When I was growing up, my father paid me an allowance to read books. He picked the books, and we were required to read for 30 minutes a day. My friends, however, were paid to do chores. I went to my dad one day and asked if I could get paid to do my chores as well. He said, “Son, I’m never going to pay you to do chores. You do chores because you’re part of the family. I put my money where my values are and I value good books.”
One of the first books he gave me to read was As a Man Thinketh. In it James Allen writes that the greatest discovery of his generation is that people can alter their lives by altering their minds. When you begin to think right, things begin to change.
It was a revolutionary idea at its time, but James Allen wasn’t the first person to say it. Thousands of years before he was born, Solomon wrote these words in Ecclesiastes 10:2: “Wise thinking leads to right living; Stupid thinking leads to wrong living.” In other words, your attitude determines your altitude.
Let me define what I mean by attitude. An attitude is the paintbrush of the mind. What your mind sees is strongly determined by your attitude, and that in turn affects whether or not your life is fulfilled. What does is mean to be fulfilled? Here are four characteristics of people who live a fulfilled life.
They celebrate God.
Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” People who are full of God and are fulfilled in their lives have a sense of gratitude for what God has done for them, and they’re continually in a pattern of worship.
They add value to people.
I like the way Philippians 4:4 continues in The Message version: “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.” Fulfilled people are always coming to people’s lives to help, serve, give, and add value.
They give their concerns to God.
You have a Father you can trust who unconditionally loves you. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all of our cares upon God because He cares for us.
They experience God’s wholeness.
In other words, they experience all that God has for them all the time.
If you’re like me, you’re thinking this is the kind of life I want to live! Well, I have good news for you. In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells us exactly how we can experience a fulfilled life.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (The Message)”
He’s saying that the key to a fulfilled life is to start by filling your mind correctly. Then after our mind is full of good stuff, we let it soak in by meditating on it. And finally, we practice the good things on which we’ve been meditating. Do you know what Paul is saying here? He’s simply telling us to have a good attitude, and he goes on to tell us what people with good attitudes possess.
They possess a teachable spirit.
Being teachable can be difficult. It requires repeated long, hard looks in the mirror and being open to criticism and change. You might look in the mirror and say, “Oh my goodness, I may be the problem.” We see people not as they are but as we are. Therefore, if we’re not right, the people around us are not right.
They take responsibility for their attitude.
We’re responsible for what we put in our minds, meditate on, and practice. There’s a funny story about a construction worker. One day he opened his lunch and started complaining, “Bologna sandwich again? It’s the fourth day this week and I hate bologna!” His friend beside him said, “Calm down, just tell your wife you don’t want another bologna sandwich tomorrow.” The construction worker said, “You leave my wife out of it. I pack my own lunch!” In other words, oftentimes the bad things in our lives are a direct result of what we put in our minds and meditate on.
They travel the high road.
Treat people better than they treat you. There’s a low road on which we treat people worse than they treat us. On the middle road, we treat people the same way they treat us. But on the high road, we treat people better than they treat us. God chooses what we go through and we choose how we go through it. We can have a bad attitude or we can take the high road.
My dad is an amazing man, and last November we celebrated his 94th birthday. He’s the most positive encourager I know. Several years ago after my mom died, we helped him get into a senior citizen’s care complex so he could be near the medical people and wouldn’t be alone. We registered him in a facility that was still being built, and he would go there every day to see the workers, bring them water, and encourage them. When it came time to open the facility, he wanted to be the first one to move in. I asked him why and this is what he said: “All these people are coming here and they’re concerned because this is such a big change and they’re leaving their families. I need to be there first so I can greet everyone and tell them that I love them, I’m glad they’re here, and we’re going to be friends.”
Sure enough, he’s greeted every person who’s moved in, saying, “My name is Melvin Maxwell and I just want you to know we’re going to be friends and it’s going to be okay.” How can a person at that age live, talk, and believe like that? It’s simple, just do what Paul says in Philippians 4, and when circumstances in life get difficult, you can be an incredible witness for the Lord.
Adapted from John Maxwell’s sermon “Filling Your Mind to Fulfill Your Life,” available in Gateway Church’s online archive.