. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)
“So, what can I do to enhance the positives in my life?” The answers to this question are simple, but they require consistent effort.
Spend much time in meditation and prayer. Ponder God’s glory. Look at the sunset, the stars at night, and the sunrise. Observe the flowers and growing, little children. Think about the glory, majesty, and grace of God to build a world with such wonders as these, and pray to Him with hearts captivated by His magnificence that is shown in His creation (see Psalm 19:1ff).
Spend much time reading scripture. Yes, there are human-written books that can help you focus on God, but none compare to what God had written about Himself. Read slowly, with meditation. Visualize the accounts you read. Read with the intention of making that word your own through application. No one can do this for you or me but us ourselves (see James 1:21-25).
Spend much time with godly people. You know who they are. Spend time with them in Bible study and worship, of course, but also invite them to your house. Go out to eat together. Go visiting the needy with them. Discuss scripture with them. Pray together. Building strong bonds with the faithful will strengthen your faith. Don’t wait around for someone to call you; make the first move! We need each other to get to heaven (see Heb. 3:12,13).
Jeremiah’s mission, in a culture steeped in sin, was “to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:10b), and our culture needs the same, for it is also steeped in sin. But as uprooting weeds in your garden spot is for the purpose of planting and nurturing plants that will produce fruit to sustain and enhance life, teaching against sin should be to clear the clutter that will allow God’s good word of grace to germinate and change hearts and lives for Him.
I typically only watch the weather and the sports (and I often wish I had skipped the sports!). But when it comes to God’s word, I need to read, reflect upon, and absorb both the “positive” and “negative,” realizing that even the negative is designed by God to create in me positive results — changes that draw me closer to Him (see Heb. 12:5-11). And may we crave that more than life itself!