I know that I do not have any room to complain or to boast, but one thing I have learned about this New Year: It came in very, very cold – even in Florida! Now, it is not cold enough here to thwart the avid golfers or swimmers, but on average the people here have slowed down and are not as active as they are when it is warm outside!
Believe me, I do understand that our cold here is not nearly what it is in Ohio, and that dealing with the cold weather here is nothing compared to what northerners are facing!
But the weather did remind me of an article I read some years ago which reported about a study conducted by Dr. Daniel Mark of Duke University. Stating that “bad thoughts bring bad health,” Dr. Mark concluded that optimism can be a powerful predictor of who will live and who will die after the diagnosis of heart disease.
He based his findings on a follow-up study of 1,719 men and women who had undergone heart catheterization. “The mind is a tremendous tool or weapon,” said Mark, “depending on your point of view.”
Now what Mark was referring to is the fact that if we can somehow direct our mind to think on positive things rather than negative, we will be able to cope with all that life seems to throw at us. On the surface, this sounds like a wonderful “resolution” for the New Year, doesn’t it?
But quite frankly, when I read that quote, it dawned on me that there was a dimension of life that the good Dr. Mark seemed to overlook. Whether or not the oversight was intentional, I do not know. But I could not help but think of the emphasis the Word of God places on the mind.
For example, the Apostle Paul tells us to “set (our) minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). And in Philippians 4:8 we read, “Finally, brothers, 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 these things.”
What things? Well, in Ephesians 1:3, the Apostle Paul exclaims that God has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” So, just what are those “spiritual blessings” upon which I should be thinking as I set my mind on things above?
In the spirit of the words of the old gospel song, “Count your blessings, name them one by one,” I decided that a great way to begin the New Year would be to take pen and paper and begin to name those spiritual blessings. So here is my list of just some of those many blessings upon which I knew I needed to be thinking:
1. I have been saved by His grace from the death penalty of sin. (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8,9).
2. I have “around-the-clock” access to my Heavenly Father. (Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:16).
3. I am NEVER alone because He is ALWAYS with me. (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).
4. Through His Word and by His Spirit, He has provided me with EVERYTHING I need for life and for godliness. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:3-4)
5. My Heavenly Father is constantly watching over me and always thinking about me. (Psalm 121; Psalm 139).
6. My Lord, who is both loving and strong, and whose ways are always just and right, will work in every circumstance of my life to bring about that which will result in my greatest good and His greatest glory. (Psalm 25:10; Psalm 62:11,12; Romans 8:28)
7. I have the promise and prospect that someday I will be just like Him and will live forever with Him (John 14:1-3; 1 John 3:1-2)
Now, like the little bunny with the energizing battery, I could have kept going and going, extending the list to be a much longer compendium of blessings. But in thinking about the items on this relatively short list of spiritual blessings, I found myself getting fairly excited about the coming year! Towards the end of that article about Dr. Mark’s study, the author went on to say that OUTLOOK is a “crucial factor for survival.”
Dr. Warren Wiersbe, the former pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, used to say that, “Outlook determines outcome. Therefore, when your outlook is the uplook, the outcome will be all right!” In other words, when you and I are looking to God for help in our time of need, we will find it! (Check out Hebrews 4:16!)
As we cross this threshold of another year, you may not be expecting a lot of positive things to happen. Your feelings may seem to be justified and on target. But before giving up, may I encourage you to do a self-examination, both physically and spiritually?
If need be, by all means go see your doctor for a physical diagnosis. But also, don’t forget to take to heart, and personally apply to your life, at least two of the items in the above list! You most assuredly will feel better in the morning!
And 2018 will have a much better look and feel to it! Remember, “a cheerful heart is good medicine!” (Proverbs 17:22). That is just what the Doctor — the Great Physician — has ordered! And you will find that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31) and “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Have a very blessed and Happy New Year!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also a former Pastor of Port William UMC.