Norman Vincent Peele, a renown minister, wrote a book entitled the Power of Positive Thinking. His was a treatise on attitude and its impact on what a man can and will accomplish in his life. This concept of being empowered by a positive attitude is the cornerstone of much that is advertised as self help literature and training. It is the essence of many business ventures, like Amway and Mary Kay. Goal setting and believing in one’s ability to accomplish those goals provides the motivation for those involved to stretch and “reach for the stars”. It is interesting to note that at the time his book was written, Peele was reviled by many in the religious community for being a heretic in writing such thoughts. Optimism was not supposed to be biblical.
What kind of attitude toward life does the Bible promote for mankind today. Is the power of positive thinking even alluded to in the scriptures? What is optimism other than confidence in the future and how it will unfold?
When Jesus announced his earthly ministry, he pointed to the coming kingdom and the contrast between what the people had been taught and what they should now know as true. He spoke of the reality of sins of attitude and of the power of love. He taught his audience to have faith, to anticipate the future with great delight. Of course, he also spoke of judgment but one which preceded the kingdom’s ultimate establishment and full glory.
Matt 17:20 … Verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible for you.
Matt 16: 27-28 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
What is the love that Jesus taught, other than a personal motivation derived from a positive attitude, a belief in the better tomorrow and the ability for mankind to improve on his performance to date. What is hate besides the manifestation of a negative outlook, the unrelenting conviction that evil is the real power in life and that the future will be darkened by it. What is faith but the acceptance of the power of love and its ability to transform and make the future bright.
Is there such a thing as wishful thinking as opposed to positive thinking.
James 2: 15-16 If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, depart in peace be ye warmed and filled, notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doeth it profit. Even so faith if it hath not works is dead being alone. Wishful thinking is optimism without associated effort.
In his book The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck says that the opposite of love is laziness. The reluctance to expend the effort required to do what needs to be done, to do what love demands. He even goes so far as to call laziness the original sin, suggesting that the Garden of Eden transgression resulted from Adam and Eve’s reluctance to question God about his rules and determine who was right God or the Serpent.
Finally, positive thinking and optimism are as scriptural as Christ himself. The future is mankind’s to design and develop with God’s continued blessing. This optimism, in the face of present realities, involves faith, love, and effort in appropriate measure and constitutes the purpose for which we are here.